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NASCAR: A look at Kevin Harvick’s dominance at Phoenix, how to watch the race, more

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 3/12/2023 Alex Zietlow, The Charlotte Observer
NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain (1) wins the second stage during the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. © Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain (1) wins the second stage during the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022.

Over the years, Kevin Harvick has learned how to manage the expectations that are thrust upon him when he comes to Phoenix Raceway — the site of so much success in Harvick’s storied career.

“I’m almost numb to all of that,” Harvick told reporters Wednesday, “because I just ignore it.”

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race (3:30 p.m., FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) won’t mark the final time Harvick will race at Phoenix Raceway. The Stewart-Haas Racing star has one more run in Phoenix planned before retiring at the end of the 2023 season. But Sunday nevertheless will be special: It’s an opportunity for the West Coast native to add to his legacy at this racetrack before the championship race in November.

And what a legacy that is.

Harvick has notched 19 straight Top 10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway. That’s the longest streak of all-time for all tracks. He’s also notched nine career wins there, including four races in a row between November 2013 to March 2015.

But on Sunday, he and his No. 4 team will do the same thing they do every week, he said.

“I think one thing that’s been good throughout my career is being open-minded about the change in things and always being on your toes about not worrying about what you did last time,” Harvick said. He added, “You go through this sport and realize all the things that change constantly — the tires change constantly, the cars have changed a lot. Even in those years when it didn’t seem like much was changing, there was a lot changing with little rules changes here and there every year.

“There’s no rules to handling and I think with all the engineering and things that go with the cars in these particular days it’s a constant evolution. The thing I always tell our guys is evolve or die. That’s pretty much the thought process.”

The Harvick Retirement Tour has just begun. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer, who began his foray into the Cup Series by replacing Dale Earnhardt the week after the icon was killed in 2001, has many more racing trips that’ll probably be imbued with nostalgia before joining the FOX broadcast booth in 2024.

The goal in the interim: stay consistent on the competition side — and tell the story of Harvick at the same time.

“It’s somewhat of a transition,” Harvick said. “You’re trying to tell that story in the last year of everything that has happened and done on so that you re-educate half of a fan base that wasn’t there when you started your career and lead that into them understanding who is gonna tell them the story on television next year.”

What else to know ahead of NASCAR race

▪ Chase Elliott is expected to miss six weeks of racing, Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday evening, after breaking a bone in his left leg last week while snowboarding in Colorado. The 2020 champion and NASCAR’s most popular driver will be replaced by Josh Berry in the No. 9 Chevy Camaro at Phoenix — just like he was last week. The team announced that Berry will also be behind the wheel for all oval races Elliott misses. Elliott’s replacement for the next scheduled road course (Circuit of The Americas on March 26) is Jordan Taylor.

▪ Ross Chastain revisited the wall at Martinsville Speedway for a ceremony honoring the move that made him an icon. He helped remove part of the SAFER barrier in Turns 3 and 4, and the removed portions of the wall will be preserved, per a report. The end-of-race move — widely dubbed the “Hail Melon” — saw Chastain ram into the wall on the final lap and shift into fifth gear and pass a handful of cars en route to instantly catapulting into the Championship 4. NASCAR deemed the move illegal ahead of the 2023 season, citing safety concerns; that moment of magic will thus never be replicated.

▪ An update on the driver points heading into the fourth race weekend of the 2023 season: Chastain still sits at the top spot with 129 points, thanks in large part to his three stage wins. Alex Bowman (second) and Harvick (third) aren’t far behind. Daniel Suarez rounds out the Top 4 — illustrating the success that TrackHouse Racing has had early this year.

How to watch on TV, listen on radio

  • Race:United Rentals Work United 500
  • Place:Phoenix Raceway
  • Date:Sunday, March 12
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Purse: $7,453,660
  • TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
  • Radio:MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • Distance:312 miles (312 laps)
  • Stages:Stage 1 (Lap 60), Stage 2 (Lap 185), Stage 3 (Lap 312)

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