Harvick races to 3rd straight Cup victory

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Through much of the race today I actually managed to out-race the 4 (Harvick) and beat him.

Harvick was running extra hot when he got to ISM Raceway after penalties for technical violations marred his victory last week at Las Vegas. He took the lead with 22 laps to go and basically coasted home to his third consecutive Cup victory, leaving Busch and the other pretenders to ponder what might have been - and if Harvick might win every other race for the rest of the year.

His post-race penalty at Vegas notwithstanding, Harvick has been untouchable for the better part of a month.

"Actions speak a whole lot louder than all words I can say this week", Harvick said. "When you showcase character and grit as a team, as a unit, that's more powerful than any of us being good at what we do".

After saying Friday he would jump up and down on the back of the vehicle if he won, Harvick completed his burnouts and pulled over next to his crew to celebrate.

"The run was flawless for me, made the pop, he defended the position, in doing so, he put me in the marbles pretty late in the corner, " Rossi said.

Harvick got in front of Busch on the last series of pit stops.

Harvick is now the Monster Energy Series points leader - holding a slim 12-point edge over Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who are tied for second.

"We lost the race on pit road today", Busch said. We didn't stomp them, but we won.

Harvick got around Chase Elliott - the first vehicle with four fresh tires after the pit stops - and took the lead with 22 laps left when Ryan Newman finally made his last stop on the sunny day after morning rain.

Kurt Busch wins Stage Two: The second stage ended with a one-lap dash because of a restart.

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Current crew chief Rodney Childers didn't have to say anything. "To sit down there in the corner and watch these guys race like that was like my short track days". Busch would hold on to win Stage 1.

"We can afford to spend $170 million to move the frontstretch from there over to there", Stewart said.

Inspectors at NASCAR's research and development center in North Carolina found Harvick's vehicle violated a rule requiring rear window support braces to hold the glass rigid, and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum.

Harvick had the playoff points - used once the playoffs start and rolled over from one cutoff to the next until the season finale - stripped by NASCAR for failing inspection after last week's race at Las Vegas. Childers was fined $50,000, and auto chief Robert Smith was suspended two races. Harvick's team was fined $50,000 and lost its auto chief for two races, penalties issued primarily because a brace failure bowed the rear window in Harvick's vehicle during the race.

"It was an awesome day for us, that's probably what I'm most proud of", said co-owner Tony Stewart. Wickens went off course, Rossi slid back to third and Bourdais sailed by for the 37th victory of his career.

Harvick began the winning streak at Atlanta after crashing and finishing 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick is the first driver to record their 3rd-straight win since 2015.

That would cost Busch the victory. In 31 Cup starts in Phoenix, the driver from Bakersfield, Calif., has 15 top-five finishes. Twenty-two percent of Gant's 18 Cup victories came in the span and it marked the only time he ever won back-to-back races in his career, much less four straight.

Harvick also wrecked at Daytona before rattling off his three at Atlanta, Las Vegas and in the desert this past weekend.

Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Junior rounded out the top five.

"I needed a little bit of forward drive there at the end", Elliott said. "Anytime you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that's just a piece of the puzzle that I like to be a part of and feel that controversy and that enthusiasm". Bowyer replaced the retired Stewart at the end of the 2016 season, and Almirola took over the No.10 from Danica Patrick this year.

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