Avondale, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick raced to his third straight NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday, holding off Kyle Busch for his record-extending ninth win at ISM Raceway.
Harvick patted the back window of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in celebration, a nod to penalties in part fueled by social media photos last week of his buckled rear window after his victory in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been mad as all get out because this team does a great job,” Harvick said. “This organization does a great job and we’ve got fast race cars. And to take that away from those guys just really (ticked) me off last week.
“To come here to a race track that is so good for us is a lot of fun and everyone was just determined this week, and we just wanted to just go stomp them. We didn’t stomp them, but we won. That’s all that really matters. Just proud of this team. Put a fire in our belly.”
Also the winner in Atlanta after crashing and finishing 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500, Harvick is the first driver to win three straight Cup races since Joey Logano in 2015.
Harvick got in front of Busch on the last series of pit stops on the mile oval. Busch’s team dropped the jack and had trouble with the right rear tire on his stop with 53 laps left, allowing Harvick — who pitted three laps earlier — to slip ahead en route to his 40th Cup victory.
Harvick took the lead with 22 laps left when Ryan Newman finally made his last stop on the sunny afternoon after morning rain. Busch finished 0.774 seconds back.
Chase Elliott was third, followed by Denny Hamlin, pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Eric Jones and Kurt Busch.
Harvick broke a tie with Busch with 14 NASCAR national-series victories at the track, also winning an Xfinity event and four Truck races. In 31 Cup starts in Phoenix, the California driver has 15 top-five finishes.
Harvick was extra motivated following the NASCAR penalties from Las Vegas.
“Actions speak louder than any words I can come up with,” Harvick said.
NASCAR said Wednesday that inspectors at its research and development center in North Carolina found the Ford violated a rule requiring rear window support braces holding the glass rigid, and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum. Harvick was penalized the seven playoff points he earned for winning the Las Vegas race and the first two stages. He was docked 20 regular points and the team lost 20 owners’ points. Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith suspended two races.
Harvick regained the points lead Saturday, moving 12 ahead of Busch.
Kyle Busch won the first 75-lap stage, and brother Kurt Busch took the second in a one-lap shootout after a caution period.
Bourdais wins IndyCar race
Sebastien Bourdais wept as he crossed the finish line for his second consecutive victory at St. Petersburg. The win was a milestone for him in his recovery from serious injuries suffered in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Across the paddock, Robert Wickens fumed at the disastrous turn of events that had cost him a victory in his IndyCar debut. He dominated the season-opening event and had the win in his grip until contact with Alexander Rossi on a restart took him out of contention.
“It would have been a fairy tale to finish that well, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be,” Wickens said.
Wickens led a race-high 69 of the 110 laps.
Even Bourdais, overcome with emotion after winning again on his hometown track, understood that the race had been Wickens’ to win.
“I was really happy for Robert and I’m heartbroken for him,” Bourdais said.
Wickens was a star in touring cars in Germany but defected to IndyCar this year at the coaxing of good friend James Hinchcliffe. Although he was one of seven rookies in the 24-car field Sunday, he is 28 and a proven winner.
He is part of an all-Canadian lineup at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and he and Hinchcliffe were strong the entire weekend. Wickens was only the third driver since 1993 to win the pole for his IndyCar debut – Nigel Mansell did it in ’93 in Surfer’s Paradise and Bourdais at St. Pete in 2003 – and the victory would have been a firm announcement of his arrival in the American open-wheel series.
Instead, two late cautions gave Rossi a chance to take it away.
On a restart with two laps remaining, Rossi tried to dive inside of Wickens entering the first turn. The two cars made contact and Wickens spun off course.
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