Published: Thu, March 15, 2018
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What we learned during the TicketGuardian 500 — NASCAR Phoenix

What we learned during the TicketGuardian 500 — NASCAR Phoenix

Kevin Harvick wasn't going to let the moment pass.

Speaking to media alongside driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers - who had just won their third consecutive race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 - Stewart indicated that the team had chosen not to appeal the L1-level penalty for two violations found during teardown at the NASCAR R&D Center after the car's win at Vegas last week. The two had a series of entertaining battles, with Harvick also dueling Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

"When you back Kevin Harvick into a corner, he's going to come out swinging", Burton said.

"I thought I gave him enough space that actually would have held P1", said Wickens afterward.

"In the end, without those grass-roots fans, those grassroots people, coming and being able to race here, whether it fits your budget or not, 10 years from now, you better hope you have your ass [covered and] some people that will sit in the stands up here and wanting to watch these races at your short tracks because those are your hard-core fans, those are your grassroots fans", Harvick said. "Anytime you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that's just a piece of the puzzle that I like to be a part of and feel that controversy and that enthusiasm". While he wasn't knocked out of the race, he slowly faded, finishing 18, setting the stage for the Harvick-Busch duel.

Since the penalty, the NASCAR community has collectively questioned the legitimacy of the Atlanta and Las Vegas victories, the additional scrutiny, Unhappy Harvick something to prove this weekend. "Our team is very good at setting those things aside for 10 weeks during the Playoffs". It felt more important to win this week than it did to win a race at Homestead for a championship. It felt like that.

"How many appeals have you seen overturned?" he explained. In all, he's won the last four NASCAR races he's entered, dating back to the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "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".

Texas Motor Speedway could have done the entire community a favor by reconfiguring itself into a moderately banked 1-miler instead of only slightly deviating from its cookie-cutter sensibilities.

Though Harvick has a history of dominating races at ISM Raceway, he would only lead 38 laps en route to his victory. Busch won the Phoenix fall race in 2015, and has nine Xfinity and two Truck wins at the desert track.

Chase Elliott, Hamlin and Truex finished third through fifth, respectively, in a day those five drivers were the class of the field. It's not as if Busch, normally a noisy kind of guy when it comes to racing at the front, has been quiet this year. "This organization does a great job and we got fast cars". Running in his 17th season at the top level of stock auto racing, McMurray is one of just three drivers to have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season (2010) and one of just four drivers to have won both the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2015 and the Daytona 500.

All told, that was an exceptional race, and the case could be made that NASCAR has had three of those over the first month of the season.

What more do some of you want?

How would you rank the NASCAR season after four races? "Then we knew this would be a team to reckon with". This could change quickly, especially since Chevrolet still has to get a handle on its new Camaro ZL1, but this is how things look for now. "Our cars were pretty evenly matched [at Phoenix]".

Does he have a third win under the hood of that "Freaky Fast" No. 4 Stewart-Haass Racing Ford?

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900) - You know the 2017 champ is going to find his groove any race now, and Phoenix could be where he starts looking like he did previous year.

Of note, Hendrick Motorsports showed signs of life this past weekend, but a 1-mile track doesn't really mean anything for the remainder of the season. The next stop for Harvick and the rest of NASCAR will be Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

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