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Kevin Harvick doesn’t just lead the NASCAR Cup Series field with the most wins. He does so rather drastically.
The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford boasts nine victories in 2020. That’s three more than the next-best winner in 2020, Denny Hamlin. There are only three competitors overall who have at least three total victories.
One more win and Harvick will become the 11th driver in NASCAR’s modern era to accomplish a 10-win season. He’ll be the first since Jimmie Johnson met the milestone in 2007.
“Well, I love that it’s in the conversation of being the greatest season ever,” Harvick said Saturday after his Round of 16 playoff win at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Because you look at the sport’s gurus that don’t know a lot about racing, they put these graphs up and talk about where your peak seasons are, where you’re good, where you’re bad. Where you’re good is where you have the best results, and fortunately for me, they’re coming right now.”
Harvick is in the midst of his 20th season in NASCAR’s top series. His previous season-best win mark was eight in 2018, when he finished third in the final standings. Even in his championship run — 2014 — Harvick had five wins.
There still are seven races remaining in the 2020 season, and Harvick already has topped both marks and sits comfortably atop the playoff rankings with 67 bonus points.
“I don’t know if we’ll make it to 10 (wins),” Harvick said. “But we’re going to keep trying to do the best we can every week, and it’s just been an unbelievable year.”
An unorthodox one, too.
NASCAR had a two-month pause, eight-race postponement after just the first four events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cup Series eliminated practice and qualifying sessions, opting to do one-day shows to limit exposure. The schedule itself featured midweek races and weekend doubleheaders, which were both new.
This season has tested teams in a way they have never been tested before.
“We‘ve all learned a lot about ourselves this year, including me, and we‘ve all learned to do things differently,” said Rodney Childers, the No. 4 crew chief. “We‘ve learned to trust each other. We‘ve learned to work hard no matter what the circumstances are — whether you‘re first shift, whether you‘re second shift. I haven‘t had one team meeting since February. I haven‘t got my guys together. I haven‘t had to tell anybody what to do. I haven‘t had to tell somebody they need to work harder, they need to pay more attention to details.
“I have the best group that I‘ve ever worked around. … We expect to be the best.”
The No. 4 crew‘s first win actually came in NASCAR‘s return on May 17 at Darlington Raceway. Harvick hopped into his car after an unprecedented amount of time out of it, led a race-high 159 of the 293 laps and took the checkered flag to solidify his postseason berth. From there, he went on to win at six different tracks — Atlanta Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a crown-jewel event), Michigan International Speedway (swept the doubleheader), Dover International Speedway and eventually Bristol (an elimination race). He also had another win at Darlington in the Southern 500 (another crown-jewel event), the playoff opener.
Now Harvick heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first Round of 12 race — South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He finished eighth there earlier this season, before the on-track break. In 22 career starts, he has two wins at the Nevada track; both of which came in the past five years (2015 and 2018).
“We‘ve got nine; he didn‘t know if we we‘re going to get 10,” Childers said. “If you don‘t get 10, you‘re not going to win a championship. It‘s pretty simple at this point: You‘ve got to win races to hold that big trophy at the end of the year.”