We’re only four races into the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series schedule and it’s apparent one team is way ahead of the others, as in light years ahead. Kevin Harvick’s Stewart Haas Racing Ford has been the equivalent of LeBron James playing a pick-up game against fifth-graders.
Okay, so maybe not that extreme, but the reality is he’s won three straight races following the season opening Daytona 500. His win last week at Phoenix was the ninth of his career there, adding on to the record he already holds there. He’s two-thirds of the way to sweeping NASCAR’s west coast swing, which has never been done before.
The task at hand this week, to complete the sweep and win his fourth straight, is winning at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which is considered the Bakersfield native’s home track.
This is absolutely nuts. It’s like “this is my life” with his wins so far and the storybook fairy tale rolls along perfectly this week.
Let’s see, he started out winning at Atlanta in Week 2, the place he won his first career Cup race as a rookie driver in 2001 after taking over Dale Earnhardt’s car. Then he won in Las Vegas, the place where he married his wife in 2001 after getting his first Cup ride. Then he won at Phoenix where he holds just about every record.
Now he goes to his home track, a place where he won at in 2011, and a 2-mile layout that requires lots of horsepower to win, just like the 1.5-mile tracks of Atlanta and Las Vegas. He’s got all the momentum going for him this week.
Don’t expect to get much higher than 5-to-2 odds on him this week. Last week he was 9-to-4 to win before qualifying and after being fastest in both of Saturday’s final practice sessions he was dropped to as low as +125 at Las Vegas sports books. That’s crazy!
It’s a not a road course. It’s not DEI Chevy on plate races in the early 2000’s. It’s not a one-on-one match race. This is one car against 35 others and he’s +125? And then he goes out and wins. It’s awfully suspicious. He did get busted for infractions following the Las Vegas race, costing him some points and getting his car chief suspended two races. That car chief missed Phoenix, no big deal.
I’ve never had a problem with teams being creative with their engineering. Some people like to call it cheating, but that’s what the entire sport has been built upon from its inception. Moonshiners built engines faster than the police, they’d deliver the goods and then go race the same car on Saturday at the track.
Let’s not get away from the roots with too many minions policing everything, but what the heck are all the other teams doing? Why can’t they be creative too? If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. And I certainly can’t say Harvick is cheating, but it does look like the other teams aren’t trying to find their own edge. Dare to be great.
Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus didn’t win seven championships by luck. They took some chances, got creative, and they got busted a few times too.
Before Harvick stole all the headlines, the story coming into Fontana would have been Kyle Larson going for his fifth consecutive win between the sister 2-mile tracks at Fontana and Michigan. Larson won from the pole last season leading a race-high 110 laps. He finished third at Las Vegas, which is a good sign, but he didn’t lead a lap.
Look for the Joe Gibbs cars to be fast along with Harvick’s SHR teammates and at some point the dominator from last season, Martin Truex Jr., is going to step up. The last driver to win four straight races was Jimmie Johnson in 2007.