Harvick vs. Hamlin rivalry likely to reignite at New Hampshire

What has turned into almost a weekly Kevin Harvick-Denny Hamlin duel in the NASCAR Cup Series this season appears headed to another showdown Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Harvick vs. Hamlin rivalry likely to reignite at New Hampshire
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Busch Head for the Mountains
Race Winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry
Race Winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang
Race Winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express celebrates in victory lane
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford
Daytona 500 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Office, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Mobil 1
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Busch Light Patriotic
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Office and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Mobil 1

Harvick and Hamlin ended last season as two of the four drivers competing for the series title at Homestead, Fla., and this year, the duo has combined to win nine of the season’s first 19 races.

Hamlin got the most recent leg up in the one-on-one battle, claiming his fifth win of the season last week at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick, however, enters Sunday’s race looking for his third consecutive victory at New Hampshire after dispatching – who else? – Hamlin on the final lap to win the 2019 event.

It just seems like the flat tracks, flat short tracks, I have always been really, really good at.

Denny Hamlin

In the closing laps, Harvick led a hard-charging Hamlin, but lapped traffic slowed him just enough for Hamlin to close the gap. The two raced side-by-side down the backstretch on the final lap before making contact coming out of Turn 4 and heading for the checkered flag. Harvick prevailed by a razor-thin 0.210-second margin.

“We were either leaving on a tow truck or winning the race,” Harvick said after the event. “He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and I feel like I did what I was supposed to do to try to win the race.”

Respect among rivals

Both drivers and their respective crew chiefs appear to have a mutual respect for the other and while the Cup series may have its share of up-and-coming talent, it’s two drivers 39 or older who continue to set the pace this season.

“Those guys have been solid,” Hamlin said of Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. “They’re going to be in the top five even on their bad days. That’s just a strong race team.

“What you’ve seen from us in the last year with the No. 11 and the No. 4 is a lot of mutual respect. We race each other with a lot of mutual respect because we know it won’t be the last time. We still have probably many years of battles ahead of us.

“We’ve been around the sport a long time. We butted heads early in my career. He’s certainly a guy that I personally would like to model myself after.”

Both drivers have had success at New Hampshire but Harvick has been the most consistent. Harvick has won three of the last five Cup races at the track and is an odds-on favorite to make it four-of-six this weekend.

“This place has been really good to us, and I think Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and I probably feel like we should have – could have – won them all,” Harvick said. “But it’s been a race track that has been really good for us from a performance standpoint.

“And I think, from a confidence standpoint, being able to adjust on the car and know what we’re looking for, I think this is definitely a race track where a lot of those things came into play. We used a lot of the same things that we’ve used in the past as far as tools of how we make our car go around the corner.”

Leading the way

Harvick arrives at New Hampshire leading the Cup Series standings with 763 points, 97 ahead of second-place Brad Keselowski.

He’s led the points since the conclusion of the March race at Phoenix, including every week since NASCAR returned to action in mid-May following a two-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If Harvick adds another win Sunday, it would be his 54th in the Cup Series, which would tie him at 11th on the all-time list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty.

Circumstances will be different this time around due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be no practice or qualifying prior to Sunday’s race and unlike every other Cup weekend at the track, there will not be numerous other series running races prior to Sunday.

Hamlin and Harvick’s teams have been two of the best at adapting to the condensed schedule this season and there’s no reason to think they won’t find themselves on the track battling for the win again on Sunday.

“It just seems like the flat tracks, flat short tracks, I have always been really, really good at,” Hamlin said. “It feels like an eternity since we’ve run a short track other than the All-Star Race.

“We’re going to be going back there with a different aerodynamic package (from last year). We can't just rely on the notes that we had. The closest thing we could use is probably Phoenix. I wrecked out of that race early so we don’t have a whole lot of notes to go by.

“I’m sure we’ll be pretty close when we get there.”

shares
comments
NASCAR adds new chicane to Daytona road course

Previous article

NASCAR adds new chicane to Daytona road course

Next article

What time and channel is the Loudon NASCAR race today?

What time and channel is the Loudon NASCAR race today?
Load comments
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020