At the halfway point of Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Kevin Harvick is dominating the lead.
Harvick, who came into the race last of the eight drivers still remaining in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, has been virtually flawless through the first 156 laps, taking the lead on Lap 44 and pacing the field for 108 laps at the halfway point.
Harvick is not only looking to advance to the Chase finale next week at Homestead, he’s also going for his sixth career Cup win at PIR.
The top 10 at Lap 156 were Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman.
Joey Logano suffered a very costly penalty on Lap 123 that dropped him from running second to 29th on the ensuing restart. Logano left the pit box before his gasman had removed the gas can.
The can fell off the car as Logano pulled away, but landed in the pit stall of the team in front, forcing Logano to have to come back onto pit road for the penalty.
Brad Keselowski has run a fairly uneventful race thus far. He’s had no apparent on-track conflicts with fellow drivers and has not taken any overly-aggressive chances up to this point.
After running fourth, Gordon dropped back several spots around a third of the way through the race when the jack slipped on a pit stop, costing him precious seconds when his team elected to go with just two right side tires. Gordon had to come back in on the following stop to take four tires and fell back further to 20th.
However, by the halfway point, Gordon had climbed back to 8th.
Carl Edwards, who struggled to find speed throughout Friday’s and Saturday’s practices, as well as in qualifying, appears to be on the right track, running 11th at the midpoint.
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin led the first 24 laps, dropped back to third and then suffered a right rear flat tire on Lap 34, apparently due to a broken valve stem.
Hamlin has been unable to recover and is sitting in 26th place at the halfway point, his Chase chances slowly slipping away.
If the race were to stop now, Logano, Keselowski, Hamlin and Edwards would not advance to the Homestead race.
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