Kevin Harvick secured his position in the Championship 4 for the fifth time in the six-year history of the format with a win at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday – his third consecutive Playoff victory on the Texas circuit.
And with the pressure off to qualify for championship eligibility, Harvick heads to his best track – ISM Raceway in Phoenix. The 2014 Monster Energy Series champ has a series-best nine victories there. His 16 top-five finishes are most all time as are his 1,595 laps led.
Between November 2012, and March 2016, Harvick won six races, including a record four consecutively from November 2013-March 2015. He is on a streak of 12 consecutive top-10 finishes – 10 of them top fives. In just six races between 2013-2016 he led 1,064 laps – 66.7 percent of his career total. Three times he’s led more than 200 laps en route to route a victory (2014 sweep, 2015 spring race).
A win this weekend at ISM Raceway would be Harvick’s 50th career Monster Energy Series win – breaking a tie he holds with his team owner, three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020.
“I’m surprised [by the Texas win] but I’m not because of the character of the team,’’ Harvick said. “I love the way it’s evolved and the battle we’ve had to get there and really tried to achieve something that wasn’t really achievable when we first started the season this year. We’ve grounded out all year.’’
Harvick, who now has four wins this season, acknowledged the gap before his first win of the year, which didn’t come until the 20th race of the season (at New Hampshire). He’s won three more times in the 14 races since. Last year he won three of the first four races and had five wins by the season’s midpoint. This year’s first win took the longest for him since 2012 when he didn’t win until the next to last race of the year – at Phoenix.
“It’s been a strange year, and here you are lingering around and end up in Victory Lane with two races to go and now you go race for a championship,’’ Harvick said.