While Harvick's red hot, looking elsewhere for winner
March 06, 2018 3:08 AM
by Micah Roberts
Kevin Harvick has won two races in a row a few times among his 39 NASCAR Cup Series wins, but never three straight. That’s what he’s got an opportunity to do this weekend at ISM Raceway, formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway, a flat one-mile layout he’s won a track-record eight times.
Harvick has been dominant the last two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and between those runs and what he’s done at Phoenix, which includes four truck series wins, the 42-year-old comes in as the easy favorite to win on odds posted at Las Vegas sportsbooks.
But before jumping on board with Harvick winning again, let’s find some logical reasons why he won’t win.
The first reason is his cars from the past two weeks at similar 1.5-mile tracks have nothing to do with the car he’ll be using this week. The next reason Harvick might not win is he drives a Ford. His eight Cup wins at Phoenix were all in a Chevrolet. Last year, his first in a Ford, was the first time with no Phoenix wins after five straight seasons of seeing at least one Harvick win there. At one time from 2013-15, he won four Phoenix races in a row.
When he departed Richard Childress Racing after the 2013 season, which also had a Harvick Phoenix win, he still remained in a Chevrolet with Stewart Haas Racing and he won right away in his second start of the season at Phoenix. Last season was his first in a Ford, and he didn’t win at Phoenix in either race and he didn’t lead a single lap in either race.
Leading laps at Phoenix is a big deal for Harvick. It always happens, or at least always used to. He holds the track record leading 1,484 laps in 30 starts. It just didn’t happen last season.
And it wasn’t just Phoenix. He didn’t win in his Ford on any of the two other tracks similar such as the one-mile flat layout at New Hampshire and the 3/4-mile flat layout at Richmond. That’s six races on three tracks he’s loved his entire career and he only led 11 total laps.
It was like he performed poorly in those races, because he was sixth or better in four of them, but he definitely wasn’t a dominator like he was in Chevy or like he’s been the last two weeks in his Ford.
The cars haven’t changed much from what we saw in the playoffs last season and its part of the reason why Harvick was expected to fare well at Atlanta and Las Vegas this year. He was a top-five finisher in four of his five playoff starts on 1.5-mile tracks.
We know his SHR Ford has the cookie cutter tracks figured out, but these flat tracks are another story and it’s part of why I’m looking elsewhere to invest the most in Sunday’s race with hopes Harvick is favored so much the effect of raising odds on other drivers is applied to balance the theoretic hold.
On these type of tracks, Joe Gibbs Racing closed out 2017 being the best with wins on three of the last four. Matt Kenseth won at Phoenix in the fall, a really cool farewell win, and then-rookie Erik Jones finished fourth. Jones is now driving the JGR No. 20 Kenseth won with.
Denny Hamlin led a race-high 193 laps before Chase Elliott retaliated from a Martinsville incident and ended his day and championship hopes. Elliott finished second. Kyle Busch would lead a race-high 187 laps in the September New Hampshire race.
Harvick’s got the hot hand, but I’m looking elsewhere this week.