Race 2 of 33: Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway
Track Specs: 1-mile tri-oval / 200 laps
Weather: Rain, 65 degrees
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Harvick’s Finish: 2nd
Kevin Harvick’s JR Motorsports debut ended one spot short of perfection as the veteran driver wheeled his No. 88 Great Clips Chevrolet to a runner-up finish in the rain-shortened Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Harvick wasted little time showcasing the strength of his No. 88 Chevrolet, jumping into the top five in the race’s opening laps. By the race’s first caution at lap 21, he ran fourth despite battling a loose race car. When a lengthy green-flag stint ensued, Harvick began to charge forward, moving as high as second before hitting pit road at lap 78.
Through a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Harvick assumed the lead, bypassing Kyle Busch’s dominant No. 54 car as the No. 88 sat atop the leaderboard for four laps. Busch proved to be the class of the field as he overtook Harvick and maintained the lead before threatening rain clouds finally opened up 32 laps short of the scheduled 200-lap distance.
NASCAR officials made valiant efforts to dry the one-mile facility, but each attempt was once again dampened with another rain shower which eventually led to the race being called official with Harvick second. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth made up the top five.
The No. 88 team now ranks fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series owners standings after two races. Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to the team next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before Harvick takes over at Bristol Motor Speewday (March 15).
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 88 Great Clips team
“We could kind of maintain (with Kyle Busch) but you never know how hard he was running his car and once he gets to a certain point. His car was really fast on restarts and our car was really, really loose on restarts so we’d lose two or three seconds and then kind of maintain from there. We had a good car. We just need to work on a few things on the restarts. Basically, week one here, so I feel really good about where we started.
“I just want to thank everybody at JR Motorsports. There’s a lot of new things that have been put together, a lot of new people, a lot of bodies cut off and they’ve had a really long winter but the effort is obvious. The first time I’ve ever sat in the car was yesterday. To show up and have everything work and everybody communicate, and do all the things. I’m just really proud of them and feel like we’re going to start building a foundation of setups and things that we need to make improvements. It’s not like we need to reinvent the wheel now. We just need to tweak on it and go from here.”