Although Kevin Harvick led the most laps in the Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and mounted a charge in the closing laps to take the victory, his No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet ran out of fuel coming to the white flag and the Richard Childress Racing driver had to settle for the runner-up finish. The 18-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner started the 312-lap event from the eighth position and took over the top spot on the scoring pylon by lap 16 when he didn’t pit under caution. Varying pit strategies shuffled Harvick back in the running order on a few occasions, but for the majority of the 500k event, the No. 29 Chevrolet was a fixture in the top five. Crew chief Shane Wilson called for slight adjustments for the Rheem Chevrolet during the course of the race and altered between two-tire and four-tire pit stops in order to gain the critical track position on the one-mile desert oval. As Harvick paced the field late in the race, the caution flag flew on lap 228 and Wilson called his driver to pit road for the final pit stop of the day. Since Harvick felt like ‘two tires were magic for my car’, Wilson made the call for left-side tires and fuel to set up the Rheem Chevrolet for the finish. After the pit stop, Wilson instructed Harvick to begin saving as much fuel as possible as their initial calculation determined they were nine laps short of the finish. Following a bit of additional number crunching, the No. 29 engineers determined the Rheem Chevrolet was five to six laps short on fuel. As Wilson planned his strategy, the caution flag flew two additional times, and the Rheem team felt like that was the break they needed to make it to the end of the race on fuel. Restarting from the third position on the final restart of the day, Harvick wasted little time taking over the second spot on lap 263 and began to close the gap on the leader. The Bakersfield, Calif., native made gains as the laps ticked away but radioed Wilson with 1.5 laps remaining that he was out of fuel and he coasted to the finish line in the runner-up role. Harvick now sits third in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship standings after two races, eight points behind the leader.
Start - 8 Finish - 2 Laps Led - 88 Points - 3
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:
“Well, just to finish second in the Rheem Chevrolet and to be racing for a win at a place we ran 25th or 30th last year was such an accomplishment. I was really nervous about how we were going to run here. I just want to thank everybody with Rheem, Jimmy Johns, Budweiser, and Chevrolet; everybody that helps keeps this car on the race track; and all these crew guys. They did a great job figuring the fuel mileage. If you can cut the fuel mileage that close, you’re figuring it right. So I’m proud of all my guys. When they come to a place like this where we struggled so much, and then race for a win, is hopefully what sets the tone for the year.”