Jimmy John's Driver Fought Hard, But Does Not Advance to Championship 4
Date: Nov. 13, 2016
Event: Can-Am 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 6th/4th (Running, completed 324 of 324 laps)
Point Standing: 4,093 points; eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford) in overtime
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished fourth in the Can-Am 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, but unfortunately it was not enough to advance to the Championship Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It was his 16th top-five finish of 2016 and 13th top-five finish in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix.
Harvick entered Phoenix as one of the eight drivers still in contention for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. However, his fourth-place finish Sunday was not enough to overcome the deficit after sub-par finishes at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick, who was essentially in a must-win scenario at Phoenix to advance to the Championship 4, fell 20 points short of making the cut for the winner-take-all race at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday.
The Bakersfield, California, native started sixth but battled an ill-handling racecar in the early going and fell outside the top-10 by lap 54. He brought the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet to pit road for a green-flag stop on lap 81, but while he was on pit road the caution flag waved and put him a lap behind the leaders in 19th place.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion took the wave-around to return to the lead lap and immediately went to work, racing his way back into the top-10 by lap 142. The crew continued to work on the car throughout the race, making improvements with each stop that helped Harvick continue his march toward the front.
Harvick raced his way into the top-five before the caution came out on lap 312. He elected to stay out and try for the race win, then narrowly avoided a wreck in front of him on the lap-316 restart. The final restart of overtime came on lap 322 with the No. 4 lined up in the fourth position. Harvick tried his best but was unable to chase down the leaders and crossed the finish line in the fourth position.
“We just started way too far off on Friday. We never got a handle on the racecar,” said Harvick, who has a series-best eight Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix (April 2006, November 2006, November 2012, November 2013, March 2014, November 2014, March 2015 and March 2016). “They made it a ton better in the race, and we were in contention there at the end and just came up short. Just really proud of everybody for the effort that they put in.
“It was a very challenging Chase for us for all the mechanical failures and situations that we had going on,” he said. “We kept rebounding and winning races, and today we were a lap down and came back to have a chance at the end. That says a lot about the character of our race team; we just came up short this year.”
Harvick’s fourth-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished fifth. It was his ninth top-five this season and his seventh top-five in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 29th.
Joey Logano won the Can-Am 500k to score his 17th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Phoenix.
Kyle Busch finished .587 of a second behind Logano in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Larson, Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 53 laps. Two drivers failed to finish the 324-lap race, which went into overtime and finished 12 laps beyond its scheduled distance.
Harvick and Busch came into Phoenix looking to secure a spot in the Championship 4 next Sunday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Phoenix served as an elimination race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and both drivers had advanced from the Round of 16 to the Round of 8 in the eight races leading into the penultimate race at Phoenix. In order to move on to the Championship 4, Harvick and Busch were each in must-win scenarios. Alas, Harvick fell 20 points short of breaking into the top-four while Busch ended up 37 points out of the top-four. Matt Kenseth and Hamlin were the two other Chase drivers who also failed to advance.
Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Logano and Kyle Busch were the drivers advancing to the Championship 4. All had their respective point tallies reset to 5,000.
The Sprint Cup season finale takes place Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race begins at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC.