Avondale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Kevin Harvick won his first race with Stewart-Haas Racing after putting on a dominating performance in Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Harvick, who made his second start as driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for SHR, led 224 of 312 laps. It was the fifth time he has won a Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, which moved him ahead of Jimmie Johnson for most victories here.
The final 65 laps around this 1-mile oval featured four cautions. Harvick pulled away from the field on each of the last four restarts, including the final one with nine laps to go. He beat last week's Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the finish by a half-second to earn his 24th career victory in NASCAR's premier series.
"Man, this is awesome," Harvick joyfully shouted in victory lane.
He joined Earnhardt as those drivers who have all but clinched a berth in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. During the offseason, NASCAR made changes to the Chase format, expanding the field of drivers/teams from 12 to 16. The top-15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will become eligible for the playoffs, provided they have finished in the top-30 in points. The 16th and final position will go to the driver who is the highest in points without a victory.
Harvick has now won three of the last four races at Phoenix. He scored the victory in the fall 2012 event here. Four months ago, Carl Edwards held the lead late in the Phoenix race, but Edwards ran out of fuel with less than two laps to go, allowing second-place runner Harvick to take the top spot for good. It was Harvick's penultimate race with Richard Childress Racing.
He spent 13 years with RCR, driving the No. 29 Chevrolet in Sprint Cup. Last July, SHR announced that Harvick would drive the No. 4 car for the team, beginning in 2014.
"I just have to thank everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing," Harvick said. "To add an extra team, bring in a bunch of new guys, new driver, [crew chief] Rodney Childers has just done a phenomenal job of putting this team together. These guys all want to win. That is why they came here. That's why I came here too."
Harvick finished 13th in his debut with SHR in the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt was hoping to win back-to-back races for the first time in his Sprint Cup career. He snapped a 55-race winless streak in the series at Daytona.
"I would have loved to have won the race, am a little disappointed to have come that close," Earnhardt said. "But our team is performing so well. Got a lot of great chemistry and good communication going back and forth. Everybody's confidence is very high. Everybody's mood and morale is really high."
Brad Keselowski, the pole sitter, finished third. On Friday, Keselowski won the inaugural knockout-style of qualifying in Sprint Cup after setting a new track record at Phoenix. He also finished third at Daytona.
"It feels good to run up front, be competitive," Keselowski said. "Under this system [new Chase format], wins are only things that count. Last year, you would have said seconds and thirds are great, but this year they're not. They're so-so."
Joey Logano finished fourth after leading 71 laps earlier in the race. Jeff Gordon was fifth, followed by Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion, and Ryan Newman.
Edwards, who won this race one year ago, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray completed the top-10.
03/02 20:42:52 ET