Kevin Harvick held off the competition to win The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
Harvick was a deserving winner, leading 224 of the 312 laps. For most of the race, he remained about a second ahead of the driver in second place, which was often Dale Earnhardt Jr. To be able to hold such a significant lead for so long illustrated both how well Harvick drove and how much better his car was than those of the rest of the field.
After the race, Brad Keselowski told reporters that Harvick's crew put him in a great position to win this weekend, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
Late in the race, though, the caution flag came out quite often, including three times in the final 34 laps. The restarts put both Earnhardt and Joey Logano, who led 71 laps and finished fourth, right back on Harvick's tail, and it was fair to wonder if they'd overtake the leader sooner or later.
However, Harvick remained on top each time.
Here are the top 10 finishers from the race. You can view the full leaderboard on NASCAR.com.
|The Profit on CNBC 500 Top 10|
|1||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||224|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Hendrick Motorsports||0|
|3||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||4|
|4||Joey Logano||Team Penske||71|
|5||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||4|
|6||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||0|
|7||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||6|
|8||Carl Edwards||Roush Fenway Racing||1|
|9||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||0|
|10||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates||0|
Although he couldn't come up with the win, Earnhardt at least built on the momentum he earned with his Daytona 500 victory last week. He kept his performance in perspective, because when somebody is driving as well as Harvick, the rest of the field pretty much doesn't stand a chance:
It's easy to wonder if this is the year that everything comes together for Junior. With one win and a runner-up finish already in 2014, Earnhardt could be poised for a huge season and possibly a points-title challenge. He remains on top of the points standings for the time being.
Last year's points champion, Jimmie Johnson, finished sixth. He'll be disappointed by ending outside the top five, especially since he was hanging around there throughout the race. With the result, Johnson sits fifth in the overall points table.
For those interested in the Danica Watch, Danica Patrick made it through 306 laps. She was involved in a wreck with Justin Allgaier and Travis Kvapil on Lap 171 and then blew her left rear tire on Lap 186.
It was another frustrating performance for Patrick. After the race, she gave Allgaier a piece of her mind, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:
The drivers head to Las Vegas next week for the Kobalt 400. It will be interesting to see how Harvick follows this win up and whether Earnhardt will remain atop the leaderboard. Matt Kenseth is the defending champion, so the race is a great opportunity for him to kick-start his 2014 campaign.
The Kobalt 400 will begin at 3 p.m. ET, with coverage on Fox. Qualifying for the 43-driver field will start on Friday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m. ET, and will be aired on Fox Sports 1.