Avondale, AZ – It’s easy to pick Kevin Harvick as the favorite to win Sunday’s Camping World 500 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN) at the Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick, has won five of the last seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at the 1.022-mile Arizona oval, including a track record eight trips to victory lane at Phoenix. In the two races since November 2013 that he didn’t win, he finished second and fourth respectively.
Plus, he’s led 139 or more laps in five of the last six races at PIR. Also, furthermore, he has eight top two finishes in his last 10 Phoenix starts.
But, for some reason, they’re struggling a bit this weekend. Last year, they did finish fourth, but he failed to lead a lap. In the return trip this weekend, he’s still struggling.
Harvick, was just 13th fastest in the opening practice of the weekend on Friday morning, then was only sixth and 16th respectively in the two practices on Saturday. After that, he backed that up with a qualifying effort that will see him start on the Inside of Row 12 in 23rd. That makes it tough for him to win on Sunday.
Only three times in the 41 Cup races at PIR, has a driver started outside the top 20 and ended up winning the race. 21 of the 41 times the actual race winner has started from inside the top 10.
But, if Harvick can overcome that, he can become just the second driver ever to win at PIR with two manufacturers. His team Stewart-Haas Racing, switched from Chevrolet power to Ford in the offseason. All of Harvick’s eight PIR wins have come with Chevy.
Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009).
So, if Harvick can charge through the field on Sunday, he will join Martin as the only two drivers to accomplish that feat.
Another good thing on Harvick’s side is out of his eight race wins at PIR, half of them came from starting spots outside of the top 10. In the Spring race in 2006, he started 15th and still reached victory lane. In November of 2012, he started 19th and won. In the Spring of 2014, he started 13th, while just this very race last year, he rolled off 18th and hoisted the race winning trophy in the end.
So, he’s proven it can be done.
But, does he have the car to do it this weekend?