Kevin Harvick hasn’t celebrated in Victory Lane since a dominating victory in the regular season finale at Indianapolis on Sept. 8, but he’s been close. And the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford heads into the final two races of this Playoff round a heavy favorite to hoist hardware at either this week’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBSCN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) or next week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway.
Harvick, 43, earned all three of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories this season in a seven-race span starting with the New Hampshire mile in July and ending with the notoriously challenging Indianapolis 2.5-miler in September. Since Indianapolis, he’s had six top-10 finishes in the seven Playoff races, including a best showing of runner-up in the Las Vegas Playoff opener and a third place at the Charlotte ROVAL.
In total he’s had 12 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes and his five pole-winning efforts ties him with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron for most on the season. His 8.96 average start is best in the series, and his 10.6 average finish is fourth-best.
Only championship leader Martin Truex Jr. has equaled Harvick’s Playoff top 10 effort. And only Truex (6.2) has a better Playoff average finish than Harvick (7.0).
But while Truex’s win last week at Martinsville Speedway secured a position in the Championship 4, Harvick rolls into Texas ranked fifth in the championship standings, 14 points behind fellow Ford driver Joey Logano in that all-important fourth position in the standings.
The encouraging news for Harvick is that he’s secured a position in the Championship 4 in four of the previous five years of this title format and actually won the first version of it in 2014.
The Californian isn’t just “good” at the upcoming tracks, his 11 combined wins is the most of any current Playoff driver at Texas (two) and Phoenix (nine) – a mark that ties seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (seven at Texas and four at Phoenix) for most among active drivers at the two venues.
Importantly, Harvick’s two wins at Texas have come at crucial times. He’s won the last two Playoff races there, securing his position to contend for the big trophy. He’s finished in the top-10 in the last 10 Texas races – with three runner-up finishes to compliment his two wins. In total at Texas he has 21 top-10 finishes in 33 starts – 64 percent of his races.
Should Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team continue on to Phoenix next week still looking for a Playoff win, he has the confidence of nine Phoenix victories, most in the field. His last Playoff win there came in 2014, the year Harvick won his series championship.