Mike Hembree, Special for USA TODAY Sports9:23 a.m. EDT March 14, 2016
AVONDALE, Ariz. — A look at all the results and action from Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Seriesrace at Phoenix International Raceway:
WINNER: Kevin Harvick showed why he was a prohibitive favorite entering Sunday’s race by taking control in the second half and surviving a late-race restart and a hard charge from Carl Edwards to score a win in the season’s fourth Sprint Cup Series event. The two front runners bumped twice on the final half lap before Harvick took the checkered flag in a photo finish — the closest in track history.
"I should have wrecked him!" joked Edwards on pit road after the race. "No, those guys were doing a great job all day. They were on old tires but we were faster, so I thought ‘I’ll just move him out of the way and get by.' I just didn’t move him far enough. And then he got up the door and I was trying to time it. I think he is going to beat me so I tried to sideswipe him before he got there, but I needed to be in front of his front tire. ... Man, what a fun race though. I wanted to win that thing. But you win some, you lose some."
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The victory was Harvick’s eighth here, extending his all-time record, and he now has won five of the past six Cup events at the one-mile track.
“I knew he was better through (Turns) 3 and 4, but that was not the car I wanted to see behind me," Harvick said of Edwards. "I tried to protect the bottom in 3 and 4, and I just missed the bottom with all the rubber built up on the tires. I knew I was going to be on defense down there. I got up too high … and then he got into me, like he should have. I knew I needed to get a good run off the corner and I was going to have to get into his door. And it worked out, just barely.“
CAUTION KAHNE: While running 14th with six laps to go, Kasey Kahne lost a right front tire and slammed into the wall bringing out the caution. Three cars — Harvick,Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon stayed out — while the remaining lead-lap cars, including Edwards, pitted for a splash of fuel and two tires.
RUNNING LOW: It was not a grand day for the debut of NASCAR’s low-downforce aero package at a relatively flat track. Only three drivers — Kyle Busch, Edwards and Earnhardt — led laps in the first half of the race.
VERY TIRED: Tire issues — some apparently caused by excessive brake use — plagued some of the lead cars. Brad Keselowski, last week's winner at Las Vegas, was a victim. He was running 10th on lap 225 when his right rear tire exploded, resulting in a long pit stop and a lost lap.
HELLO WALL, NEWMAN: Ryan Newman caused the race’s first caution flag on lap 52 when his car blew a right-front tire and hit the outside wall in turn three. No other cars were involved.
THE WALL, PART TWO: Fifty laps after Newman’s crash, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Paul Menard, whacked the wall after an apparent mechanical problem. The field was placed under caution for the second time.
IT’S THE PITS: Kyle Busch rebounded from a rare pit-road problem at mid-race to battle with the leaders. Busch pitted too close to the wall on a stop, lengthening his time in the pit as his crew members struggled to work in a confined space. The team also lost seconds while wrestling with an air wrench hose under the front tires.
BACK IN THE BACK: Four-time Phoenix winner Jimmie Johnson started the race from the rear of the field in a backup car. Johnson crashed his primary car in qualifying Friday in one of the more bizarre incidents in recent NASCAR history. Johnson’s steering wheel came off its column, leaving Johnson with no control of the car and sending it hard into the outside wall. By lap 20, Johnson had passed half the field.