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NASCAR Sprint Cup at Phoenix: 5 Reasons Kevin Harvick Pulled out a Victory

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2016

NASCAR Sprint Cup at Phoenix: 5 Reasons Kevin Harvick Pulled out a Victory

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    In a wild battle to mark a place in history, two drivers headed into the AdvoCare 500 with each trying to outperform the other by sufficient points to top the standings heading to the series finale at Homestead.

    The talk was all about who would make the fewest mistakes between Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe's No. 48 team versus Brad Keselowski and his Penske No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team.

    The race at Phoenix wasn't all about the championship contenders. There were at least five drivers who were candidates to grab the win on the slick, somewhat single-grooved one-mile track.

    Little did we know that drivers would really "have at it" in the final laps and a melee would break out with sights that were good, bad and ugly.

    When the race was over, it was Kevin Harvick who was first to take the checkered flag in a green-white-checker finish. Let's take a look at the primary reasons behind his win.

1. Motivation

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    Kevin Harvick had nothing to lose heading into the AdvoCare 500. He was 11th in the point standings, having struggled during the season and in the Chase.

    The driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet started 19th on the grid.

    After a 44-race winless streak, Harvick was ready to prove that his RCR team could win with a strong car if he stayed out of trouble.

2. Gil Martin

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    Gil Martin had been Kevin Harvick's crew chief, but some friction was building between the two, and Harvick felt there should perhaps be a change to get the car more competitive.

    Shane Wilson was the crew chief for the 2012 season until the Bristol race in August when it was decided that Martin should be brought back.

    Martin shows ability to make quality calls during the race with adjustments to the car, and today his ability to do that paid off with a victory.

3. Racing Groove

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    Since the repave and reconfiguration of the Phoenix International Raceway track, it has been a slick, pretty much one-groove track.

    Throughout the weekend with races in different series, it was evident that cars who got out of that groove would go for spins, and wrecks were incurred.

    Harvick discovered fairly early in the race that the second groove on the outside was coming in, and he used it to his benefit.

    On the last two restarts Harvick was in the outside lane. The first time Kyle Busch was the leader, but he chose the inside only to see Harvick quickly pass him. As the leader, he chose the same line for a win.

4. Fuel Management

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    Kyle Busch looked to be the one who would win the race after leading the most laps. Kevin Harvick had quietly moved into position to contend for the lead.

    The cautions that erupted and a red flag halt of the race had the No. 29 team worried that Harvick did not have sufficient fuel to finish the race, especially if it was under green-white-checker conditions.

    Harvick was able to manage fuel, finish the race and drive to Victory Lane.

5. Jeff Gordon's Retaliation

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    Clint Bowyer probably wasn't on Jeff Gordon's Christmas card list anyway, but Bowyer tested Gordon's last nerve at Phoenix.

    In the final laps the two made contact and Gordon finished it off with a serious retaliatory move. Both cars were heavily damaged.

    As a result, a total melee broke out in the garage area between not only the drivers, but the teams of the No. 15 and No. 24. Other cars were damaged as well because of the accident.

    It looked like Kyle Busch would easily win had there not been cautions and the red flag. Harvick may have Gordon to thank for the win, though it was a nasty situation that resulted.

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