AVONDALE, Ariz. — Joe Gibbs Racing led the Good Sam 500 field to the green with a sweep of the top three positions. The team would have finished that way as well — if not for Kevin Harvick’s win.
Harvick had the field covered at Phoenix International Raceway like he has in recent years until a caution came out on lap 308 after Kasey Kahne blew a tire and slammed the Turn 3 wall.
Carl Edwards was running third behind Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the caution waved and he was the first driver to hit pit road. The entire field followed with the exception of Austin Dillon. Earnhardt stayed out along with Harvick and Austin Dillon. A two-tire stop put Edwards back on track in fourth.
Leading the race, Harvick had his choice of lanes and took to the outside. Edwards was behind in the second row. “Caution came out; Dave rolled the dice and we got a shot at it,” Edwards said of crew chief Dave Rogers. “We made them work for it and that’s more than we’ve been able to do the last few times.”
Edwards got to Harvick’s rear bumper in Turn 3 on the final lap and knew that his best chance to win was to move Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet out of the way.
“I wish it would have worked out a little bit differently, but it was a good race,” Edwards said. “I ran into him about as hard as I thought I could without wrecking him and it ended up being a drag race.”
Edwards spent the majority of his laps inside the top 10, but Hamlin and Busch had major obstacles to overcome.
Hamlin‘s team lost control of a tire on a Lap 53 caution and he was forced to the back of the longest line on that restart. He struggled in heavy traffic and it took 80 laps to climb back into the top 15 and 125 laps to crack the top 10.
Losing the track position was pivotal, but Hamlin still gave the pit crew credit for his top-five finish.
“I thought we had a car that could win,” he said. “We really did a good job back there — pit crew did a good job down the stretch. So, overall I’m very proud of our program. We’ve really come a long way on this race track.”
Busch had multiple mistakes during a Lap 163 pit stop. He overshot his pits and when he backed up he was too close to the wall. This caused him to drop from second entering the pits to 18th on the restart.
“We just can’t quite keep up as good as those guys can on the long side of the run, so that’s kind of where we lost it today,” Busch said. “I also screwed us up a little bit on pit road, but we were at least able to overcome that.”
“It was great to get back into position (to win),” Busch added. “Barring some different conditions there on the restart with Kevin and the two-tire cars ahead of me, I had to restart fifth. Maybe if I had started fourth I’d had a shot at it. Good job for Carl there; a valiant effort overall. A good job for JGR.”
Matt Kenseth finished seventh, which was his first top-10 of the season and only his second since last fall’s race at Dover International Speedway.