AVONDALE, Ariz. — It would have been easy for Kevin Harvick to coast through his final season at Richard Childress Racing, do what was expected of him and little else before heading off to Stewart-Haas Racing.
Instead, he put the pedal down and raced off to what could be his best season in Sprint Cup, one that has a chance of ending with his first series championship.
Making the most of his penultimate race with RCR, Harvick won at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday and gave himself an outside shot at catching Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the championship.
“There’s no better way to go out than to do what we’ve done this year,” Harvick said.
Word leaked at Phoenix last year that Harvick was leaving RCR for Stewart-Haas and he shook off the distraction to win the race.
Instead of a lame-duck final season, Harvick got himself in the Chase for the fourth straight season. The victory at Phoenix, which came after Carl Edwards ran out of gas at the white flag, was his fourth of the season and fourth at PIR, matching Johnson for most at the track.
That leaves Harvick third in the standings, 34 points behind Johnson heading into the season finale at Homestead next weekend. Harvick would need a lot of help from Johnson and second-place Matt Kenseth to take the title, but it has been a successful final season with RCR no matter how it turns out.
“We committed to each other early in the year that we’d give 100 percent and we have, and Kevin has,” owner Richard Childress said. “Just like we talked, we’ve had a great relationship and when this race is over, I haven’t got a driver out there that’s driven for me or crew chief or anyone I can’t walk up and talk to, and that’s the way we want this to be.”