HOMESTEAD, Fla – Kevin Harvick never thought that he’d be in this position on Sunday. See, through the first half of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Harvick was struggling. He was 0-for-20 to start 2019 off with in terms of victories as his best finish through mid July was fourth. They weren’t a race contender like they were a year ago.
But, it was all because of this new racing package and the entire Stewart-Haas Racing camp starting off on the wrong setups. They thought they knew the way to the front but they went the wrong way. It took them over five months to find the right combinations to compete.
Once they did, it showed.
Harvick won at New Hampshire on July 21 and would follow that up with 15 top 10 finishes, 14 of which in the top seven, over the final 17 races of the year. In fact, from New Hampshire through the regular season finale at Indianapolis, Harvick had three wins in a seven race span.
That got him easily to the playoffs. Once in, he easily moved through the first two rounds. Harvick, finished second, seventh and third in the Round of 16 and fifth, 17th and ninth in the Round of 12. In the Round of 8, he finished seventh in Martinsville but won the next race at Texas for the third straight year.
That moved him onto the Championship 4 for the third straight year and fifth time in the last six overall. Depending on how you look at it, the numbers were either for or against him though for the final race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He was going against three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers for the championship. JGR had won 18 of the 35 races run in 2019 including 17 from the three vying for the title with Harvick. But, having three drivers meant split resources for them. Harvick, was the only driver among the four Stewart-Haas cars for the title. All their resources would go to him.
It showed at the start. Harvick, quickly took the lead on the opening lap and would look like a contender early on. He finish fourth in the first stage and second in Stage 2. The battle was on.
Unfortunately for them, the speed to beat the Toyota’s wasn’t there in the end. That led to Rodney Childers wanting Harvick to run his final stint long. It was their only hope. They’d either get a caution and pin everyone a lap down or surely get a late race caution and capitalize on having much fresher tires than everyone else.
Harvick, pit eight laps later than everyone else and would give up the lead on Lap 222. He’d fall to 17th, one lap down, but have the tires to make up that deficit. He’d do just that too.
Harvick, not only unlapped himself, he made it all the way up to fourth. They just needed a yellow. After all, since 2014, we’d have a late race caution inside of 15 laps-to-go in all but one year.
The caution would put Harvick in control. He went from a lap down to 30 second down to 17 behind to 14 but that yellow never came.
Harvick, would finish fourth, which due to Erik Jones coming home third to give JGR a 1-2-3 finish, Harvick finished third in the final standings for the third straight year and sixth time overall. He’s been in the top three of the final standings in seven of the last nine years.
It was also his sixth consecutive top four finish at Homestead too.
The numbers were lined up for Harvick. Going for his 50th win in his crew chief’s 500th race. Unfortunately, they came up two spots short.