ThatsRacin

Kevin Harvick wins again, dominates Phoenix Sprint Cup race

Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Ariz.
Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Ariz. Getty Images

Kevin Harvick said it’s almost scary how well things are going for him right now.

But it’s his competitors in the Sprint Cup Series that should be afraid.

Very, very afraid.

Harvick, fresh off his first series championship last season, rolled into Phoenix International Raceway this weekend on the heels of his first win of the 2015 season at Las Vegas and left with another.

Harvick’s win in Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 was his fourth consecutive at the track and seventh overall.

Even more impressive? Harvick has now finished first or second in seven consecutive races dating back to the end of last season – a streak last accomplished by NASCAR legend Richard Petty during the 1975 season.

“I think when you look at the start of this year, we know each other so much better,” said Harvick, who is in his second season with Stewart-Haas Racing. “We have a lot of things different than what we had last year, and we had that experience of everything that we did to race for the championship.

“You don’t want to talk about it too much because you want it to keep going. But I’m just really proud of these guys on this team and everything that they do.”

Talk isn’t necessary.

The performance on the track by Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team speaks volumes throughout the garage.

“I remember when the No. 4 car unloaded at the Charlotte test (in December 2013), first lap on the track he was literally the fastest car,” said Jamie McMurray, who finished a distant second to Harvick on Sunday. “For (over) a year it’s been that way.

“Last year they should have won more races. They had issues – seemed like they’d be the fastest car and something would take them out.

“But, yeah, they’re on a roll.”

Harvick and his No. 4 team had plenty of first-year hiccups last season, but even with those problems they managed to parlay that performance into a championship-winning season.

With a year under their belts, the mistakes have lessened and the results have grown.

Harvick didn’t win his second race of the 2014 season until April at Darlington, S.C. – the season’s eighth race.

A championship trophy and a win already collected this season didn’t diminish the pressure on Childers coming into this weekend.

Since teams arrived Friday and cars first got on the track, a large number of Harvick’s competitors already had conceded Sunday’s race.

“Somebody asked me what was wrong with me this morning,” Childers said. “I said that I felt more pressure to win this one race at Phoenix than I did to win the (championship) race at Homestead.

“When you bring him here, I think everybody expects him to win. I didn’t want it to be my fault if we didn’t.”

Once Harvick got the lead Sunday, only various tire strategies kept him from remaining out front.

His toughest moments came late in the race when accidents by teammates Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick brought out cautions that bunched the field and provided some difficult restarts.

Each time, however, Harvick eventually powered away to a sizable lead.

“Those restarts were just a little bit nerve-wracking,” he said.

For Harvick, a California native who honed his stock car racing skills on the West Coast, Phoenix has been a special track, much like Daytona is revered by many.

“To grow up racing and come here was our Daytona 500 every year, and to be able to come back and do that now as part of your job is something that for me is a lot of fun,” he said.

Right now, nobody is having as much fun as Harvick.

And that’s a scary proposition.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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