RELATED: Race results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It wasn't the sort of record that Kevin Harvick wanted to break, another runner-up finish in a season full of them with a repeat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the line. Harvick entered Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 as a pre-race favorite and the defending race winner. He was left with his 13th second-place effort of the year, his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet a scant 1.552 seconds behind eventual winner and first-time champion Kyle Busch . The baker's dozen of runner-up performances surpassed the modern-era record formerly held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1972 season. Those oh-so-close finishes -- balanced against three wins in 2015 -- helped him forge into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with rock-solid consistency, but it wasn't quite enough on Busch's night. "It's been a great couple years, and I know we're disappointed about finishing second tonight, but it's kind of the theme of the year, finishing second," Harvick said. "Unfortunately it's just one short, but all in all, it's been a great couple years, and couldn't be prouder of our bunch of guys." Harvick led once in the race's early stages for 46 of the 267 laps, but struggled to find the handling balance on the 1.5-mile track. "No rear grip. Won't turn," he called out to crew chief Rodney Childers during the sixth of seven caution periods, hoping adjustments could help him regain his previous edge. Childers said he wasn't able to tell if alterations the team made overnight helped the No. 4 car or not, since track conditions were so much different from Saturday practices to Sunday's main event. But he said he's historically fought the same issue -- "tight getting in and too loose off" -- in past visits to the South Florida speedway. "We haven't been able to get a hold of it," Childers said. "It's probably one of our worst race tracks really, but we won last year and finished second this year at a place we feel like we just can't get a hold of. We need to make some changes with our cars and try to do a better job coming down here next year. "All in all, we had a great car and a great season. You look at the wins and the top-fives and the top-twos, and it's pretty incredible what we've been able to do and just really proud of Kevin and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing ." The race's final caution flag with 11 laps left seemed to give Harvick new hope, and he jumped from fourth to second place shortly after the restart. But by then, Busch had swept around late-race leader Brad Keselowski to take command. Post-race, after thanking his team and accepting congratulations from Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch , a trademark smile formed on Harvick's face as he watched the 30-year-old Busch celebrate on the main stage -- seeing a little bit of his 2014 self in the No. 18 team's jubilation. It's a scenario that played out for Harvick last season, but was just one elusive position away. "I think when you race your whole life and you accomplish what you've raced for your whole life, it's exciting," Harvick said of Busch's first Sprint Cup championship. "I've been fortunate to experience that last year and know that feeling and know how gratifying that is. You know, it's fun to see that excitement. "He broke his leg at Daytona, and to come back from everything that he came back from, it's like I told you guys three or four days ago, I mean, there's four phenomenal stories that were sitting up on the stage, probably three that were much more exciting than mine, but that's a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona." WATCH: 'Dream come true' for Ky. Busch
RELATED: Harvick on JGR: 'We're going to pound them' MORE: Full race results " Race recap " Final standings for 2015 After Kyle Busch hoisted his new 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion trophy over his head, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin took to Twitter to remind last year's champ, Kevin Harvick , of his prediction for the 2015 Chase. Way to go @KyleBusch . Way to "pound em into the ground" #champs — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) November 23, 2015 For a refresher, Harvick's exact quote from Chase Media Day in September was: "I wouldn't consider us behind the Gibbs cars. I've raced against the Gibbs cars. I think we're going to pound them into the ground, that's what I think. Hopefully they can beat themselves."
