To say that Kevin Harvick has excelled at Homestead-Miami Speedway is a gross understatement. He enters the weekend with an 11-race streak of top-10s. Except for a period of three races from 2011 through 2013, all of those races ended fourth or better.
Harvick was the first champion in the winner take all format in 2014. That evening, he beat Ryan Newman to the checkers in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway by half a second. The other two playoff contenders Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were a distant seventh and 16th respectively.
Since winning the championship in 2014, Harvick finished second in 2015, third in 2016, fourth in 2017, and third last year; he has never been out of contention and that is not going change this week.
There have been times this season when we were ready to predict the No. 4 might not be part of the championship hunt. The team has looked lackadaisical on occasion and has made its share of mistakes, but once the playoffs loomed it became apparent they were biding their time.
Harvick won the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and has been outside the top 10 on just two occasions since in 16 races. One of these came on the high-banked bullring of Bristol Motor Speedway; the other was due to crash damage on the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.
Harvick has not shown an ability to win on demand for most of the season, but that too has changed in recent events. He dominated in route to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400. Two weeks ago he put an old-fashioned butt-whipping on the field at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his spot in the Championship Round. Harvick followed that up with a fifth-place finish at Phoenix.
What makes the last two races so meaningful is that Harvick lived up to expectations on a pair of tracks he should have dominated. It bodes well for his frame of mind entering this week at track like Homestead that has been so kind.
Harvick is up against three members of the same organization – and that might actually give him an advantage. Last week it was announced that Harvick’s teammate Aric Almirola will be in full support mode, running a setup identical to the No. 4 so they have twice the amount of Dart Fish data to study. The JGR teammates cannot help one another because (with the exception of Erik Jones) they have their own championship on the line.
Does that make Harvick a favorite? Not really because the race is going to come down to intangibles at the end and the driver with the best strategy and track position will not be known until the final laps. One thing is certain, however, and that is Harvick is going to be in the mix.