Kevin Harvick couldn’t summon enough of his Phoenix magic Sunday to advance to NASCAR’s Chase championship round.
With eight career victories there, Harvick has always performed well at Phoenix International Raceway. Facing Chase elimination unless he could win for a ninth time Sunday in the Can-Am 500, he would need to again.
Instead, Harvick finished fourth, even after going a lap down at one point during the race. That means he will miss the final four for the first time in this version of the Chase’s three-year history. He had advanced through every round of the Chase each year, so this is the first time Harvick won’t move through in any round.
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Harvick has built a reputation of clutch finishes in the Chase. In 2015, his victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway clinched him a spot in the second round. In his title-winning season of 2014, he won at Phoenix to make the final four.
That’s something he was unable to do Sunday.
“It was a very challenging Chase for us, for all the mechanical failures and situations that we had going on,” he said.
Harvick did win races in this year’s Chase, making it through the first round with a victory at New Hampshire and the quarterfinals by winning at Kansas. But semifinal finishes of 20th at Martinsville and sixth at Texas dropped him 18 points out of fourth place heading to Phoenix. That meant a victory was really his only chance at making the final four.
“We kept rebounding and winning races and (Sunday) we were a lap down and came back to have a chance at the end,” said Harvick. “That says a lot about the character of our race team and we just came up short this year.”
After starting sixth, he had dropped to as low as 20th and a lap down early in the race. He rallied to as high as fourth when the race went to a green-white-checkered finish. On the final restart, he thought he had a chance to jump past the leaders and snatch an unlikely victory.
“That’s a huge credit to the race team and the guys there in the end,” said Harvick. “We had a chance and could take a swing for it. We just didn’t quite have it all weekend. We made the car a ton better as we got into the race. So I’m proud of everyone for that.”