Kevin Harvick talks about coming up just short of defending his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Title by finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick , ever the prankster, the needler, the “I bet I can get under his skin” guy, took the high road Thursday during Championship 4 media day activities, choosing instead to pay homage to a four-time series champion. “In the end, you don’t want to be the guy that was disrespectful at Jeff Gordon ’s last press conference or say something that’s just a total jackass move,” Harvick said. Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) is the defending Sprint Cup Series champion. Gordon ( Hendrick Motorsports ) is a four-time winner of the title and is retiring as a full-time driver at season’s end. The two, along with Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) make up this year’s championship contenders. The highest finishing driver of the four in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway captures the title. It was an unexpected tact from Harvick , who began this year’s Chase by going for the throat when asked about Joe Gibbs Racing ’s perceived superiority heading into the 10-race playoff. “I've raced against the Gibbs cars. I think we're going to pound them into the ground, that's what I think,” Harvick said of his No. 4 team during a pre-Chase media day gathering in Chicago. “Hopefully they can beat themselves." At last year’s pre-championship press conference, it was Team Penske ’s Joey Logano who bore the brunt of the Harvick mind game, coming after what Harvick saw as questionable driving tactics at an earlier Chase race. After Logano referenced the anticipated “hard racing” in the finale and added “we want to be able to win the championship the right way,” Harvick was quick to chime in. “I thought you were going to say you were going to send Brad (Keselowski) out to be the moving chicane like you were at Talladega," he said. Thursday, Harvick said this year’s fellow Chase competitors deserved much success for what each has been able to accomplish this season. Truex and his single-car, Colorado-based team surviving each round of the Chase to make the finals and Busch coming back after missing the first 11 weeks of the season due to injury to not only qualify for the Chase but make it this far. “There’s really no reason to ‘create’ a story. There’s no reason to ‘create’ a moment,” Harvick said. Gordon, however, deserves special recognition, he said, primarily because of what he has meant to the sport for more than two decades. “Sure I want to go out and win the championship and win the race, but you know in the end, this is a pretty big moment for our sport,” Harvick said. “… Even though it's his last race and growing up a race fan and seeing all the things that he's accomplished in the sport and being able to be a part of (it) a little bit closer … over the last couple years with the SHR relationship with Hendrick for me has been pretty neat. “I think when you look at all that, I think there's a demand for that respect that he deserves, and it's Jeff Gordon . So … this is a moment where it's about the championship, but it's also paying respect to what is going to be his last race and a pretty cool moment, whether he wins or loses, the way the year has gone for him has been pretty neat.”
RELATED: Race results " Updated standings " Bubble watch AVONDALE, Ariz. -- An interesting jumble of personalities make up the last four drivers who will battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship next Sunday. The only constant among the final four? Kevin Harvick , the man who may not have to hand over his crown after all. Harvick wasn't able to extend his streak of Phoenix International Raceway victories to five in a quirky, rain-shortened event in the desert, but he kept his title defense alive, punching his ticket on the basis of points as the only driver returning to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "I feel like I don't want to be greedy and be disappointed with how it went today when you look at the big picture," said Harvick , who wound up second despite leading 143 of 219 laps. "I think it's definitely been a Chase that's been a little bit up and down for us, but the guys have battled through, and we've survived a lot of situations to be in contention for next week. "You always want to win when you have a car like we did today, but I'll take it again next week." Next weekend will mark a return to the 1.5-mile track where Harvick took the checkered flag and his first series title. But it will also come with the chance for a championship repeat after a topsy-turvy Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Harvick faced a major Chase hurdle before its first race was complete, crashing at Chicagoland and needing -- and getting -- a clutch victory at Dover to keep the championship push alive. Then came the strange ending at Talladega, with his No. 4 car advancing despite being at the center of a slow-speed crash. The final three-race series went the smoothest, with finishes of eighth, third and second pushing Harvick into the championship pool. In Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead, he'll have a chance to extend his reign. "Well, I feel like we've overcome a lot of things throughout the Chase," Harvick said. "We've survived and advanced. It hasn't been 100 percent pretty from one end to the other, but I think as you look at the Chase, it's been championship material and that's proven by making it to the championship race. I'm just really proud of everybody and we're going to go down there and just do like we've done and race as hard as we can."
