AVONDALE, Ariz. – As Kevin Harvick streaked to victory when Carl Edwards ran out of fuel on the last lap Sunday, Jimmie Johnson moved closer to a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Harvick beat Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw by 1.796 seconds in the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Neither seemed likely to win until the cars came to the white flag signaling one lap to go and Edwards’ No. 99 Ford ran out of fuel.
“We just miscalculated,” Edwards, who finished 21st, said of his Roush Fenway Racing team. “I thought we were a lap to the good. I was saving just a little bit of fuel, but obviously not enough.
“I don’t know if I could have saved a lap and kept Kevin behind me, in hindsight, but that’s a tough way to lose one there. We haven’t run out of fuel in a long time.”
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Johnson placed third and increased his lead over Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup standings from seven to 28 points.
Kenseth, who finished 23rd, called it “an unfortunate, disappointing day. We just were off. We still got a race next weekend and we’re going to try to win that.”
The season finale is Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
The most points a driver earn in a race is 48. There are multiple scenarios, but the least complex one is that Johnson will win the championship if he finishes 23rd or better in the last race.
It doesn’t sound as if overconfidence will be a problem.
“Everybody is so eager to predict the champion, but you’ve got to play the game,” said Johnson, who has finished 32nd and 36th in his last two Homestead races. “You’ve got to run the race, and stuff happens. There’s so many variables in one of our races — I think more variables than any pro sport out there.”
Kahne was fifth a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway but is 12th in the 13-driver Chase.
“We’ve had a lot of things happen to us this year, but we’ve battled back the last two weeks,” Kahne said. “We ran pretty good, fifth and second, so I’m happy about that.
“We’ll try to finish off strong at Homestead with another top five and maybe prepare a little better for next year . . .”
Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was 13th Sunday.
Johnson kept his No. 48 Chevrolet among the leaders for most of the race despite two close calls .
On the opening lap, his car was tapped by Joey Logano’s Ford and Johnson briefly lost several positions.
Bumped again on Lap 162 by Edwards, Johnson made a superb save to avoid slamming into the outside fence.
“As I saved it, the car pointed back at the fence and I thought I was going to hit it,” Johnson said. “Thankful that didn’t happen.”
• Jeg Coughlin won his fifth Pro Stock title in the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., joining John Force (Funny Car), Shawn Langdon (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as NHRA season champions.