Sunday, March 10, 2019

PixelatedPICK: Kevin Harvick Shooting for Tenth Phoenix Win, Plus… Stickin’ With Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson and # Kevin Harvick, during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona International Speedway. (Matthew T. Thacker/NKP/LAT Images)

By: Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining

AVONDALE, Arizona (March 10, 2019) -- The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Phoenix this week and is back to the 750hp configuration for its aero package. Kevin Harvick has an astounding nine wins in Phoenix, and looks to chalk up his tenth victory on Sunday.

“When we go to Phoenix, we are always going for the win,” Harvick told Racer Magazine. “That’s been a great racetrack for me,personally, and since I’ve been at SHR, it’s become statistically one of our best racetracks as far as win counts go. It’s definitely a racetrack that we circle every year where we think we should have an opportunity to win.”

To get to that tenth win, Harvick will have to get past another NASCAR great in Kyle Busch… who is looking to add to his total of 198 wins across NASCAR’s top three national series.

“As rough as our relationship was to start things off, there’s a mutual respect that we have found over the past several years that have created a healthy competitiveness instead of an unhealthy competitiveness,” Harvick told Friday at ISM Raceway, site of Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“Look, Kyle’s a great race car driver. Kyle and I have really not much in common off the race track, but I have an extreme amount of respect for what he does in the race car and the things that happen on the race track. There isn’t a guy in the garage that I want to beat more than Kyle just because of the fact that if you’ve beat him on the race track, you’ve had a really good day. Racing with him head-to-head is something that I enjoy. Definitely, he wants to beat me, I want to beat him, but I feel like I have a good relationship with Kyle.”

Should Harvick pull off the feat, he will become only the sixth driver in Cup Series history to win 10 or more races at one racetrack.

STICKIN’ WITH: Jimmie Johnson in Phoenix

After having an exciting, albeit controversial, start to the 2019 season with a win in The Clash at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson’s road to returning to victory lane in the NASCAR Cup Series has proven difficult. Johnson has had mediocre runs at Atlanta and Las Vegas, but at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona has shown signs of turn to the positive trend, with solid top five times during practice.

“We were very aggressive with the setup of our car,” Johnson said on Friday afternoon at ISM Raceway before qualifying 15th for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “I think once we took consistent air off the top of it, it just started bouncing and went haywire. That thing was bouncing all over the place once I got to like 15th or 20th on the track.”

Jimmie Johnson has the third best driver rating of all active drivers at Phoenix, and with the strong runs in practice, he could find himself with a solid result, and if the strategy plays out just right, a possible return to victory lane is not out of the question. A win on Sunday would be his fourth there.

“Atlanta (a 24th-place result), was pretty rough for us. Vegas we had a lot more speed in the car, but when I lost track position as the race wore on, my car was pretty evil to drive. We are learning each and every step. We have been off to a good start here in Phoenix. I know it’s way different than that other package, but we’re learning as we go, and we just have to do a better job and get better.”

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