NSCS: I’ll Have Another; Harvick Looking to Continue Phoenix Dominance With Fourth Straight Cup Win

Ryan O'Hara NASCAR, West 0 Comments

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Story by Race Chaser Online West Coast Correspondent Ryan O’Hara — Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America photo —

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Phoenix International Raceway this weekend in Avondale for its first of two events at the track on the season, and the second of three races on the “Western Swing”.

And of late, one driver has claimed ownership of this race track throughout the past couple of seasons.

Kevin Harvick is looking for his fourth consecutive win at the one-mile “Jewel in the Desert”, and fifth out of the last six Phoenix races. If his performance at Las Vegas last weekend was any indication, Harvick is not suffering from post-championship meltdown of any kind. With his win in Sin City, Harvick tied Jeff Gordon for the record of most consecutive top-two finishes at six, which the four-time series champion set back in 1996. And for Harvick, there is no better place for him to statistically have a shot at rewriting the mark than PIR.

Everyone in the garage area knows Harvick is the man to beat this weekend — Phoenix just makes him even more formidable. In addition to winning four out of the last five races at Zoomtown USA and has finished either first or second in five out of the last six. Even in the race where he finished second in the spring of 2012, Harvick was running down leader and eventual winner Denny Hamlin with a handful of laps to go, only to run out of fuel. A six-time winner in the Cup Series at Phoenix already (and ten-time PIR winner overall), Harvick hopes to add a monumental seventh victory to further assert his dominance — and extend his record for most Cup wins in track history.

After his win last fall, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers spoke candidly about not going over anything with his driver prior to the race.

“We knew that this was one of his (Harvick’s) best race tracks,” Childers said. “When we came here, we didn’t talk car setups, we didn’t talk about anything, we just showed up in the spring, hopped in there, and it was fast off the bat.”

With that being said, that opens up a door for other teams to make headway, especially with the new rules package.

On the other hand, when Harvick has won twice on the old surface and four times on the new surface, it seems that the veteran can win at PIR in just about any circumstance.

When asked if there was that possibility, Harvick said that he couldn’t speak for other teams, only trying to push his own buttons as a driver.

“I don’t know anything about anyone else’s situation, but I can tell you that I approach our team as I’m just a source of information and that’s really how Rodney and I had decided that needed to go in the beginning,” Harvick said. “I can help control the direction of a lot of things that are happening whether it be development or things wrong with the car and just push buttons. That’s what I always tried to do as an owner was push buttons and try to trigger conversations that would hopefully lead down a road of finding something better or solving a problem. In order to do that, you have to be in communication with the engineers, the team, and everybody involved that is working on these cars on a day-to-day basis.”

“I’m just a piece of the puzzle that tries to feed as much information and participate in as many things to understand and be involved in what’s going on. This is a science project nowadays with the engineering. It’s way beyond me, so I just try to be involved in it to try and keep pushing forward.”

The defending series champion makes his point plainly — this is a team effort. At the Cup Series level, and with the brand new rules package still throwing curveballs to the teams, the racing is not only a battle of the drivers — it’s a battle of science and the articulate individuals who know the mathematics and the engineering that go into these 3,400 pound behemoths.

As Bill Nye said famously, “Science rules.” This weekend, it’s time to see if Kevin Harvick truly does have Phoenix “down to a science”.

The CampingWorld.com 500, race four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, takes the green flag on Sunday, March 15 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern (12:30 p.m. local) with live coverage on FOX and the Motor Racing Network.

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