But there simply was no passing Kevin Harvick for the lead and then keeping him in the rearview mirror as Harvick won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
The victory extended a remarkable run for the reigning Cup champion both at the one-mile track here and overall in the Cup series, a run not seen in NASCAR in four decades.
It was Harvick's second win in as many races; he also won a week ago in Las Vegas and thus has captured two of the three races in NASCAR's early season Western swing. The third race is next Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Harvick's win also was his seventh consecutive finish of first or second going back to last fall, when he captured the series title. The last driver to accomplish that feat was seven-time champion Richard Petty in 1975.
"The Richard Petty part, that gives me chills," Harvick told reporters after celebrating in Victory Lane.
Harvick's win at the CampingWorld.com 500 also was his fourth consecutive victory at Phoenix International, his fifth in the last six Cup races here and his record seventh Cup win overall at the track.
"This is a real special place," Harvick said of Phoenix International, where the 39-year-old Bakersfield native often raced as a young driver. "It's almost scary how well things are going."
Scary, perhaps, but not surprising. Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet, prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, again was the favorite Sunday not only because of Harvick's record here but because he was fast in practice and qualified on the pole position.
"Today's race is Harvick's to lose," Jeff Gordon said before climbing into his No. 24 Chevrolet. Gordon, a four-time champion in his final full-time season, finished ninth.
"The [No.] 4 car is on an amazing roll," McMurray said.
Busch, a Harvick teammate, finished fifth in his first race since having his suspension lifted by NASCAR, a suspension that forced Busch to miss the first three races of the season.
There were 10 caution periods that bunched the field during the race, giving the other drivers opportunities to lead after the race restarted. Keselowski, in fact, led 52 laps before finishing sixth.
"Those restarts were a little bit nerve-racking," Harvick said, mainly because the track got increasingly slippery as the race wore on and "the cars were going to slide around."
Even so, keeping Harvick at bay proved fruitless. Each time, he would work his way back to the front, and he led 224 of the race's 312 laps.
Harvick's crew chief, Rodney Childers, said he felt heightened pressure to win Sunday because of Harvick's momentum and record at Phoenix International.
"When you bring [Harvick] here, I think everybody expects him to win," Childers said. "I didn't want it to be my fault if we didn't."
Now Harvick will try to sweep the Western stretch with his second Cup win at Fontana, a two-mile oval where Harvick won in 2011 with a different team.
"When we left Vegas last week, [Harvick] made a point to say, I want to win all three of these West Coast races," Childers said.
"Anybody that knows Kevin Harvick, if he puts his head to something, he's going to try to make it happen."