The NASCAR TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway as it happened

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 11: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 5-hour Energy/Bass Pro Shops Toyota, leads the field at the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 11, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick did it again.  Harvick won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway Sunday. Here’s how it all went down:

From his first pole of the season and is second in Phoenix, Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green on the outside: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Joey Logano rounded out the top five behind.

Truex had a slight lead into 1 but Larson was challenging, and it was Larson who led the first lap.  The two soon broke away from the pack.

Bowman was third, followed by Elliott and Hamlin.

Elliott took third on lap 4.

Hamlin took fourth from Bowman on lap 16. Larson’s lead was still under a second.

Corey LaJoie lost an engine on lap 24 and the first caution of the day came out.

NASCAR had called a competition caution for lap 35 but made this first caution the competition one.

After an extensive cleanup for oil at the entrance, pit road was open on lap 30 and the leaders pitted:  Truex was out first followed by Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. With a two tire stop, Brad Keselowski came out sixth making up 17 spots.

The restart came out to start lap 34; Truex was in the inside; Larson however was able to power by on the outside and took the lead. Hamlin grabbed third, Kyle Busch and Harvick followed.

Hamlin was looking for second; Harvick and Kyle Busch were dueling behind.

Hamlin took second on lap 36; Harvick was forced to slow behind Truex, Kyle Busch shot by on the outside for third.

Larson has a 1.1 second lead by lap 39.

Harvick took third from Truex on lap 41. Kyle Busch was looking from second from Hamlin; he had the spot at the start of lap 42.

Kyle Busch was looking for the lead by lap 54. The two were side by side for several laps, with Buch finally getting the lead on lap 58; Harvick was close behind.  Harvick took the spot on lap 60.

With ten to go in Stage 1 Kyle Busch had a l.2 second lead over Harvick.

Top 10 Stage 1: Kyle Busch, Harvick, Larson, Hamlin, Truex, Elliott, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Erik Jones.  The second caution of the day came out at the end of the stage; all the leaders pitted.  Kyle Busch was out first, Harvick, Hamlin, Elliott and Keselowski followed.

Green came out to start lap 84; Kyle Busch on the outside had a slight lead by turn 1; Harvick and Elliott were side by side with Harvick getting second by the end of the lap.  Truex and Logano were fourth and fifth behind.

Larson had fallen to 10th by lap 99.

The lead for Kyle Busch was 1.2 seconds over Harvick by lap 116.

Larson who had fallen to 13th spun entering turn 3 on lap 121 and the third caution of the day came out.  He made no contact and continued. The leaders pitted.  Keselowski took two tires and was out first; the rest took four: Kyle Busch, Elliott, Truex and Kurt Busch.

Green came out to start lap 127; Keselowski had a clear lead by turn 1; Kyle Busch fell into second. Truex, Harvick and Elliott followed.

Kyle Busch retook the lead to start lap 128.

William Byron who had also taken only two tires on the last stop, was 7th by lap 130.  Hamlin had shot past Byron and Kurt Busch on the same lap to take sixth.

Truex was looking for second on lap 432; he had the spot to start lap 133, Harvick was close behind and took third on the same lap.

Keselowski was fifth by lap 138. The lead up front was 1.8 seconds.

Kurt Busch took fifth from Keselowski on lap 142. There were 8 laps to go in Stage 2.

The fourth caution of the day came out on lap 145 when Chris Buescher lost a tire and hit the wall entering turn 4.  There were 4 laps to go in the stage.

The leaders pitted.  Kyle Busch was out first followed by Harvick, Elliott, Truex and Clint Bowyer.  Bowman was penalized for speeding.  Hamlin’s car fell off the jack; he came out 29th.

The caution set up a one lap dash for the stage.

Among those who had stayed out, Kurt Busch led to the green, Keselowski followed.

Top 10 Stage 2: Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, Harvick, Truex, Kasey Kahne, and Bowyer.

The leaders who had stayed out pitted.  Kyle Busch went back to the lead.

The top five when the green came out to start lap 159: Kyle Busch, Harvick, Truex, Bowyer, and Elliott.  Kurt Busch was 23, Keselowski 24.

Kyle Busch shot to the lead, Harvick followed.  Bowyer took third from Truex, Jamie McMurray slid into fifth.

Logano got into Trevor Bayne while racing for 13 in lap 160 and nearly spun out; they both recovered and continued.

Elliott took fifth on lap 162.

Harvick was looking for the lead by lap 174. The two were side by side on lap 177.  Harvick had the spot by lap 179.

Paul Menard in 24th spun in the exit of turn 2 on lap 190 and caution six came out.

The leaders pitted.  Byron was out first with two tires, Aric Almirola followed also with two. Kyle Busch, Harvick and Truex followed all with 4 tires.

Green came out to stat lap 198.  Byron and Almirola were side by side with Byron getting the lead by the end of the lap.  Almirola fell into second, Kyle Busch and Harvick fought for third, with Harvick emerging with the spot; Hamlin was close by and took fourth from Kyle Busch and was looking for third. Hamlin had third on lap 201.

Hamlin took second on lap 205.  He was looking for the lead by lap 208. Harvick entered the picture and it was a three-wide battle for the lead on lap 210. Hamlin grabbed the lead on lap 211, Harvick and Kyle Busch followed and soon Byron was fourth.

Harvick was looking the lead by lap 221. Hamlin was able to keep him at bay and Kyle Busch joined the duo on lap 232.

Busch was finally able to get by Harvick on lap 239. He had the lead a lap later; Harvick followed to take second.  Elliott got by Hamlin on lap 246.

Green flag stops started on lap 253. Elliott pitted on lap 255. Harvick and Hamlin pitted a lap later.  Truex pitted on lap 257; Kyle Busch stayed out.

Kyle Busch pitted on lap 260.

A total of six drivers stayed out hoping for a caution: Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Stenhouse, and Ross Chastain.

Elliott led among those who had pitted; he was fifth by lap 267, Harvick followed.

Up front, Newman took the lead on lap 268.

Harvick was looking for fifth from Elliott on lap 272.  Harvick took fifth on lap 274; Kyle Busch was close behind.  Harvick took third from Kahne on lap 275.

Keselowski gave up second on lap 285 out of gas.

Newman stayed out and had a lead of 12 seconds over Harvick.  Newman pitted after leading for 22 laps on lap 289. There were 18 cars on the lead lap.

Harvick’s lead was just over a second over Kyle Busch. Elliott, Hamlin and Truex were the top five.

With five laps to go, Harvick’s lead was 1.1 seconds.  There were 15 cars on the lead lap.

There was no drama in the final laps as Harvick cruised to the win for the third straight race. For the second week in a row, Kyle Busch was second; Elliott was third, Hamlin fourth and Truex was fifth.

Bowyer came home sixth followed by Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch.

The final leg on the Western tour sends the series to Auto Club Speedway for next Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Live coverage will be on Fox with the green flag coming just after 3:30 p.m. ET.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.