For one day only, Phoenix International Raceway will change its name to Jeff Gordon Raceway as a tribute to the four-time NASCAR champ's final season and last race in the Arizona desert. His name may not be hanging above the gate on race day Sunday, but thanks to a recent run of smashing success, the 1-mile track may as well be Kevin Harvick 's house. The dominance of a four-race Phoenix win streak makes Harvick a heavy favorite heading into Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), the next-to-last race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. The 312-lap event will whittle the field of title-eligible drivers from eight to four ahead of the Nov. 22 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Harvick's status as Phoenix's stone-cold lock has traction, with Chase rival Kyle Busch proclaiming after last Sunday's event in Texas: "I do not think it's a winnable race until Kevin Harvick gets beat." Only Gordon's spot among the final four is secure, thanks to his victory at Martinsville. If Harvick is such a certainty, are the remaining six Chasers vying for a solid points day and hoping for the best? The jury is still out. "All reigns come to an end," title contender Brad Keselowski said during a test last month at the 1-mile track. "Every driver has had a track that he dominates on and it changes. Jimmie (Johnson) dominated here for a long time and obviously that's not been that case as of late. The way you beat somebody or break that domination is you go out, you go to work and you try to do better." Harvick's track history since 2012 is unparalleled. He has scored seven of his 31 Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix and has led more than two-thirds of the laps in his most recent three victories. Last season, Harvick led 264 of 312 laps to springboard into the final race at Homestead, where he roared to his first Sprint Cup crown in the first year of the new-look Chase format. This season, Harvick sits third in the standings -- five rungs up from last year's cellar-dweller position entering the semifinal race. Despite the potential for reduced urgency from the Stewart-Haas No. 4 camp, Harvick's rivals aren't expecting any let-up. "We look at the points situation and guarantee Harvick winning that race," Busch said, referencing a Harvick "stranglehold" on Phoenix. "Then you have to figure out who you're racing after that to know what you have to do in order to point your way through. If we can go out there and win the race, then we will. As far as we're concerned, that's how we look at it." Four drivers still in the title hunt -- Gordon, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr . -- participated in an Oct. 14 open test at Phoenix, experimenting with some rules under the 2016 configuration, but keeping the primary focus on preparing for a pivotal race in the Chase. Neither Kyle Busch nor Carl Edwards -- title contenders both -- attended, but teammate Matt Kenseth gathered extensive data to be shared among Joe Gibbs Racing 's four-car effort. Practice, qualifying and the race will tell whether any of the extra rehearsal will make a dent in Harvick's hot streak, altering the complexion of the Chase. Jimmie Johnson -- who's had his own dominant stretches at Dover and Martinsville over the course of his career -- knows it won't be easy, despite how Harvick has made it look. "Anybody with a streak at a particular track, you've got to show up with realistic expectations but enough swagger knowing it's a track that's good for you, then go get it done," Johnson said after last weekend's victory at Texas Motor Speedway . "It's so hard to make it through an entire weekend, make it through an entire race. We saw the flat tires today, mechanical issues, racing issues that can pop up. "Phoenix is a tight little scrappy race track. The streak with four wins in a row is impressive. That's not an easy place to get it done."
Kevin Harvick talks about not wanting to be disrespectful at Jeff Gordon’s last Championship Round Media Day.
