No. 1 Kevin Harvick
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Kevin Harvick (right) drives his No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet on Las Vegas Blvd. during Champion's Week.
Harvick, who scored five wins in 2014, became the second driver to lock a spot in the Chase with his victory at Phoenix International Raceway in March.
“We were able to win the second race of the season in Phoenix and kind of punch our ticket for the most part to being in the Chase,” Harvick said. “It allowed us to fix a lot of problems. It allowed us to plan out where we thought we needed to be with cars, and if you wanted to make changes, you could have all those cars and you could have a backup plan for the backup plan leading into the Chase.
“The earlier you can get that win, the better off you're going to be to prepare for the Chase.”
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Kevin Harvick celebrates his first win of 2014 at Phoenix International Raceway.
While Harvick won again in April at Darlington Raceway, Harvick posted six finishes of 30th or worse before the beginning of NASCAR’s playoffs in September.
Yet, Harvick won six pole positions in the first 26 races, leading laps in 18 events. Harvick also finished runner-up five times after his second win of the season at Darlington.
Harvick’s Chase featured three wins and seven top-ten finishes over the ten-race post-season, including a must-win victory at Phoenix in November to advance to the Championship Round.
Leading 54 laps, Harvick held off Ryan Newman on a final restart at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win the event and clinch his first series title.
The title was Harvick’s first in his fourteen year Sprint Cup career. Harvick previous highest point standings finish was third overall three times (2010, 2011 and 2013).
Harvick also scored a career high eight poles in 2014, the most among all drivers and led 2,137 laps overall across 27 events, also the most among all drivers this season.
To put both of statistics into perspective, Harvick had scored a total of six career poles from 2001-2013. And, from 2006-2013, Harvick led 1,907 laps overall.
No matter the statistics, the Chase proved consistency in the playoffs could advance various drivers, no matter their previous stats in 2014. Harvick agreed that the Chase format opens the door for more teams, especially when a team has momentum.
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Kevin Harvick turns laps at Chicagoland Speedway.
“When you get the momentum in the sports world, momentum is a huge thing, and you can carry that a long ways. I think it definitely opens the possibility of things -- of cars and teams coming from being that dark horse I guess you could say to being in contention just for the fact of that momentum building and the teams getting better as they go through the year. It definitely opens things up to a lot of people being able to be in the Chase.”