“We want to be exactly where we are, right here, in Victory Lane and doing the things that make us all happy. It’s been a frustrating year, but two races to go, here we are.”
Sunday, Harvick passed Kyle Busch with eight of the scheduled 312 laps remaining—the first time he led in the race.
His win seemed assured when a caution—for the Gordon/Bowyer incident—came out as Harvick was taking the white flag. NASCAR, however, ruled the caution lights had been triggered before Harvick took the flag.
That meant at least one two-lap overtime period. Even though he was running low on fuel, Harvick easily moved out to a big lead on the restart and grabbed the win.
Johnson, who entered the race with a seven-point advantage over Keselowski, slammed the wall hard on Lap 235 and was forced to the garage for repairs.
He now trails Keselowski by 20 points entering the season finale and a sixth series championship suddenly looks much less likely.
“We still have to go to Homestead and race and anything can happen down there. But this is not the position we want to be in late in Phoenix,” Johnson said after the race.
“Across the board there has been a huge effort put in to try to get us a championship and I just hate for our day to turn out as it did.”
Johnson ended up 32nd.
Kyle Busch finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Ryan Newman was fifth.
Keselowski at one time was leading the race and finished sixth. He was one of several drivers who got collected in a wreck after the race.
Danica Patrick twice hit the wall on the final lap but NASCAR did not display the caution flag. She slid down the frontstretch as the lead-lap cars were taking the checkered flag.
“You know, I raced pretty hard last week at Texas and a couple guys gave me flack for it but there’s a difference between racing hard and what we saw today,” Keselowski said. “That was borderline ridiculous.”
Regardless, Keselowski finds himself in excellent position to win his first series title in just his fourth full-time season. A Cup title would also be a first for his team owner, Roger Penske.
“It’s really tough to just survive a race like that physically and mentally and I felt very lucky to do so,” Keselowski said. “It makes me feel like that could happen the other way around next week and we could be right back out of this thing.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this sport.”