Harvick down, but far from defeated
Photo by Benjamin Palmer/TheRacingExperts.com
Kevin Harvick's car is pushed through the garage area at Phoenix International Raceway
in March.

By Justin Melillo
Staff Reporter
September 25, 2015

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

After the first race in the Chase, Kevin Harvick is already on the outside looking in.

Harvick started on pole and led twice for 10 laps on Sunday afternoon, but his luck quickly turned as he backed his car into the SAFER barrier; a result of avoidable contact with Jimmie Johnson during a mid-race restart. The damage relegated the No. 4 team to a 42nd place finish, leaving Harvick with a gap of 22 points between himself and 12th place, Jeff Gordon, to make up over the next two races.

“I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s / Budweiser team for not giving up and doing all the things they had to do to get the car back on the track and we’ve just got to go win one of these races,” Harvick said following the race. When asked what he needed to do to recover for the next two races, Harvick simply stated “Win”.

The next two races will determine whether the defending Sprint Cup Series Champion can overcome adversity once again to continue competing for the 2015 Championship. A win at New Hampshire or Dover would automatically send Harvick and the No. 4 team into the next round.

It’s only a small stretch, but I think Kevin Harvick is far from out of this championship hunt.

Photo by Dante Ricci/TheRacingExperts.com

Kevin Harvick signs an autograph for a fan at Pocono Raceway in August. 

Harvick is focused, determined, and has a grudge against a former champion. He knows he can pull it off.

We’ve seen this before.

Last year, after a run in with Matt Kenseth in Martinsville, Harvick posted a second place finish at Texas, and followed that up with a win at Phoenix. That propelled him into the Championship Four race at Homestead, where he took it all and won the title.

This year, after a run in with Johnson in Chicagoland, Harvick heads to New Hampshire, where he has won before and led 59 laps before finishing third in July, and to Dover, where he has never won but led 91 laps before finishing 2nd in June.

Being only the first round of the Chase, it’s still possible that Harvick could move forward on points. 22 points is quite a deficit, but nobody has scored more points than the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2015, and that can help their efforts if they can’t find victory lane.

It’s the beauty of the new Chase system. It can be very forgiving, yet frustrating. In the old playoff system, trying to overcome the deficit Harvick has to the leader would be next to impossible. With the new system, you only have to erase the deficit to the cutoff or win, and then start from scratch.

Sure, the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are the class of the field right now, winning eight of the last ten races, but I still have Harvick going all the way for the second year in a row. He’s more than determined to not let one bad race change that.

Will Kevin Harvick advance to the next round of the Chase?
Too soon to tell