All Eyes on Kevin Harvick as Phoenix Favoriteby Kyle Pokrefky March 11, 2016 0 comments
Entering Phoenix International Raceway and the fourth race of the Sprint Cup season, Kevin Harvick is being viewed as the odds-on favorite to punch his ticket into the Chase at the track on Sunday.
Harvick has received the nod from pundits and drivers alike as the driver to beat on Sunday. His selection as a favorite for the Good Sam 500(k) weekend isn’t unfounded as the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet is a seven-time winner at the mile-long circuit.
Jimmie Johnson, a four-time Phoenix winner himself, has a shortlist of drivers he views as contenders for Sunday, but he has the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet at the top of his list.
“Coming to this track, I definitely put that No. 4 car as my number-one pick,” Johnson said at Phoenix on Friday morning. “I think we’re closing the gap some. The Penske cars usually shine here, so I expect those two to be pretty good.
“I just heard the tail end of Kevin’s conversation and you start thinking it through and you look at Kyle [Busch] and his success here, which then opens up the JGR cars. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess if I’m forced to, the No. 4 car is the one that we’ll all be paying close attention to.”
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards also offered his thoughts on Harvick’s dominance at Phoenix in recent years.
“I don’t know, it is tough when someone figures a track out that well,” Edwards added. “This place has such a fine edge, your car has to be perfect all the way around and you have to drive perfectly.
“I think really at this time of the sport for anyone to be that dominant at a track, they really must have something special. I think the whole field is chasing those guys and chasing Kevin in that No. 4 car at this race track. We’ll learn everything we can, but we’d like to end that.”
When it comes to his dominance at a track that has provided him with nearly a quarter of all of his Sprint Cup race victories, Harvick stated that it’s his familiarness with the course that has given him a competitive advantage over the years.
“It’s obviously been a great race track for me personally, but really for the last two years at Stewart-Haas Racing it’s been phenomenal,” Harvick said. “We have won three of the four races and got beat by the rain in the last one.
“All-in-all it’s been a lot of fun to come here. For me personally, this is a fun place to come just for the fact that I started racing here in the mid-90’s and you still see a lot of the same fans and people that followed your career up through the ranks.”
Hailing from Bakersfield, Calif., Harvick says that Phoenix’s layout is very similar to the tracks that he cut his racing teeth on in his youth. With that, his historical dominance at the track should come as no surprise.
“For me, I grew up racing on the West Coast,” Harvick added. “We grew up on a lot of these flat style type race tracks, short tracks up and down the West Coast.
“For whatever reason all the flat tracks have just kind of still fit my driving style throughout the years, whether it be here or Loudon, but obviously this place we have had a lot more success than some of the others.”
The 312-lap Good Sam 500(k) will get underway on Sunday at 3:30 p.m ET with FOX and MRN providing live coverage.
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