Following a six and a half hour rain delay, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finally got to race on Sunday night at Phoenix International Raceway, and had action right from the start.
Jimmie Johnson won the pole, but Kurt Busch passed him before they reached the start finish line, which is a violation of NASCAR rules, meaning that despite leading the first seven laps, Busch had to serve a pass through penalty, while Johnson got credit for leading the first seven laps.
Kevin Harvick had a good run going early, and almost overtook Johnson for the lead when the competition caution came out due to the amount of rain that the track received. Johnson ended up restarting the race at the back of the field after he was caught speeding as he left pit road. That gave the lead to Harvick, who has been hot recently at the track.
The green flag dropped on Lap 48, and Harvick shot out to the lead. The race remained green through a round of green flag pit stops, and the only time that Harvick lost the lead was when he was on pit road.
Harvick was still leading at the halfway mark of the race, at which point NASCAR had the option to make the race results official if weather prevented finishing the race normally.
The caution came out for only the second time on Lap 197 when Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun out in Trun three. The restart kept being pushed back for cleanup, then eventually was red flagged due to rain. NASCAR quickly decided that they would not go back racing, and declared the race final, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who took the lead because of pit stops, the winner.
"Well, you know, kind of based off of Martinsville or any type of rain delayed situation, NASCAR's main thing is to try to get the race in," said Greg Ives, the crew chief for Earhnardt Jr., "And when the weather cleared, they did a good job of making sure that happened."
The race was also the final race before the championship race. The final four who will race for the championship at Homestead-Miami will consist of Jeff Gordon, Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr.
Next week, the series heads to Homestead-Miami for the final race of the season, where a champion will be crowned. They will also crown champions in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series.