NASCAR: Harvick a hot driver
CHARLOTTE ó Two wins in two races doesnít make Kevin Harvick the sudden favorite to win NASCARís title this year.
It does, however, give him a whole lot of leeway under NASCARís new qualifying standards for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick picked up his second win of the season last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, where he ran down Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the closing laps for a second-straight come-from-nowhere victory. Although it moved him four spots in the standings to fifth, Harvick doesnít have to worry about points for the foreseeable future.
Because NASCAR this year changed the way it will set the Chase ó two wild-cards will be given to the drivers with the most wins who arenít ranked in the top 10 ó Harvick may have the freedom to start planning his championship run a mere six weeks into the season. Two wins would have been enough if this system was in place last year.
ěIíll take our chances on making the Chase with the wild card stuff,î Harvick said. ěHere we are, six weeks into the season, and I feel like we can take more chances than we did last year. I feel like we can really push the limits on racing, and just the fact that we have got that caution in our back pocket.î
Thatís trouble for five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and everyone else, too.
Harvick was strong last year in leading the resurgence at Richard Childress Racing. He won three races, led the points race for 20 weeks during the regular season, and hung with Johnson and Denny Hamlin during the Chase. He was still in the hunt headed into the season finale, and finished third in the final standings, 41 points behind Johnson and two behind Hamlin.
Unlike Hamlin, who has sputtered out of the gate this season, Harvick has picked up where he left off in the pursuit of Johnson. The only glitch was an engine failure in the season-opening Daytona 500 where he ran just 22 laps.
ěI was laughing because it had been 156 races since we had had an engine problem and itís hard to get down on anybody for 1-in-156 in this sport,î he said. ěItís one of the best engine departments in the business. Thereís no reason to get down on those guys because all Iím going to do is cause are more harm than I will good getting down on them.î