The NASCAR Sprint Cup series West Coast swing will be completed this weekend in Fontana, Calif. So far between the first two western events at Las Vegas and Phoenix, it’s been all about Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick.
He visited victory lane each time on his turf. If NASCAR had gang-type hand gestures, we’d all be flashing up our West Coast symbol with three fingers slanted sideways emulating a “W.”
We’ve come a long way in NASCAR, which traditionally used to be a “southern thing,” but the recent greats of the sport have all been coming from the West Coast such as Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and now Harvick. Yes, the West Coast breeds NASCAR Champions.
Harvick, who won last year’s championship, has finished first or second in all four races this season and dating back to last season he’s done it seven straight. The last Cup driver to accomplish the same feat was Richard Petty in 1975 in his Carolina Blue STP car.
Not to take anything away from “The King,” but Harvick’s accomplishment in this era of parity is much more impressive. Petty had a huge edge in the sport and few equals. He didn’t have to face the multi-car teams and didn’t have such stringent competition rules that are geared towards keeping everyone so equal.
Harvick’s team obviously has a leg up on everyone with the 2015 rules package. After seeing three races under the package and two on tracks that apply this week, you can believe he will see more competition this week where his top-2 finish streak might be in jeopardy.
While Fontana’s wide two-mile layout races much differently from the 1.5-mile tracks of Atlanta and Las Vegas we’ve seen already, the one common component that is applicable to all three is speed and balance.
There have been quite a few drivers that are near the same plateau as Harvick in those areas.
Granted, Harvick led the most laps on each of those 1.5-mile tracks, but Johnson was able to grab a win at Atlanta. Joey Logano led 84 laps at Atlanta and 47 at Las Vegas. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had top-5 finishes in each, Martin Truex Jr was top-6 in both, Ryan Newman a top-10 in each and Gordon had good cars but found bad luck to finish poorly.
And we haven’t even really seen the Joe Gibbs Racing team step up yet. Fontana is the site of their last non-restrictor-plate win and that driver – Kyle Busch – is on the injured reserve. However, Matt Kesneth was fifth at Atlanta and Denny Hamlin fifth at Las Vegas.
So when we look at this week’s race, yes, Harvick will be the favorite again but, more so than last week, there are other great candidates to win. Because of the roll Harvick is on, he’ll be overpriced and value will be shifted back to the other drivers.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].