Heading into Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (2 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Kevin Harvick is tied with Kyle Busch for most race wins of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with five apiece. He’s a legitimate threat to win his second career Cup Series title in November. But, the question lies, has Busch and Martin Truex Jr. caught up to Harvick’s fast pace that he stormed out of the gates with?
While Harvick does have five victories already in 2018, none have come in the last eight weeks. His last win came at Kansas on May 12. Sunday’s race date in July 22. It’s not like he’s been bad though as he’s the only driver to have led over 1,000 laps this season with 1,040. It’s also not that he hasn’t been competitive in that winless streak either – he’s had five top fives in the last seven races, including a pair of runner-ups (Michigan, Sonoma).
Where the question comes is Harvick won three of the first four races and had nine top five finishes in the first 12 events of the season. At that point of the year, Harvick had all five of his wins, 10 top 10’s and had led 820 of his 1,040 laps. In the seven races since, he has zero wins, five top fives but just 220 laps led. While some would say, are you crazy? Those sound like great stats to me. I mean Harvick has even led at least a lap in five of his last six starts on the season.
But, when you look at his stats in terms of Busch’s and Truex’s, it seems that maybe Harvick peaked a little early compared to them.
In the same 12 races to start the year off between Harvick and Busch and Truex, Busch had three wins, nine top fives and had led 498 laps. Truex, had one trip to victory lane, seven top fives and 277 laps led.
So, in the first 12 races, Harvick had them all beat. They were close, but he was ahead of them in terms of dominating the races.
Lets look at Busch and Truex’s stats over the last seven races. We knows Harvick’s above, zero wins, five top fives and 220 laps led. Look at Busch and Truex though.
Busch, has two wins, six top fives and 450 laps led. Truex, has three wins, six top fives and 287 laps led. It appears that the Toyota duo has closed the gap with Harvick. Maybe that’s coincidence, maybe that’s not.
Toyota has turned up the power as they’ve won the last four races and six of the last seven overall. At the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday’s race, Toyota has had a driver reach victory lane in five of the last six races.
Busch is a three-time winner at New Hampshire and won last fall’s race from the Busch Pole position. He has eight top-10 finishes in the last 10 races there, including a streak of three runner-up showings between 2013-14. Busch has six top-five finishes in the last seven races of this season – the Daytona race, the lone exception. His 15 top 10s in 19 races ties Kevin Harvick for best in the sport right now. Truex, has led to win at New Hampshire but has led at least 100 laps in each of the last four New Hampshire races – 513 laps of his career-total 661 laps led at the track. With his hot streak, there’s no reason to think that he can’t vie for a win on Sunday either.
Harvick, well he’s the only non Toyota driver to win at New Hampshire over the last few years.
He’s earned two wins in the fall edition (2006 from pole and 2016) and five top-five finishes in the last seven races overall there. Between 2014-15 he led a series best 379 laps at the track, but only had a pair of third-place finishes to show for all the work up front. He’s led an impressive 706 laps total at New Hampshire, but only eight laps in the last four races – all in his 2016 win.
So, while it looks like all three will contend for the win again this weekend, Harvick’s focus just need to be finding out a way to get more speed in his No. 4 Ford. Lately, the Toyota’s driven by Busch and Truex have just been better.