NASCAR: How Atlanta could end a rare Cup win drought

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

NASCAR Cup Series veterans Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are looking to end a rare streak on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It’s been a while since either Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski won a NASCAR Cup Series race. In fact, it’s been one of their longest combined droughts of the last decade.

Last Sunday’s race event at Phoenix Raceway, won by Martin Truex Jr., marked the 12th consecutive race that neither Harvick or Keselowski won.

That streak began after Harvick’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 19, 2020. That’s the longest combined win drought for the two champions since a 14-race stretch between Harvick’s win on Sunday, June 25, 2017 at Sonoma Raceway and Keselowski’s victory on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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There have been only five streaks longer than the current drought since Keselowski started racing full-time in the Cup Series in 2010. Those previous winless streaks lasted for 17 races between 2010 and 2011, 13 races between 2011 and 2012, 17 races in 2013, 23 races in 2015 and those 14 races in 2017.

Harvick collected 47 victories between 2010 and 2020 while Keselowski tallied 33. The longest stretch without either of them winning between that 2017 drought and now was only seven races, and it happened on three occasions.

Not seeing one of these familiar faces holding the checkered flag has become a rare occurrence, especially in the last few years. With more drivers retiring and being replaced by up-and-coming talent, a changing of the guard seemed inevitable, though the fact that the first three winners of the 2021 season had combined for just one career win entering the year was a surprise to many.

Both Harvick and Keselowski got off to similar starts this year. Harvick has two top five finishes, four top 10 finishes and an average finish of 8.2 while Keselowski has three top five finishes, three top 10 finishes and an average finish of 8.0. Keselowski has led 93 laps and sits in second place in the point standings while Harvick has led 17 and sits in seventh.

Fortunately for them, if there’s one track where either of these drivers can snap their combined winless streak, it’s Atlanta Motor Speedway.

They have each won two of the last four Cup Series races at the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) oval in Hampton, Georgia. They have also logged the most points in the last five races there, with Harvick collecting 244 and Keselowski collecting 209.

As with their 2021 numbers, the two drivers have some similar stats in those five races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. They both have two wins,  three top five finishes and five top 10 finishes.

Harvick has led 800 laps and has an average finish of 4.2. Keselowski has only led 97 laps but has an average finish of 4.4. Harvick also won the Xfinity Series race there in 2018, which is the most recent of his five career Xfinity Series victories at the track.

Last year’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the sixth event back from NASCAR’s 10-week hiatus, which was triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Harvick led 151 of the 325 laps to secure his second victory of the season while Keselowski finished in ninth place.

The two drivers combined to win 13 of the first 25 races back from the hiatus prior to their current 12-race combined drought.

As for this season, Keselowski appears to have more momentum, with the driver of the #2 Ford finishing in fourth place at Phoenix Raceway following a runner-up finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where his stage one win was his first stage win of the season.

He collected 54 of a possible 60 points in that race, even more than race winner Kyle Larson. He has recorded all of his laps led in the last three races.

For Harvick, the driver of the #4 Ford finished in 20th place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but that appears to be a Mulligan given the fact that his average finish is 5.25 in the other four events. All of his laps led came in the season-opening Daytona 500, however.

Still, both drivers have been in the mix through the first five races of the season and the last five races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, Harvick has led 1,111 laps in the last seven, with at least 116 laps led in six of those seven events, so it will be interesting to see if one of them can cap their combined winless streak at a dozen events.

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Sunday’s race, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.