NASCAR: Have we seen the best of Kevin Harvick?

Kevin Harvick’s struggles this year have come as quite a surprise after his dominant 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and could mean a continued fall from grace into mediocrity.

Kevin Harvick came into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season as one of the premier championship contenders. However, he currently sits in ninth place in the point standings through the first 20 races of the year without a win to his name, placing him 13th in the playoff picture.

This comes as quite a surprise after a 2020 season during which he won a series-high nine races and was the top seeded driver heading into the playoffs.

As a whole, Stewart-Haas Racing have seen a decline in performance this season, which certainly helps to explain the drop in Harvick’s competitiveness this season. Rookie Chase Briscoe is his next best teammate, and he sits all the way down in 23rd place in the point standings, 126 points below the playoff cut line.

But Harvick is the Cup Series’ oldest full-time driver at 45 years old, and his decline is eerily similar to that of Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson won a record-tying seventh championship in 2016 but then dropped to a 10th place finish in 2017. He finished in 14th, 18th and 18th in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively, before retiring. He never won a race after the 2017 season and missed out on the playoffs in his final two seasons in the Cup Series.

However, not all hope is lost. Harvick has still shown consistency despite his lack of a win this season. He has recorded six top five finishes, a series-high 14 top 10 finishes, and an average finish of 11.5.

With 16 races remaining, the 2021 season is far from over, and Harvick is still seen a contender for every one of those races, including this Sunday afternoon’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He could easily get a win at one of his best tracks, where he won last year, but he will have to do much better there than he did earlier this season, limping to a 10th place finish.

To say that Harvick is a title favorite at this point in the season is simply inaccurate. But Harvick, who has gone winless deep into seasons before, is a series champion and could be getting ready to peak at the right time, perhaps even to the point where he puts himself back in the spotlight as one of the top drivers and championship contenders.