Harvick: I'm just racing for playoff bonus points now

Kevin Harvick and his team have been making playoff plans ever since the Stewart-Haas Racing team won for the first time in 2018, beating Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

Harvick: I'm just racing for playoff bonus points now
Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Busch Beer, Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS
Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion
Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's celebrates his win
Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's celebrates his win with a burnout
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion celebrates
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion celebrates
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Busch Light
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion Pit out
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's Kickin' Ranch
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's Kickin' Ranch
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

That hasn’t stopped the 42-year-old Harvick from driving as if every race was his last opportunity to qualify for NASCAR’s 16-team championship-determining field in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

Harvick won for the sixth time Sunday, pulling away from Busch after a tense late-race, multi-lap battle at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and the half dozen victories is a career-best single-season mark for the driver of the No. 4 Ford.

With his playoff berth assured, one might think Harvick and his group would ease off the throttle and focus on the final 10-race sprint. Such thinking would be wrong.

Bonus points and playoff points are too important.

“That’s really what you’re racing for right now,” Harvick said Sunday, long after career win No. 43 was safe and secure. “A win is the way you get the most points.”

Those bonus points (five for a race win, one for a stage win) carry over throughout the playoffs and can save a team that stumbles in any one of the nine races leading up to the championship race.

“At some point it will be leaned on over the last 10 weeks,” Harvick said of the bonus points. “You look at that first (playoff) round, and you go to (Las) Vegas, hope that everything goes OK. Then you go to Richmond and (then) the (Charlotte road course) Roval.  You've seen how many cars we've crashed at the Roval so far. That's going to be survival. You never know what's going to happen.

“That first round just has a lot of unknowns. You finish where you are right now, you'll have 42 points. You're creeping in on a whole race. That's really what you're trying to guard yourself with … those playoff points.” 

Through 20 races, Harvick, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have been stacking up bonus points – Harvick now leading the way with 32 while Busch (30) and Truex aren’t far behind. The three have combined to win 15 of the season’s 20 races.

Sunday’s race marked the ninth time overall and the fourth time this year that Harvick and Busch had finished 1-2 in a Cup race. Harvick leads the “mini-series” by a 5-4 margin.

Pit crew changes

Success hasn’t stopped the No. 4 team from tweaking areas and shoring up possible weak spots. In the days leading up to the New Hampshire race, Stewart-Haas personnel made moves among the organization’s pit crews.

The biggest change for the No. 4 team was on the front end, where tire changer Shayne Pipala replaced Eric Maycroft.

Crew chief Rodney Childers said those who go over the wall to service the No. 4 on race day have been fast but haven’t been consistent.

“This week was really about matching personalities, matching the skill sets of different people,” Childers said. “We felt like we did that as a company. … We have to have people working together. They had one day to practice with each other before we came. Overall, they did a good job.”

Six races remain before the start of the playoffs and Harvick has won at five. Pocono, host of this week’s Gander Outdoors 400, is the lone holdout among the group. Harvick may be winless there, but he’s been extremely competitive. His last four finishes on the 2.5-mile layout have been fourth, second, second and fourth.

Truex, driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, won at the unusual track earlier this year while Busch won last July. Folks expecting the “big three” not to be in the mix come Sunday likely will be disappointed.

Any concerns about retaliation for the late-race contact that saw Harvick move Busch out of the racing groove to take the lead and collect the win at New Hampshire are minimal.

“I mean, these races are hard to win,” Harvick said. “When you’re in position, it’s one of those things that you have to do what you have to do for your team.

“Just make it as clean as possible."

shares
comments
Elliott hopes Sunday's performance wasn't "dumb luck"

Previous article

Elliott hopes Sunday's performance wasn't "dumb luck"

Next article

"Fundamental mistake" cost Kurt Busch at New Hampshire

"Fundamental mistake" cost Kurt Busch at New Hampshire
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