Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway will be remembered for quite sometime, and rightfully so. For the second time in only four NASCAR races this season, the contest ended with an unbelievable photo finish, in which Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards crossed the finish line side-by-side in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.
With about ten laps remaining in the scheduled distance of the race, Harvick was out front and seemed to have the win in the bag. He had led for a majority of the race and had one of, if not the, most dominant car in the field. With about six laps to go however, the caution flag flew as Kasey Kahne blew a tire and hit the wall.
Not only did the caution set up for an overtime finish, but it gave the teams a chance to gamble on different pit strategies. Harvick, being the leader, elected to stay out on worn tires, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon. Edwards was the first car to line up with fresh tires in fourth.
On the restart with two laps to go, Harvick and Edwards lined up on the outside line, and were able to quickly clear the inside line headed by Earnhardt Jr., who didn’t get as great of a restart. Harvick was normally able to pull right away from the field, but with Edwards being on fresher tires, left him actually at a disadvantage.
Edwards was right on Harvick’s bumper, and kept it clean until the final corner on the final lap when he put the bumper to Harvick, getting him loose and allowing himself to get to the inside. As the two came out of the final turn, it quickly turned into a drag race. Both drivers side-by-side with the checkered flag a few hundred feet away, giving it all they had.
Door-banging all the way to the finish line, the two passed by almost dead-even. Harvick ended up having a slight edge, and by slight, I mean really slight. The margin of victory was 0.010 seconds, the closest finish in NASCAR history at Phoenix International Raceway, and the seventh closest finish since electronic timing and scoring came about in 1993.
“That is really what NASCAR racing is all about, said Harvick. “You are coming to the checkered flag, he wants to win for his team, and I want to win for my team, and there’s a lot on the line.”
Harvick wasn’t the only one fired up about the tight finish.
“A lot of fun,” said second-place finisher Edwards. “Really wish it would have worked out a little bit differently. It’s a good race, and I ran into him about as hard as I thought I could without wrecking him, and you know it just ended up being a drag race. It’s kind of fun coming to the line, because I thought man I got him, and then he doored me really hard, and then he got a little run, and I tried to door him to slow him down, but it just didn’t work.”
It is Harvick’s eighth victory at Phoenix International Raceway, and his 32nd career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Harvick has came out victorious in photo finishes before, but admits he almost gave his one away.
“Maybe a little bit too defensive,” said Harvick. “I missed the bottom with the way the rubber had built up on the racetrack, it just kind of walked up the track, and he [Edwards] was able to hold the bottom and able to get to the left-rear. I felt like I got back to the throttle even soon enough to be able to hold him off but I was kind of a couple feet behind and was able to kind of scrub against his door a little bit to slow him back down. By the time he realized he was going to be behind, we had carried the momentum by him, and we were at the start/finish line.”
It may not have been the closest finish in NASCAR history, but it certainly is one for the record books, and has given the sport a lot of momentum headed into one of the most exciting races of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.