Kevin Harvick’s chances of advancing to the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup might appear bleak after his 42nd-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, but count the oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook among those who have nothing but respect for the defending champ.
For all practical matters, Harvick and Bowyer probably need to win Sunday in New Hampshire or next weekend at Dover to move on in the Chase.
However, both drivers finally met with the media after Friday afternoons qualifying session and each spoke separately about the on-track and subsequent off track meetings a week prior.
He will enjoy it even more if he can translate his first place starting position into a first place finish after 300 laps at the Loudon, N.H. one mile oval. He turned a fast lap of 137.980 miles per hour. The Chevy spun backwards and made hard contact with the wall bringing out the caution. Johnson and Harvick finished 1-2 there in the May race. He was only elevated to 15th this week after NASCAR penalties took 25 points from Clint Bowyer.
When Johnson got there, Harvick rushed out and gave Johnson a stiff shove to the chest.
Johnson and Harvicks beef began when they connected at Chicagoland. Harvick continued to advance on Johnson and had to be separated by a Stewart-Haas employee, Harvick’s wife and finally, a security guard.
The No. 00 Chevrolet driver returns to The Granite State on Saturday for the UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) with his sights on a repeat triumph.
Speaking of tickets, the Chase format change was just that for Harvick a year ago after a handful of seconds and thirds in the standings across his career.
Reigning champion Kevin Harvick wasn’t as fortunate. He has just one career win at New Hampshire, back in 2006, although he has finished third in the past two races there. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) helped me a lot. Tifft has raced for two seasons in the Truck series, and also has K&N Pro series experience. Those racing Harvick would do well to be aware of his sense of urgency. Not on what happened last week. We are not going to use you guys to make threats.
“It’s the way this whole playoff Chase system works when you’re knocking out cars”, Logano said. “I can do that myself”.
Here are five predictions for what might transpire this weekend in New Hampshire.
Coming into Sunday’s race, JGR drivers Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Hamlin and Kyle Busch hold down the top four positions in the standings, respectively. “Thank you – I can breathe a little bit”, Busch said.
The win for Hamlin was well earned as he is just two weeks removed from tearing his ACL that will have to be surgically repaired as soon as the season is over. So, I think you still have to go out with the mentality of trying to win a race. I knew good and well going over there that he wouldn’t be in the best mood. “I’m really excited and I think we will definitely have a shot at the win”.
Johnson, who is going for a record-tying seventh Cup championship this fall, did have more to day when he was asked about the shunt that led to the attack.
It’s been quite an assault on the series, and has created a season that I’ve never quite seen before. It meant something to me and I appreciated the fact that they came to my bus to see me.
“I try not to let (the rookie contest) worry me too much, but I would say it’s good seeing me pass that 18 (Suarez) on the restarts every once in a while”, Wallace said.
Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, has often been thought of as the Bill Belichick of NASCAR, a shrewd leader willing to push the envelope in search of a competitive edge.
“The vehicle has a ton of speed and I hate to admit how poorly I drove it in the first and second rounds”, he said.
In retrospect Harvick would have fared better by pitting for his rubbing tire before it exploded, even if he lost a lap in the process.