KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- If the Chase for the 2013 Sprint Cup is still a race among three drivers, please welcome Kevin Harvick to the trio.
Harvick became the third different winner in the season's four Chase races Sunday at Kansas Speedway and moved to third in the points standings, 25 points behind leader Matt Kenseth and 22 points behind Jimmie Johnson, the other two drivers with Chase wins this season.
"For me, I think today is more positive for us than any other race weekend we've been to all year, just for the fact that we ran a mile and half racetrack that had a lot of circumstances -- and being comfortable, or more comfortable than anyone else -- I guess you could say driving the car and having the speed that it had, I think shows the gains that we've been able to make since that race," Harvick said.
"That race" is the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, which Harvick won in May. That was his first win of the season, and after Sunday's win, he's still the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Kenseth to win a race at a 1.5 mile track. That's important; four of the six remaining Chase tracks are 1.5 miles in length.
"I think the confidence in the team and the car and the mile and a half stuff is good and the bottom line is that you can have fast cars, but it's going to come down -- just like it did at the 600 -- you're going to have to have the right strategy to go along with everything as the day unfolds," Harvick said.
The right strategy on Sunday was track position amidst the chaos of 15 cautions and lack of grip, and Harvick was the beneficiary of that by starting on the pole, just the sixth pole position of his career. He briefly fell back in traffic as those strategies cycled through in the middle portion of the race, but was back in the top five by lap 180 and in the lead for good by lap 232.
"Well for me it was like driving two different cars," Harvick said of the combination of tires and new Kansas pavement, a sentiment that was shared by many drivers in the garage. "We got that debris caution right as we pitted there early and we got back in traffic and the car was just really tight. Then we got better as the cloud cover came over and we kind of found that middle line down there in one and two and they kept me calm."
"I was starting to get a little bit wound up because I knew we had a really fast car out front. it was just a matter of getting there because track position was so important."