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Good Sam 500k: Who's the Cactus King?

Harvick beats Edwards by just 0.01 seconds!
Harvick beats Edwards by just 0.01 seconds!

Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, played host to the 2016 Good Sam 500k.  The 312 lap race started off slow, but resulted in one of the best finishes in NASCAR history!  In case you missed it (SPOILER ALERT), a caution came out with just a handful of laps to go, when Kasey Kahne spun around after blowing a tire.  Only 3 cars chose not to pit after a long green flag run, leaving Kevin Harvick in the lead during NASCAR overtime.  Harvick took the white flag with ease, but a hard charging Carl Edwards eventually caught Harvick in the middle of turns 3 & 4.  Edwards bumped Harvick moving him up high, but after slamming doors a few times, Harvick took the checkard flag by 0.01 seconds.  The finish was the closest in Phoenix Raceway history.  

Now, that I have given you a recap of the finish, let's get to the reason for the post, 3 things we learned during the Good Sam 500k!  When choosing these 3 topics, I want to remind fans that these are concepts that could play a role in the series throughout the season.  Lastly, remember to follow me on Twitter @nascar_opinion, and tweet me your thoughts and opinions!!  Hope you enjoy!

1. Kevin Harvick is in fact the Cactus King!

At this point, other teams might as well not even show up when the Cup series rolls into PIR.  After winning Sunday, Harvick has now won 6 of the last 8 races in the desert.  Harvick led 139 of 312 laps in route to his 8th career win at Phoenix, cementing him as the true 'Cactus King'.  After starting 18th, fans questioned whether the 2014 champion could race his way through the pack to claim his crown.  Harvick quietly picked his way through the pack, and eventually took the lead in the early second half of the race.  Once in the lead, Harvick never looked back until a late race caution and a risky pit call put him in front of pack of cars with fresh rubber.  Harvick coasted for the first lap of overtime, but things changed when Carl Edwards ran him down on the final lap.  With a little bumping and banging, Harvick held on to take home his 32nd career win, proving that once again he is the king of the desert.

2. Kasey Kahne the odd man out at Hendrick.

Kasey Kahne is undoubtedly one of the biggest quesiton marks of the 2010's.  After moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, fans were confident Kahne would become a face of the sport.  While the idea is still quite possible,  Kahne has become known for one thing, being the odd man out at Hendrick.  For some clarification, I have no bias against Kasey Kahne, but I don't understand how he earned his extension at Hendrick Motorsports.  Kahne has proven he can win, but compared to teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne has failed to impress.  Even rookie teammate Chase Elliott has shown more speed than the 13-year veteran.  To make things worse, the trend continued Sunday at Phoenix as Kahne was the only Hendrick car incapable of running in the top-10.  Kahne eventually blew a tire in the late stages of the race, and came home in the 22nd position.  As much as I believe the #5 team can have success, the facts are that through 4 races Kahne has an average finish of 17th and has a losing streak leading back to August of 2014.  While these numbers may be solid for some, these are subpar results for a team out of Hendrick Motorsports.

Kahne's car taken to the garage after engine issues in qualifying at Phoenix Raceway

3. Elliott and Blaney mean business.

Lookie, lookie, there goes a rookie!  The 2016 Rookie of the Year race as already began heating up!  Youngsters Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott have impressed in the first month of the season with a combined 4 top-10's in just four races.  Elliott has shown speed at all four tracks on the schedule thus far, but spun early at Daytona and got collected in a crash at Las Vegas (he was running top-10 at time of crash).  Blaney, has been quite but consistent finishing 25th or better in every race, which currently puts him 12th in the driver standings.  Much of the season is left, but there is no doubt that both of these young stars are growing fast, and are already beating high profile drivers on a weekly basis.  As for the rest of the field, all I can say is... LOOK OUT!

Well thanks for reading!  Also, what a great finish at Phoenix!  Some good ole beatin' & bangin' never hurt anyone!  Remember to follow me on Twitter at @nascar_opinion, also listen in to my Winthrop radio show "From the Stands Sports Talk Radio" on Monday nights from 7-9pm!  Go to tunein.com and search Winthrop University, then download the stream and launch the app!  There will be no show Monday the 14th due to spring break!  Hope you enjoyed!! Let me know what you think!

(PICS NOT MINE, USED FROM VARIOUS SITES) 

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