PHOENIX, Ariz. — Don’t look now but a third driver just stepped forward to try and keep Jimmie Johnson from winning another Sprint Cup Championship.
While Johnson survived a close call, Matt Kenseth suffered handling problems and Carl Edwards ran out of fuel on the final lap, Kevin Harvick took his #29 Budweiser Chevrolet to Victory Lane.
By winning the Advocare 500k at Phoenix International Raceway, Harvick kept alive his faint hopes of winning the 2013 Sprint Cup Championship in his last season with RCR.
The Phoenix win was Harvick’s fourth at the one-mile track and 23rd of his career. It also marked the 200th NASCAR win for Richard Childress Racing since its inception in 1969.
Johnson, who finished third, however, extended his points lead over Kenseth from seven to 28 points. Harvick cut his deficit from 40 to 34 points behind Johnson.
Johnson can clinch his sixth series championship next week with a 23rd place finish or better, 24th if he leads one lap and 25th if he leads the most laps.
Although Johnson has the advantage going into the final race at Homestead, he was not ready to lay claim to the title.
“Yeah, everybody is so eager to predict the champion, but you’ve got to play the game,” Johnson said in his post-race press conference.
Johnson has finished 32nd and 36th in his last two races at Homestead. Johnson, Kenseth and Harvick are the only drivers with a chance to win the championship. Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., fourth and fifth, respectively, were eliminated at Phoenix.
Visit www.NorthBeachPhotos.smugmug.com for more images from the Sprint Cup race in Phoenix.