Kevin Harvick might not have the Sprint Cup Series points lead, but he might be in the most enviable position this week among the series’ top contenders.
Harvick’s victory in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was important for a few reasons. First, the win, combined with Kyle Busch’s late-race wreck, allowed Harvick to move into third place in the series standings and 25 points behind leader Matt Kenseth - well within striking distance with six races remaining.
The site of Harvick’s win was also telling - he is part of two organizations (Joe Gibb Racing is the other) and one of three drivers (Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch) to have won this season on NASCAR’s 1.5-mile speedways, which host five of the 10 races in the Chase.
Perhaps the most relevant reason Harvick may be in the best position heading into Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is he is the most recent winner at the track with a victory in May’s Coca-Cola 600.
“I think (the Kansas race) is more positive for us than any other race we’ve been to all year, just for the fact that we were at a mile-and-a-half race track that had a lot of circumstances, and being more comfortable than everybody else driving the car and having the speed that it had,” Harvick said.
“I think that shows the gains that we’ve been able to make since (Charlotte). You know, I think the confidence in the team and the car and the mile-and-a-half stuff is good.”
Harvick’s crew chief, Gil Martin, welcomes the return to Charlotte this week but isn’t banking on past success in the 600 to necessarily carry the day on Saturday.
“It is extremely hard to win on these mile-and-a-half tracks because you’ve got to be looking at gas mileage, you’ve got to be looking at where you’re going to be at the end of the race,” Martin said.
“When we go to Charlotte, when we go to Texas, there’s going to be a completely different set of circumstances, so the things you did (at Kansas) are not going to be there.
“You’ve got to be open and ready for whatever kind of change happens.”
Being adaptable appears to be the name of the game this season in the Cup series and perhaps that’s not very surprising.
“The bottom line is you can have fast cars, but it’s going to come down just like it did at the 600,” Harvick said. “You’re going to have to have the right strategy to go along with everything as the day unfolds.”