Kevin Harvick was on the short end of the fuel-mileage stick when he ran out of gas en route to pit road under green with about 40 laps to go in the 312-lap Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
But he was able to remain in contention and took advantage of Carl Edwards running out of fuel with about 1 1/2 laps remaining, enabling Harvick to claim the race win.
“Well, I think we were all pushing it on gas there to try to just put enough in it to get to the end so that we could gain all the track position we could under green,” Harvick said. “I saw him slowing with about maybe a lap-and-a-half, two laps to go. (Car owner) Richard (Childress) came across the radio and said he (Edwards) was slowing down. I’m like, ‘dang we might still be in this thing.’”
After running out of fuel in the final laps, Carl Edwards wound up 21st.
Kasey Kahne finished second, while championship points leader Jimmie Johnson took third and increased his points cushion over second-place driver Matt Kenseth to 28 points heading into the Nov. 17 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kenseth finished off the lead lap in 23rd position.
Johnson started on the pole but failed to lead the first lap, as Denny Hamlin took the lead on lap one. Hamlin led the first 18 laps before losing the top spot to Jeff Gordon.
Harvick was also among the short list of drivers to lead several laps in the first third of the race before a rash of cautions that plagued the final 212 laps resulted in three different pit strategies.
The yellow flag waved eight times throughout the race, with all but one coming after lap 100. Different drivers cycled to the front with each yellow flag, as some drivers opted to stay out and pit under a later yellow flag while others took two or four tires.
“Everybody was kind of switching about 10 or 15 cars who were in the front and who weren’t,” Kahne said. “We were able to work our way back. (Crew chief) Kenny (Francis) had a great strategy throughout the reace, and we got our car really good about (lap) 150.
One driver who never cycled to the front, though, was Kenseth, who battled an poor-handling race car all afternoon. That problem was compounded by a 25-second pit stop.
“At that point, I knew I was in good shape, relative to the championship battle,” Johnson said.
The yellow flag was given a slight rest after a lap-190 caution, requiring the entire field to cycle through green-flag stops in the final stretch of the race. Having made his final yellow-flag stop later than most of his fellow competitors, Harvick almost stretched his fuel mileage too far, running out of fuel on his way to his final stop. Edwards made his way to pit road under power, but while taking only two tires, he failed to stay on pit road long enough to get enough fuel to go the remaining distance.
The caution came out for the final time with about 30 laps to go, resulting in a restart with 25 laps remaining. Edwards restarted with the lead, with Harvick in fourth. Harvick quickly made his way to third on the restart and then got by Kahne for second with 18 laps remaining.
“We were able to make our ground through traffic,” Harvick said. “We just were on the opposite side of the strategy that worked out. You just never know how the cautions are going to work out.”
Edwards was told by crew chief Jimmy Fennig via team radio communications that he was about 11/2 laps short on fuel. As Edwards went into fuel conservation mode, Harvick closed on him.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Juan Montoya, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR