Harvick wins Homestead to claim first championship

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Harvick wins Homestead to claim first championship
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates winning with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Kevin Harvick celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16,2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Kevin Harvick celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16,2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Kevin Harvick raises his trophy as he celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series in Homestead, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/David Graham)
Kevin Harvick raises his trophy as he celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series in Homestead, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/David Graham)
kevin Harvick high-fives race fans before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship series auto race, Sunday, Nov. 16,2014 in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, applies the winner's decal to his car in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, applies the winner's decal to his car in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his team after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his team after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates winning with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: The team of Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates winning with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates winning with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- NASCAR's new championship format gave Kevin Harvick his long sought-after first Sprint Cup title, as he capped a magical first season at Stewart-Haas Racing with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick, who had to win last week at Phoenix just to advance into the Sunday's final four, had a decent car early but seemed to fade behind Denny Hamlin when the sun went down. Then a debris caution with 20 laps remaining forced the four championship contenders to make tough strategy decisions that ultimately decided their fate.

Joe Gibbs Racing decided not to pit Hamlin, which moved him to second on the restart. Richard Childress Racing gave Ryan Newman four tires, while Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers made a risky call for four tires.

Team Penske had also planned to give Joey Logano four tires, but a problem with the jack destroyed Logano's chances and he plummeted from sixth to 21st, ending his championship bid.

Harvick restarted 12th with 15 laps to go and not much time to pick his way through traffic.

But there's a reason he's been nicknamed "The Closer" the last few years. Harvick, aided by a series of cautions, nailed every restart to drive his way through the field.

Harvick gained multiple positions on every restart and got by Hamlin for the lead with seven to go. But one more caution forced him to defend the looming victory, and he held off Newman's charge then pulled away for the title.

Newman, winless on the season, finished second. Hamlin faded to seventh and Logano was a distant 16th.

Harvick Wins First Sprint Cup Title

Harvick's wife, DeLana, sobbed on the pit stand and buried her head in her hands when Harvick crossed the finish line. She hugged crew chief Rodney Childers, who dabbed his eyes, before she made it down to the victory celebration. She met team owner Tony Stewart, who had retired from the race earlier with a car problem and was in street clothes, for an embrace and kiss before holding her son for the victory celebration.

Harvick hugged Childers and showered his jubilant crew with Budweiser, the beer company that followed him this year from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas. Harvick spoke with a catch in his voice, trying to compose himself when it was his turn to hold 2-year-old Keelan.

"I'm glad you're awake," Harvick told him. "Are you happy you're awake? Can you say, `I believe daddy won? Say it. Really loud.'"

Keelan had no comment.

Stewart threw his arms around Harvick and the close friends and teammates held each other tight for several moments. It was Stewart who in 2012 convinced Harvick that if he left RCR when his contract expired at the end of 2013, he could help Harvick win his first title.

Stewart, co-owner Gene Haas, and Childers, who left Michael Waltrip Racing for the chance to build Harvick's team, delivered.

"They gave us all the resources we needed," Harvick said. "We never talked about money, we talked about building a team."

Harvick: 'Special For Everybody'

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