NASCAR: Concern for Kevin Harvick after five races?

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Kevin Harvick’s start to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season hasn’t been ideal, but there is no need for the 2014 champion to panic.

The driver who seemed to be in contention to win almost every weekend throughout the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and ended the year with a series-high nine wins, the most for any driver since the 2008 campaign, is suddenly riding a 12-race win drought.

Kevin Harvick’s historic 2020 season came to a bitter end at Martinsville Speedway after an attempt to score one more point by spinning out Kyle Busch went wrong.

Last season, Harvick took the lead of the point standings after his second place finish at Phoenix Raceway in the fourth race on the schedule and never looked back. He would have clinched the points “title” after the antepenultimate race on the schedule because of just how far ahead he was.

This season, different story.

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He sits in seventh place in the point standings through five races, and with three winners coming from behind him in the standings, he sits in just 10th in the playoff picture.

If the playoffs were to begin today, he would rank 10th after the reset as well, with his only four playoff points coming by way of his seventh place position in points. So those points aren’t even locked in. But let’s not forget that if there is one driver who isn’t going to be concerning himself with points, it’s Harvick. Just look at the stark contrast between his last two seasons.

“I don’t count points, don’t look at points, don’t care about points,” Harvick told Beyond the Flag ahead of the resumption of the rain-suspended round of 8 playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway last October.

Of course, that comment came back to bite him later in the round of 8 when he literally needed one point and failed to get it in dramatic fashion, resulting in his first pre-Championship 4 elimination since 2016. But long-term, that comment is the exact reason why he should not be concerned at this point.

In 2019, it took him until the 19th race of the season just to finish a race in the top three. Sound familiar? He has just one top three finish in the last 12 races going back to last season, and it didn’t come this year. Yet in 2019, amid his and Stewart-Haas Racing’s struggles, he managed to qualify for the Championship 4 anyway because he was strong when it mattered most.

In 2020, he failed to qualify for the winner-take-all title round despite having a dominant season that was compared to some of the greatest seasons we ever saw from legends such as four-time champion Jeff Gordon and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

And it’s not like his 2021 season has been disastrous.

Sure, through five races this season, 12 drivers have top finishes that are higher than Harvick’s fourth place effort in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

But you can literally make stats stay whatever you want them to.

Because on the other hand, the only other driver with four top six finishes in the season’s first five races is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, and he already leads the point standings by a comfortable 38-point gap — nearly a full win — over Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. Harvick trails only Hamlin and Keselowski in average finish as well.

So Harvick shouldn’t panic.

Stewart-Haas Racing haven’t been that great this season either as a whole after leading the series with 10 wins last year, but that was the case in 2019 as well, and Harvick managed to turn things around.

Aric Almirola has been on the wrong end of too many unpredictable situations already this season, as has Cole Custer, and Custer has yet to really take that next step in year number two. Rookie Chase Briscoe is still just learning and growing, as expected.

The team’s only truly poor race so far this year came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where they just completely missed and Harvick’s 20th place effort, one lap off the lead lap, led the quartet.

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Can Kevin Harvick get in the column this Sunday, March 21 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he has won two of the last three races, including last year’s? The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET.