Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR race in Arizona

Kevin Harvick holds up the trophy after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick knows how to get around ISM Raceway — and channel his anger.

He needed both skills Sunday to drive away with his third straight NASCAR Cup Series victory and record-extending ninth at the mile oval southwest of the Phoenix.

“I’m 42, done this for a long time,” Harvick said. “Any time you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that’s just a piece of the puzzle.”

The California driver sarcastically tagged “Happy” is at his best when he’s mad, so much so that former crew chief Gil Martin used to try to rile him during races.

Current crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t have to say anything. Not after Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team were penalized Wednesday for technical violations last week at Las Vegas on the No. 4 Ford.

“Everybody just came here mad, chip on their shoulder, wanting to do exactly what we did today,” Harvick said. “That’s the type of determination and grit that you want in a race team. There’s nothing better to be a part of than something like that.

“Actions speak a whole lot louder than all the words I can say this week, tweets that you can send out. Parking that thing in victory lane is the most powerful thing, most powerful message you can send, and says the most about our organization and our team.”

Harvick got in front of Kyle Busch on the last series of pit stops in the 312-lap race. Busch’s team dropped the jack and had trouble with the right rear tire on the stop with 53 laps left, allowing Harvick — who pitted three laps earlier — to slip ahead.

Harvick got around Chase Elliott — the first car with four fresh tires after the pit stops — and took the lead with 22 laps left when Ryan Newman finally made his last stop.

Busch didn’t seriously challenge Harvick after that, finishing 0.774 seconds back. The two had a series of entertaining battles, with Harvick also dueling Elliott and Denny Hamlin.