NASCAR Roundtable: Harvick emerging as a title contender

Welcome to the latest edition of the NASCAR Roundtable where we break down Kevin Harvick's Michigan triumph and preview what's to come at Bristol.

NASCAR Roundtable: Harvick emerging as a title contender
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Discount Tire and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Mobil 1
 William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Liberty University
 William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Liberty University
 Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry STANLEY
 Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry DeWalt
 Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Ford Mustang PPG
Race Winner Austin Cindric, Team Penske
 Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Ford Mustang MoneyLion
Johnny Sauter, ThorSport Racing, Ford F-150
Ross Chastain, Niece Motorsports, Chevrolet Silverado Niece and Johnny Sauter, ThorSport Racing, Ford F-150 Tenda Products
Race Winner Ross Chastain, Niece Motorsports, Chevrolet Silverado TruNorth/Paul Jr. Designs

With two wins in the last four races, should we consider Kevin Harvick a legitimate championship contender this season?

Jim Utter: Absolutely. I always had a feeling that once Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team finally cracked Victory Lane this season, the floodgates would open. He's now won twice in the last four races. And there are plenty of tracks ahead on which he has typically run very well. The No. 4 team has taken a while to get a hold on the new rules package but now that they have, they could easily win multiple races all the way to Homestead.

Nick DeGroot: They are picking up momentum at the perfect time, just before the playoffs. Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers are two that you should never count out, regardless of how many wins they have. I will always consider them title contenders by default, but they are certainly making their case stronger with these latest victories.

Tim Southers: I think Harvick has always been a contender he just needed to start winning and he has done that now winning twice in the past few weeks. I always felt he would start a string of wins once he got that first one out of the way and he is one to watch for sure in the postseason.

With three races left in the regular-season in the Cup Series, who do you expect to shine in the coming weeks among those still battling to get locked in the playoff field?

Jim: While he is already virtually locked in the playoffs by points, I still feel William Byron is capable of not only continuing his strong runs of late but also pick up his first career Cup win. The No. 24 team seems to have hit its stride and I think could be a definite spoiler in the playoffs. 

Nick: Erik Jones has been knocking on the door lately so I'd watch him. Jimmie Johnson may be having some trouble but I feel he won't go down quietly. With a new crew chief atop the pit box I expect that No. 48 team to shine at some point before the regular season comes to end.

Tim: I think we will see Erik Jones (who has ran well at Bristol) lock in his playoff berth. I know this might sound crazy but I honestly think Jimmie Johnson can really show something – especially at a place like Bristol. I also think we’ll see someone come out of nowhere and pick up a win and that could be Clint Bowyer.

Austin Cindric has won the first two road course events in the Xfinity Series this season. Do you think he could sweep all four?

Jim: Austin couldn't have better timing. He was running well enough to make the playoffs but getting his first career win in the first road course was exactly what he needed. So far he is 2-for-2 and he is very good at Road America and was strong at the Roval last year. He could enter the playoffs with three wins and have perfect timing - again - when he hits the Roval in terms of advancing in the playoffs.

Nick: He will be one you have to beat, no question there. But there's so many things that can go wrong at a road course so I wouldn't hand it to him yet. And let's not forget he had to fight tooth and nail at Watkins Glen to get that win. If he does it, it won't come easy.

Tim: Cindric has certainly shown he knows how to get around a road course and I fully expect him to win at least one more road course event if not both before the end of the season.

The Truck Series playoffs begin on Thursday night. Who is likely to get a jump on the competition with a win at Bristol?

Jim: Johnny Sauter won this race a year ago and he could again be a favorite, but I think Thursday night is a prime opportunity for Matt Crafton to pick up his first win of the season, which would lock him in the second round of the playoffs. He has six top-10 finishes at Bristol in his last seven races and finished second to Kyle Busch in 2017 after leading 90 laps.

Nick: Ross Chastain. That team has been so strong and are coming off a disappointing race at Michigan where they likely could have ran away with the win if not for an accident on pit road. They will consistently be the ones to beat during this year's playoffs and that starts with Bristol.

Tim: I think Johnny Sauter, who won only once in the regular season, will start things off by getting his second straight win at Bristol after he won this race last August. While there is a lot of young and talented drivers in the playoff field, I feel the title will still come down to a veteran like Sauter or maybe even Matt Crafton.

shares
comments
David Ragan retiring from full-time NASCAR competition

Previous article

David Ragan retiring from full-time NASCAR competition

Next article

2019 NASCAR Bristol night race weekend schedule

2019 NASCAR Bristol night race weekend schedule
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
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