Can Harvick Make It 4 In-A-Row? Why Sunday’s Race May Come Down to SHR vs. JGR and Penske

Kevin Harvick is on the verge of NASCAR history and could do so this weekend in Fontana. If Harvick wins Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) it would be his fourth consecutive win. Only a small handful of drivers have ever won four straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. Also, he would have reached victory lane in four of the first five races to start the season too. Again, only a few drivers have ever done that too.

Harvick, led 181 of the 325 laps in Atlanta three weeks ago. At Vegas, he led 214 of the 267 laps en route to a dominating victory. Two races, three stage wins (sweep at Vegas, 1 at Atlanta), two wins and 395 laps led. But, his Vegas car passed inspection at the race track but later found to be in violation at the R&D Center later in the week. While he was able to keep the Vegas trophy, his win was encumbered. 

That had him fighting mad.

Kevin Harvick during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He came out with extra motivation in Phoenix because of that and was quickest in both practice sessions on Saturday and won the TicketGuardian 500 on Sunday.

Now, with how hungry he is and how much he’s out to prove everybody wrong, he has to be the favorite again in Sunday’s Cup race at Fontana right? Why bet on someone else when Harvick can’t be stopped. Plus, Fontana rewards the cars with the most speed. It’s fast and wide sweeping. The top overall speed and horsepower win on tracks like that.

No one has more speed than Harvick and Ford right now.

Combined, Ford has led 729 of the 1,111 laps this season.

Plus, Harvick has been very good at Fontana recently too. Since 2010, Harvick has six top seven finishes in nine tries. He has finished runner-up in two of the last three years. He even led 142 laps in 2016 to finish second.

So far this weekend, he was first, first and fourth in the three practices and quickest in both practice sessions on Saturday on the 10-lap average chart. He was also fastest in the 5-lap and 15 lap averages too.

But, if Harvick doesn’t win, I’d bet on one of his SHR teammates to do so.

Clint Bowyer finished third last year in Fontana and has been very strong lately. This weekend, he was second, 10th and seventh respectively in practice and seventh and 16th on the 10-lap average chart.

Aric Almriola was third, 11th and 17th respectively in practice himself.

As I stated earlier, Ford is the leader of the clubhouse as far as pure speed goes. Chevrolet is down, so unless Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports as a whole find the speed that it takes, count Chevy teams out. That leaves just Toyota and Ford. Joe Gibbs Racing will certainly contend, but I don’t know if Martin Truex Jr. fully will with Furniture Row Racing.

Brad Keselowski during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California.

As far as Ford teams, count them all out other than SHR and Penske. I don’t think Roush/Fenway Racing has what it takes to win on a track like Fontana yet and the Wood Brothers will be solid but I don’t see Paul Menard winning. Team Penske normally would be front runners, but I don’t know if they can contend with SHR this week.

Ryan Blaney has a 22.0 average finishing position in Fontana. Brad Keselowski three straight top 10’s, one of which a win in 2015, but that win was a fluke as he led just one lap, the final one. He was runner-up last year, but I don’t feel good about the speed in his No. 2 Ford right now. He had zero top 10 finishes in his six starts at Fontana prior to the 2015 season.  Joey Logano has four top seven finishes over his five starts at Fontana, all since joining Team Penske, but none were serious threats to win.

Since 2015, Penske has finished first (Keselowski) and seventh (Logano) in ’15, fourth (Logano) and ninth (Keselowski) in 2016 and second (Keselowski) and fifth (Logano) last year. They did get all three drivers in the top 10 at Vegas, but they didn’t have the overall speed to beat Harvick.

In practice on Saturday, Keselowski and Blaney showed the speed to contend as Keselowski was sixth and fifth respectively and Blaney fifth and eighth. They were also in the top 10 in both sessions on the 10-lap average charts as well.

Clint Bowyer during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California.

That’s why I say this is a SHR vs. JGR and Penske.

Between the four SHR drivers, four JGR drivers and three at Penske, they made up 10 of the top 11 in the Cup points standings. As I said, Fontana rewards speed. They’ve had the most speed in 2018 and have had the best success lately other than Kyle Larson on the track.


Related posts

Leave a Reply