Kevin Harvick had a dominant car at Phoenix International Raceway, and looks to his 2014 Championship 4 finale to prepare for a title defense.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings FORT WORTH, Texas -- Two tire punctures and a balky transmission should have spelled the end of Kevin Harvick 's bid for a second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But in spite of the avalanche of setbacks, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver still managed to pull off a stunning third-place finish in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to keep his title hopes alive. Third in points, Harvick is one of seven drivers still scrambling to secure a spot in the four-car championship round scheduled for later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "As you look at the things we've had, we've had really good race cars and that allows us to overcome things like today with two flat tires," Harvick said on pit road after the 334-lap race. "Even with the shifter problem we were able to maintain what we had. But all in all, we just kept gouging away and everything worked out in the end." Debris from an earlier accident cut a rear tire on Harvick ’s No. 4 Chevrolet less than 40 laps into the race as he was running in the top five. Able to make it to pit road without damaging his car, Harvick stayed on the lead lap, but eventually restarted outside the top 25. He wasted no time in getting back inside the top 10, and eventually the top five once again. He was dogging race leader Brad Keselowski on Lap 281 when the second tire puncture sent him back to pit road under green. Because the field was preparing for a round of green-flag stops, the incident wasn't as big of a setback as it might have otherwise been for the team. "There was debris everywhere," Harvick said. "The first caution, they just blew all the debris down to the inside wall. It seemed like a lot of people were hitting the wall and there was a lot of stuff out there today. It definitely was interesting with all the tire problems. "I never felt the tire blow apart. It was a real slow deflation as I felt the first one in the middle of the corner. I felt the second one in the middle of the corner, too, and we were able to get the car down. The only part I was disappointed in is I misplaced which tire it was both times. While several teams were battling tire issues brought on by air pressure adjustments and a lack of on-track time (both of Saturday's practice sessions were canceled due to wet track conditions), crew chief Rodney Childers said other than the punctured tires, actual tire wear wasn't an issue for the No. 4 team. RELATED: Tire issues forces Harvick to pit "At first I was blaming it on myself," Childers said of the first flat. "I thought maybe I didn't have enough air in it. But it was definitely a puncture. I've got the piece in my bag. It looked like a window shim, probably out of the 22 car (of Joey Logano ). And then the right rear that we had a problem with later, there was a big puncture in it also." Childers didn't blame NASCAR for the debris, noting, "when those things come apart, it just tears the car to pieces. "It's really hard for NASCAR to clean all that stuff up," he said. "The one that got our left rear, it was anodized black. You would have never seen it on a black race track. I know they are doing the best job they can. As a competitor you want he race track to be clean but on the other hand I know they're trying their best also." As if the tire problems weren’t enough, a problem with the transmission left Harvick driving nearly the final 100 laps while holding the gear shifter in place. "It hadn't missed a gear or jammed a gear or anything like that," he said. "It shifted smooth all weekend. I was just going along like normal. One lap, all of a sudden it just pops out of gear in the middle of the straightaway. So I don't really know. That's happened to us several times, so we definitely need to figure that out." Childers said it could have been a "freak thing" that "may never happen again." But it's clearly been an issue for the team. "We don't build our transmissions," Childers said. "… We're going to have to do something a little different there. We're the only people that run these transmissions." Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon clinched one of the four Chase spots with his victory at Martinsville Speedway a week ago. Teammate Jimmie Johnson 's win Sunday at Texas kept any other Chase driver from automatically earning a berth. Leaving Harvick to head to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend where he's has won seven times, including the last four races. Kyle Busch (4,080), Harvick (4,079) and Martin Truex Jr . (4,076) are currently second through fourth, respectively, in the points standings. Carl Edwards , Brad Keselowski , Kurt Busch and Joey Logano round out the eight Chase drivers.
RELATED: Sunday's full lineup " Driver standings FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kevin Harvick has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway . In 25 starts at the 1.5-mile track, the reigning series champion has scored just five top-five finishes. But the smart money says Harvick is going to be a player in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM), and the performance of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Friday's knockout qualifying session underscores that assertion. True, Harvick was 15th fastest in the first round of time trials, posting a lap at 196.178 mph, more than two miles an hour slower than the 198.282 mph recorded by session leader Brad Keselowski . In the second round, Harvick ran 196.542 mph, good enough for third fastest as other drivers slowed down. In the final round, Harvick posted the second fastest speed at 195.993 mph, securing the outside-front-row starting position next to Coors Light Pole winner Brad Keselowski . The bottom line was that Harvick maintained his speed as others fell off the pace, suggesting the 2014 series champ will be a factor during Sunday's second of three races in the Eliminator Round for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "The team did a great job," Harvick said after qualifying. "Pretty much ran the same speed in all three rounds there. Didn't quite have the raw speed in the first round, but this is a race track where you want the car to keep going as long as you can. "I felt like we had a good start to our race trim practice (on Friday) and going to have a good spot to start on Sunday." That should be cause for concern for the other seven drivers still eligible for the series championship. Next on the schedule after Texas is Phoenix, where Harvick has seven victories, including the last four in a row and five of the last six. After that, it's the Nov. 22 Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , where Harvick won last year to clinch his first championship.