WAID’S WORLD: Harvick’s Achievements – Are You Really Surprised?
The biggest story in the 2018 Monster Series NASCAR Cup Series season – for now – is the scorching start by Kevin Harvick of Stewart Haas Racing.
As well it should be, by the way.
Harvick has won three of the year’s first four races. He has charged to first place in the point standings and compiled three stage wins for 11 playoff points, more than any other driver.
He’s finished only once out of the top 10. That happened at Daytona where he wound up 31st after being caught up in an accident.
The fact that he and his SHR team incurred severe penalties from NASCAR, which included loss of points, fines and suspension, for this “Battle of the Bulge” rear window at Las Vegas hasn’t seemed to deter his progress.
Eyes are always raised when one competitor so far outdistances the others. Even rivals will admit that as of now Harvick clearly has an advantage – and it obviously doesn’t have anything to do with a rear window.
A few years ago I would be inclined to suggest that whatever edge Harvick has is likely illegal. But given NASCAR’s vastly superior technological inspection process of today, I am more inclined to say it’s not.
As surprised as many fans may be over Harvick’s start, which is understandable, they should not be overly so. As I’ve said many times this is nothing new.
Although it is indeed rare, several other drivers have won three races in a row. And still others have had even more impressive streaks.
In 1967 Richard Petty won 10 races in succession amid an incredible season in which he won 27 times en route to the championship.
To be honest his competition wasn’t formidable.
In 1991 Harry Gant won four races in a row, from Darlington through Richmond, Dover and Martinsville in September. He was 51 years old at the time.
A year later Bill Elliott, driving for Junior Johnson, also won four in row starting with Rockingham and including Richmond, Atlanta and Darlington in the spring. Elliott lost the title by 10 points to the enterprising Alan Kulwicki.
Just like it is today there were questions about the legality of the cars Gant and Elliott drove. NASCAR issued no penalties but that didn’t quell the suspicions – especially when it came to a Johnson-prepared car.
Harvick has indeed joined exclusive company and he seems poised to achieve more.
Perhaps a bigger reason why what Harvick has done should not be a total surprise is Harvick himself. He’s been SHR’s shining star since he joined the team in 2014.
In that year he won five races and the championship, the first of his career. In the next three years he finished third or better twice. He was always the top finisher at SHR except for 2016, when he wound up eighth and teammate Kurt Busch was seventh.
Presently it seems Harvick, who now has 17 victories with SHR, is starting down the same road Martin Truex Jr. followed last year.
And it doesn’t appear that Harvick is doing any less than he has for the majority of his tenure with SHR, even under some negative circumstances.
Harvick has addressed the penalties and chose not to do so after his victory at ISM Speedway. Instead he made personal observations.
“I have already talked about that,” Harvick said. “Today I’m happy. I’m proud to be a part of an organization and a team that is able to succeed and put all that stuff behind them.
“There are not many things that you can do to showcase character. When you showcase character and grit as a team, as a unit, that’s more powerful than any of us being good at what we do. When you have that unity as a group, it’s so powerful.
“It makes success easier to achieve just because of the fact that everybody is so on the same page and so determined to make something happen.”
There can’t be much of an argument about that.
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