Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Harvick Following in Truex’s Dominant Footsteps
Martin Truex Jr.’s dominance emerged as the story of 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season as he won a career-high eight races and captured the championship.
Stage racing success contributed to the No. 78 team’s prowess as they collected nearly triple the number of playoff points compared to other teams in the regular season.
This advantage almost automatically advanced Truex Jr. in each post-season round and allowed him to pull away with a substantial points lead.
He easily made the Championship 4, entered Homestead-Miami as the favorite and came home with Furniture Row Racing’s first title.
Running well throughout the first 26 races acted as a key to success for the organization, and other teams will look to replicate that strategy in 2018.
Kevin Harvick is making an early case to follow in the No. 78 car’s tire tracks, winning three consecutive races dominantly.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led the most laps at both Atlanta and Las Vegas, winning five of six stages in those events.
While he didn’t show as commanding of a performance at ISM Raceway, he still reached Victory Lane and remains the driver to beat.
The field chased Truex Jr. for most of last season, and now Harvick has assumed that role after just four races, despite being handed an L1-level penalty following Las Vegas.
He lost seven playoff and 20 regular season points after the Pennzoil 400, will be without his car chief for two races, and crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000.
A similar penalty negatively impacted Joey Logano’s team after Richmond in 2017 as they failed to recover and missed the playoffs.
However, Harvick bounced back stronger at his best track on the schedule in Phoenix and may not face the same fate.
Early indications point to the No. 4 team emerging as the favorites in 2018, and that should keep the field on edge after seeing what Truex Jr. accomplished last season.
Stage victories ultimately aided the No. 78’s championship run and Harvick could find himself in a similar position by continuing to perform at this pace.
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