AVONDALE, Ariz.—There were 15 lead changes, nine different leaders, but, ultimately, the same result.
Kevin Harvick rolled to his third victory in as many weeks in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, March 11, easily holding off Kyle Busch at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., to take the TicketGuardian 500.
Final pit stops were critical on the 1-mile dogleg oval.
Busch came in first and had enough trouble to lose a couple of seconds on the stop. Harvick came in four laps later and came out clean, and with a pass of Chase Elliott and when drivers who had pitted earlier and would need more fuel to finish eventually peeled off late in the race, Harvick took the final lead.
Harvick had the playoff points—used once the playoffs start and rolled over from one cutoff to the next until the season finale—stripped by NASCAR for failing inspection after last week's race at Las Vegas.
Time will tell if there was a problem Sunday. NASCAR doesn't usually announce penalties before Tuesday after technical inspections have been completed at the R&D Center back in Charlotte, N.C.
But he shrugged it off and got back to business as usual, at least for this year, at Phoenix. He hasn't forgotten, though.
"I've been mad as all get-out," Harvick said on Fox after winning Sunday. "This organization does a great job and we got fast cars. ... To take that (win) away from those guys really pissed me off.
"We wanted to go stomp them. We didn't stomp them, but we won."
Busch dominated towards the end of Stage 1 and won it going away to secure an all-important playoff point, his first of the year.
His older brother Kurt Busch won Stage 2 when a late caution shook up the running order after pit stops, and the elder Busch—who had a good car all day but never one that could stay with the leaders over a long stretch—came out on top. He finished 10th.
The series heads to Fontana, Calif., next week for the Auto Club 400 on the sprawling 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.