By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Though Kevin Harvick has made ISM Raceway in Phoenix his own personal playground over the last several years, the March 2016 running of the Good Sam 500 came down to a matter of inches for him to be able to continue his dominance in the desert.
As the laps wound down, Harvick looked to have the win within his grasp for the eighth time on the one-mile oval, holding a decisive lead over second place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with just six laps remaining.
However, a blown tire by Kasey Kahne, the fifth driver to suffer tire issues on the day, brought out the final caution and bunched the field back up for one last shot at the driver the FOX Sports announcers have dubbed the “Cactus King.”
While the majority of the field came down pit road for service under the final caution, Harvick, Earnhardt, and Austin Dillon all elected to stay out on track. As the field circled under yellow, the race was pushed past its scheduled distance, setting the race to finish in overtime.
On the final restart, Harvick held steady in the lead, but Carl Edwards, with his fresh rubber, was coming like a freight train toward the lead, moving into second place.
As Edwards closed in on Harvick heading through Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, he was able to get underneath Harvick’s car to pull alongside entering the frontstretch. The two drivers would bounce of each other thrice more closing in on the finish line, with Harvick gaining a slight advantage at the last second to take the win, with a margin of victory of .010 seconds, the closest finish ever at Phoenix.
Just two weeks prior, Denny Hamlin had beaten Martin Truex, Jr. by the same margin to win the Daytona 500.
“I just like racing here,” said Harvick. “It’s just one of those places where I feel like I’ve been here enough times to where I can move around and find something to make our car work. I knew he (Edwards) was better through (Turns) 3 and 4. That was not the car that I wanted to see behind me.
“I knew I could beat him down there and I tried to protect the bottom in (Turns) 3 and 4 and I just missed the bottom with all the rubber build-up on the tires and everything. But, all in all, I knew I was going to be on defense down there. I got up too high and wasn’t able to stay on the bottom like I wanted to and then he got into me, like he should have, and I needed to get a good run off the corner and I was going to have to get into his door and it worked out, just barely.”
For Edwards, he was left wondering what else he could have done to beat Harvick and steal a Phoenix win away from him.
“I should’ve wrecked him (laughter),” Edwards said. “No, those guys were doing a great job all day. They hung on with those tires but we were faster so I thought, ‘Man, I’ll just move him out of the way and get by.’ I just didn’t move him far enough and then he got up the door and I thought I was trying to time — I thought ‘I think he’s going to beat me.’ So, I tried to sideswipe him before he got there but I needed to be in front of his front tire. Anyway, just a fun race. Man, I wish we could’ve won that thing.
“I wanted to win that thing but you win some and you lose some. It was a good race.”