Race Weekend Central

Up to Speed: Kevin Harvick Proves the Toyota Drivers are Still Fallible

Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick did not have the fastest car on the racetrack. He was not the best, he was not the strongest and he was not the most dominant.

But he still got the job done.

Harvick led just eight of the 300 laps en route to the victory, a far cry from the 141 laps led by Martin Truex Jr. and 105 laps led by Matt Kenseth. With that said, a strong late-race restart by Harvick – and admitted misstep by Kenseth – allowed the No. 4 car to pull away for the victory, giving Harvick his third win of the season and locking him into the Round of 12 when it begins a couple of weeks from now at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Yeah, we needed a solid day, and really our car was good all weekend,” Harvick said post-race. “As we went through practice yesterday, we just had some little things that we talked about doing this morning, and as we went through the race, made some small adjustments on the car, and there at the end we were able to keep ourselves up front with the track position, and they made a great call to leave us out two or three times. Our car would fire off really good on the restarts on the bottom.”

No one doubted that Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and the entire No. 4 team would be a contender.

(Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)
Kevin Harvick lived up to his nickname, “The Closer,” Sunday in New Hampshire. (Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)

This is the third year of NASCAR’s elimination-style Chase format, and Harvick made it to the Championship 4 round the last two years. At the same time, as Truex and Kenseth both proved during the race Sunday, the Toyota drivers were going to be extremely difficult to beat.

“I feel like we can win at any racetrack,” Harvick said. “I know the Toyotas have run well. We’ve run well. I think it’s just a matter of who puts together a full day and doesn’t make mistakes. This has been a really good racetrack for us. We performed well in the spring. Obviously last year we performed well. So it’s just a matter of putting the day together, and really today was one of those days where everything went good.

“Everybody performed.  All the pit calls and the pit stops and the restarts and everything that happened, they all went good. You know, that’s not usually something that you can say happened on a particular day, and usually when it goes that way you’ll have a chance to win, and today we did. It’s just hard to put these things together, and like Rodney said, we’ve had the performance in our race cars, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

This was Harvick’s second career win at Loudon, and his fourth top five in the last five races at the one-mile track.

Next weekend at Dover International Speedway will be a complete turnaround from last season for the No. 4 team, where they were in a must-win situation and did just that in 2015. This year, they will head to Dover knowing they are locked into the Round of 12, no matter what happens in the Monster Mile.

“I think for me personally, I hope we go to Dover and win again,” Harvick said. “I think it’s been a great racetrack for us. Everybody is prepared to go up there and be in the same position that we were in last year. So I’m excited. Obviously there won’t be as much pressure, but it’s important to go perform like you need to perform for those guys in the shop and the guys that come on the road and have put the time and effort into these race cars, and they’re detailed out to the max to go to the racetrack and perform.”

That still leaves the rest of the Chase to try to make it to Homestead for the third year in a row, but the point still stands that the No. 4 team is capable of pulling through in situations where they may not be the favorite to do so. That, and the speed that they have shown this season, means that they will be just as fierce of a competitor as they have the last two years, regardless of Toyota’s dominance.

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