Harvick states his caseby Gordon Kirby on 16th August 2010
Kevin Harvick has led NASCAR’s Sprint Cup championship for most of the year, and by winning Sunday’s 400-mile race on the Michigan superspeedway he became the first driver to guarantee himself a place in this year’s ‘Chase for the Cup’. After 23 of 36 races Harvick leads Jeff Gordon by 293 points, followed by Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
‘The Chase’ begins at round 27 in New Hampshire at the end of next month. NASCAR’s championship play-off among the year’s top 12 drivers takes place over the season’s final 10 races, and Harvick has won enough races and built sufficient points to earn the number one seed in this year’s ‘Chase’.
Harvick’s Michigan win was his third of the year and his first in a Cup car at the track. The 34-year-old drives one of Richard Childress’s three Chevrolets and this is his 10th year with the team. He replaced Dale Earnhardt Sr after he was killed at Daytona in 2001 and has now won 14 Cup races. Harvick’s Michigan victory was the first for RCR at the track since Earnhardt won there in 1990.
“This has been a very bad track for us,” acknowledged Harvick, “so to come here and do what we did today says a lot about where RCR is, where our cars are and, hopefully, what we can do in the last 10 weeks of the season. We’ve got three weeks of vacation and then we’ll go back to the pressure cooker for the last 10 races.”
At Michigan Harvick beat title rival Denny Hamlin in one of Joe Gibbs’ trio of Toyotas followed by Jack Roush’s three Fords raced by Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Tony Stewart finished sixth followed by Juan Pablo Montoya. Four-time champion Johnson came home 12th, while Hendrick team-mate Jeff Gordon led a portion of the race but lost a lap after a front tyre blew.
Harvick has never seriously challenged for the championship. His best year was 2006 when he won five races and finished fourth in the points, 78 behind that year’s champion Johnson. But Harvick has been the man to beat this year, steadily building his points lead over the spring and summer. Right now, he’s a favourite to win his first Sprint Cup title and possibly keep Johnson from racking up an unprecedented fifth consecutive championship.