It was a strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing at Phoenix International Raceway with all four teams earning a spot in the top seven of today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Good Sam 500k.
Carl Edwards led JGR finishing just .010 seconds behind race winner Kevin Harvick, while Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were close behind in third and fourth respectively, and Matt Kenseth earned a seventh-place finish.
Carl Edwards qualified the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota in the second position and settled in that position behind his teammate Busch through the opening green flag run. Edwards would continue to run second until a tremendous pit stop by the 19 crew allowed him to restart from the lead on lap 113. He would continue to lead through the next caution and round of pit stops. Edwards would run second on lap 175 and continued to run in that position with 100 laps remaining. A caution with 87 laps remaining would bring the field down pit road once again and once again the STANLEY crew delivered with an impressive stop that gave the lead back to Edwards for the restart on lap 234. The 4 car would manage to get around the 19 on the restart and Edwards settled back in to race second. A final caution with four laps remaining would leave the leaders with a final big decision to make and crew chief Dave Rogers made the call to bring the STANLEY Camry down pit road for two fresh tires. He would restart fourth but quickly moved into second behind the leader Kevin Harvick. Harvick was still on older tires and Edwards was the faster car at this point. He would catch Harvick on the final lap and the two would make contact coming to the finish line. They would end side by side in a photo finish that showed Harvick barely edging out Edwards by just .010 seconds. The finish is the closest in Cup Series history at Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the third position and raced inside the top five throughout the opening green flag run. NASCAR would issue the team a penalty for an uncontrolled tire during the day’s first round of pit stops under caution on lap 53. That penalty forced Hamlin to the back of the field for the ensuing restart. He would battle his way back inside the top 20 and was running 16th on lap 116. He would run 13th when another caution came out on lap 163. Hamlin would climb back into the top ten on lap 178. A caution with 87 laps remaining would bring the field back down pit road and the FedEx crew would deliver putting him back out eighth for the restart on lap 234. Hamlin would use the restart to gain two more spots and was running fifth with 70 laps remaining. A final caution with four laps remaining would leave the leaders with one last decision and Hamlin joined his teammates by coming down pit road for a two-tire change. He would restart sixth but managed to gain three more spots before the checkered flag to bring his FedEx Camry home in third.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Skittles Toyota from the pole position and was fast from the drop of the green flag to start the race. Busch would lead the opening open 74 laps of the race. The Skittles team would elect to make a two-tire change on the first round of pit stops following a caution on lap 53 and the 18 car was able to maintain its spot out front for the next 15 laps or so before having to relinquish the lead to those who took four tires. Busch had dropped back to fourth on the next run but a tremendous pit stop by the Skittles crew put him back on the front row for the ensuing restart on lap 113. The Skittles Camry would continue to run second prior to the next caution on lap 163 but he would fall back to 16th for the next restart after overshooting his pit box. He would quickly gain ground to run 12th at lap 180 and was back into the top ten by lap 185. Busch was up to eighth with 100 laps to go. A caution with 87 laps remaining would bring the field back down pit road and the Skittles crew would put him back out fourth for the restart on lap 234. He would gain one spot on the restart to run third. A caution with four laps remaining would leave the leaders with a final decision and Busch joined his teammates by coming down pit road for a two-tire change. He would restart fifth and gained one spot over the course of the green-white-checker finish to cross the line in fourth.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the sixth position and was able to run inside the top ten for the first third of the race. He would get caught up in traffic during a restart on lap 113 forcing him to back out of a three-wide situation to avoid an accident as he battled a tight handling race car. Kenseth was running 15th at the halfway mark and was 14th with 100 laps remaining as he and the team worked to improve the handling on his No. 20 Camry. A caution with 87 laps remaining would bring the field back down pit road and the Dollar General crew put him out 12th for the restart on lap 234. Kenseth was running 11th when the day’s final caution came out. The team would bring him down pit road for two tires and Kenseth lined up 10th for the green-white-checker restart. He was able to gain three spots over those final two laps to earn a seventh-place finish.
Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing captured the win just inches in front of Edwards, with Hamlin third, Kyle Busch fourth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 30 laps and seven lead changes among four different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remains out west for the final leg of the three-race west coast swing next Sunday with a trip to Auto Club Speedway. Live coverage on Fox will start Sunday, March 20 at 3 PM ET (race starts at 3:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.