Most of the talk this week heading into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship finale in the Ford 400 at Homestead will revolve around points leader Denny Hamlin and four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who is No. 2 at 15 points behind.
But don’t forget that Kevin Harvick, 46 points Hamlin, still has a shot to win. And Homestead is one of Harvick’s top tracks. In nine starts at Homestead, he has seven top-10 finishes, four of them top fives. He leads the top three points trio with his average finish of 8.4 at the track – it’s Harvick’s best at any NASCAR track. Harvick has led 116 laps at Homestead and has finished in the top 10 in six of his past seven races there. He has completed every lap in all nine starts there and has finished in the top five in three of the last four races.
Yes, Harvick (7/1 to win this week) needs some help and no driver has ever overcome a deficit in the final Chase race since the format began in 2004. But perhaps Harvick will benefit from the fact that Hamlin and Johnson have been trash talking back and forth all week and my try to one-up each other – maybe wrecking both. Or, maybe both play it safe, which could also benefit Harvick. Basically anything that makes Hamlin and Johnson focus on each other and forget about Harvick is good. Shoot, Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford, briefly couldn’t even remember Harvick’s name when he was asked about the No. 29 team during a crew-chief teleconference.
Harvick’s crew chief, Gil Martin, said his team is taking a brand-new car with “one of the best engines produced all year long” by Earnhardt Childress Racing.
If they can get the handling right, they can top everyone with what they’ve got under the hood. The Earnhardt Childress Racing engines have won 10 Cup races this season. Homestead, like any 1.5-mile track, is a horsepower track. That’s what makes Harvick a threat.
“We know the job that we have at hand, and we’re going with our best piece, and I think our driver is ready and psyched up about it. We’re just looking forward to it,” Martin said. “We’re not intending on playing defense. We’re throwing the long ball all day long.”
So look for Harvick to win the race if possibly not the Chase because he will be so aggressive.
“I feel excited because the worst we can finish in the points is third,” he said. “We have a great race track for us, and we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There’s really nothing else that matters at this point. Just throw it all out there, and if it gets rough, it gets rough. If it doesn’t, then we just go race and see where it all falls in the end. It’s still a no pressure, no lose situation for us, and I like it.”
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