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NASCAR At Phoenix: Kevin Harvick Comes Up Short On Fuel

A couple more drops of Sunoco, and it might have been a different driver/crew chief pairing celebrating their first win together rather than Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb.

Instead, Kevin Harvick, in his second race with Shane Wilson atop his pit box, limped across the finish line in second place Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway after running out of fuel two laps from the finish.

"When you come out of caution and they tell you you're nine laps short, you really don't think there's any possibility to make it," Harvick said. "But a couple cautions and a little bit of saving and a little bit tighter crunch on the numbers, we wound up about a lap short. But those are the types of things you've got to do to take the chances, and when you're close enough to at least coast around, they did a good job."

While it was a frustrating result to be sure, it is also a result which speaks of bigger things to come for a driver who has finished third in the championship the last two years and desperately wants to secure his first Sprint Cup championship.

"We came here and struggled at the last race here and ran 25th, 30th all day and came back and raced for a win today," Harvick said. "So they've done a good job over the winter, and hopefully that continues over the next few weeks in the preparation that they've done."

Paired with his seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500, Harvick now finds himself third in the standings two races into the season, trailing Hamlin by a mere eight points. That strong start to the season is why Harvick wasn't beating himself or his team up afterward about a potential win slipping away.

The focus on the 29 team is about the big picture, which was exactly what Harvick was doing.

"This is obviously a group of guys that has been together for a while, and in the end, I have to help be that team leader to be able to keep the guys together, whether it's a good day or bad," Harvick said. "A lot of them may think it's a bad day, (and) obviously we all want to win, but in the end, finishing second and being in contention for race wins and having the speed in the car is really what you're looking for early in the year.

"We have to build it one week at a time, and that confidence and that character that comes with winning or losing is part of it."