Harvick gets third straight Cup win

Clay Curtis
March 13, 2018

Kevin Harvick knows how to get around ISM Raceway - and channel his anger.

Kevin Harvick raced to his third straight NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday, holding off Kyle Busch for his record-extending ninth win at ISM Raceway. "Any time you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that's just a piece of the puzzle".

Tony Stewart says that Stewart-Haas Racing will not appeal the penalty to Kevin Harvick's team from last weekend's Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There's nothing better to be a part of than something like that. "When you showcase character and grit as a team, as a unit, that's more powerful than any of us being good at what we do".

Stewart probably wouldn't have minded if Harvick had jumped on the rear decklid of his auto in celebrating the win.

"I made it very clear to pat my window and thank it for doing its job this week", he said.

Harvick got in front of Busch on the last series of pit stops on the mile oval. A pit stop error with a jack going down on Busch's auto on his final stop, cost him three seconds.

"We lost the race on pit road today", Busch said. "We didn't stomp 'em but we won and that's really all that matters". It felt more important to win a race this week than to win a race at Homestead for the championship.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished second Sunday despite leading a race-high 128 laps. The two had a series of entertaining battles, with Harvick also dueling Elliott and Denny Hamlin. The rule requires the side skirt extensions to be aluminum (a rule change made in February), and Childers said he missed the change in wording from metallic to aluminum in a bulletin last month. "To sit down there in the corner and watch these guys race like that was like my short track days". We have a little work to do, but man, we're right there.

Following Sunday's race, Stewart admitted this is the best SHR has been with all four cars. Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola wound up sixth and seventh, respectively.

Naomi Osaka: I was just really honored to play Sharapova
But at 5-5, the pressure appeared to get to the former world No 1 as she double-faulted to hand the initiative to Osaka. A two-time champion at Indian Wells , Sharapova's average start to the year continued with a loss to Naomi Osaka .

"It was an awesome day for us", said Stewart. "It's the first time in our organization's history that we had all four cars in the top 10". Kurt stayed out during a caution and swiped the second in a one-lap shootout.

Stewart said he won't appeal the penalties. I think you get the questions from people: Is he going to be the same?

NASCAR said Wednesday that inspectors at its research and development center in North Carolina found Harvick's Las Vegas vehicle violated a rule requiring rear window support braces to hold the glass rigid, and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum. NASCAR inspected his Ford and discovered a violation that cost him seven playoff points and 20 regular season points. Crew Chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, Car Chief Robert Smith was suspended, and the Playoff benefits for the Vegas win were stripped away.

Busch was a force in Sunday's 500-kilometer race, bulling his way through the competition as if to prove a point.

The victory lane interview was vintage Harvick in every sense, filled with pointed barbs that exemplified his don't-back-down mentality.

Harvick began the streak at Atlanta after crashing and finishing 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Harvick is the first driver to win three straight Cup races since Joey Logano in 2015. In 31 Cup starts in Phoenix, the driver from Bakersfield, Calif., has 15 top-five finishes.

Stewart-Haas Racing has won numerous races and earned two championships but it has never looked as complete or dominant as it does right now through the first four races to open the 2018 Monster.

Harvick also wrecked at Daytona before rattling off his three at Atlanta, Las Vegas and in the desert this past weekend.

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