Kevin Harvick wins third straight NASCAR race

Thursday, 15 Mar, 2018

It's been 19 years since Kevin Harvick has been to Victory Lane in a NASCAR race in his hometown, and he's looking to go back.

After steady, light showers forced two long rain delays during Saturday's Xfinity race, there were only a few lingering clouds and a lot of sunshine Sunday morning, allowing the ISM Raceway track in Avondale to dry out in plenty of time for NASCAR's 14 annual TicketGuardian 500 Monster Cup race.

Stewart, known for having some moments in which the outside world influenced his motivation, obviously enjoys seeing this type of Harvick.

Following an L1-level penalty after winning in Las Vegas, Harvick didn't disappoint as he ripped into NASCAR officiating and repeatedly brought up social media. He was upset from a mid-week penalty placed against his team by NASCAR due to issues with his vehicle. Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and auto chief Robert Smith suspended two races.

Harvick was extra-motivated following the NASCAR penalties from Las Vegas.

Martin Truex Jr. won the pole during qualifying on Friday. This time, Wickens did not get away so smoothly and Rossi dived for the inside of Turn 1, slid up the track and spun the Canadian, allowing Sebastien Bourdais to sneak through for an emotional victory, his first since his awful practice accident in the lead up to the 2017 Indy 500.

Busch was a force in Sunday's 500-kilometer race, bulling his way through the competition as if to prove a point.

But Larson ran into mechanical problems on the 57 lap. He ended up fourth in the stage, and regained the lead when the drivers who didn't pit for the caution came in for fuel and tires after the segment. This led to Kurt Busch winning Stage 2.

While he had a best finish of third in six West starts and runner-up in five Truck starts, he won the final two of his 12 Southeast Series races at the now-bulldozed half-mile.

Denny Hamlin put on a defensive clinic in midpoint of the race, holding off Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for a good 30 laps.

Busch didn't seriously challenge Harvick after that, finishing 0.774 seconds back. In recent memory, you'd have to go back to 2015 and that mid-summer run by Kyle Busch to find a streak like this.

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900) - You know the 2017 champ is going to find his groove any race now, and Phoenix could be where he starts looking like he did a year ago. This was in reference to his aforementioned penalty.

From lap 232 through lap 244, Hamlin, Harvick and Busch staged a spirited and crowd pleasing fight for first. It felt more important to win this week than it did to win a race at Homestead for a championship. Running in his 17th season at the top level of stock vehicle racing, McMurray is one of just three drivers to have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season (2010) and one of just four drivers to have won both the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2015 and the Daytona 500. He has won 3 of the first 4 races in 2018, a mark not seen since 1992. And he also is the first driver to win three of the first four races of a season in any order since Elliott did it that year. It was Harvick's ninth career win in the Valley, more than any other driver in NASCAR history.

Harvick, whose win last week at Las Vegas was tainted by two violations of NASCAR rules and a fairly hefty penalty on his Stewart-Haas Racing team, earned his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series race by capturing the checkered flag Sunday at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway). The next stop for Harvick and the rest of NASCAR will be Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The race is scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m.