Cracked, but not broken: Harvick captures Phoenix as Chase comes down to wire

Phoenix International Raceway has been the stage for many exciting moments during The Chase. The most notable thrill ride was last year’s battle between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, one that ended up involving the cops. Other shocking times weren’t violence-based, but they included the points. It has been a place where championship hopes can be shattered or revived.

Today, Matt Kenseth’s cracked.

Starting outside the top ten, him and his team knew that something was off with their car. That transferred into the entire race. At one point, he claimed the car was “undriveable” and that he didn’t know how to fix it. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff decided to throw whatever he could at the set-up to fix it, yet nothing worked. A nearly fatal blow was given when the team failed to capitalize on a mistake made by competitor Jimmie Johnson. The No. 48 had been involved in a small scuffle with Carl Edwards and needed repairs. Kenseth and team came in to work on their car’s feel yet again. They ended up getting the air gun’s hose stuck underneath the car, resulting in a 25-second pit stop.

At that moment, it was just a matter of salvaging the best finish possible. That turned out to be 23rd, one lap down, 28 points back.

Johnson had the antithesis of his day; he finished third after two near-misses throughout the race. He extends his lead in the standings.

More importantly, the race ran its eventful course and crowned Harvick king of the desert. The win fell into his lap after Edwards’ fuel cell ran dry while leading coming to the white flag. This was the 200th NASCAR win for Richard Childress Racing, fittingly captured by the man who practically saved the team back in 2001 -and who is leaving the family.

As mentioned before, the race as a whole was exciting, creating one huge storyline heading into the finale race of the season. The championship will be determined in a week, yet it’s doubtful Kenseth will give up.

Will we be celebrating a six pack or a redemption story next Sunday? Nobody knows.

Point Standings after Phoenix

1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Matt Kenseth (-28)
3. Kevin Harvick (-34)
4. Kyle Busch (-57)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-63)
6. Jeff Gordon (-80)
7. Greg Biffle (-83)
8. Clint Bowyer (-87)
9. Joey Logano (-97)
10. Kurt Busch (-99)
11. Ryan Newman (-125)
12. Kasey Kahne (-134)
13. Carl Edwards (-134)

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