HARVICK CLIMBS INTO CHAMPIONSHIP PICTURE

Jimmie Johnson Finished Third at Phoenix

Johnson’s track record at Homestead-Miami Speedway is less than stellar — his average finish is 15.3 — and he is still winless in his Sprint Cup Series career in South Florida (photo courtesy: Christian Petersen, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Kevin Harvick proved once again that not only is Phoenix International Raceway one of his favorite tracks, it is also the track where he has scored the most victories in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Credited with leading four times for a total of 70 laps, Harvick scored his fourth win of the 2013 season and his fourth win at the track. 
 
"We were all pushing it on gas there to try to just put enough in it to get to the end so that we could gain all the track position we could under green," said Harvick.  "I saw (then race leader) Carl Edwards slowing with about maybe a lap and a half, two laps to go.  Richard (Childress) came across the radio and said he was slowing down.  I’m like ‘dang we might still be in this thing.’ Just have to thank all the guys on my Budweiser Chevrolet.  The car was rocking all day.  Just wound up in Victory Lane where it needed to be.”
 
The victory keeps Harvick third in the 2013 Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup, just 34 markers behind the leader, with one race remaining in the season. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.

Kasey Kahne finished second after leading twice for a total of 41 laps. Kahne moved up one position to12th in the standings heading into this weekend’s championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
 
Jimmie Johnson came into the PIR race with a seven point lead in the Chase as he pursues his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, and finished third. The team rallied back and now heads to the finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 28-point lead.  Johnson needs a 23rd place finish or better to clinch the title; 24th or better if leading one lap or 25th or better if he leads the most lap.
 
“It's far from over. You've got to finish that race. Although we have a nice cushion, we still have to go down there and take care of business," said Johnson. “The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) wasn’t having the best day, so at that point I knew I was in good shape relative to the championship battle; knew I had a good car, knew I could get through traffic, and I knew it was just about getting points on him at that point.”
 
Johnson’s track record at Homestead-Miami Speedway is less than stellar — his average finish is 15.3 — and he is winless in his Sprint Cup Series career in South Florida. Hendrick Motorsports tested here recently and Johnson is returning with the car he led 255 of 334 laps with en route to his Texas win last weekend.

Despite a 28-point lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings following his third-place finish Sunday and the necessity of having to finish only 23rd or better next week to clinch the title, Johnson remains cautiously optimistic.

Although Matt Kenseth has been a formidable opponent all season — and trailed Johnson by only seven points entering the weekend — the five-time champion knows all too well how fortunes can change.

“Everybody is so eager to predict the champion, but you've got to play the game,” Johnson said. "You've got to run the race and stuff happens. There's so many variables in one of our races, I think more variables than any pro sport out there. We have all 43 teams playing, driving, racing, all the mechanical components on the race car, pit stops, other issues on other cars that can take you out.”

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, November 17—Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17).

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