Melillo’s Mind: AAA Drive For Autism 400 Recap, Harvick v. Busch, and Concern for Chevrolet
By Justin Melillo
May 10, 2018
Kevin Harvick is back on top of the NASCAR world after another dominating performance at “The Monster Mile”, Dover Int’l Speedway.
Harvick led more than half of the race, 201 laps to be exact, and out-dueled his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer, to take his fourth victory of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season.
“The first thing I’ve got to do is just thank everybody on my team,” Harvick said. “Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines, everybody from Ford for just continuing to put the effort that they put into these cars.
“Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company, but everybody from Jimmy John’s and Busch and Ford, Fields, Haas, Mobil 1, Morton Buildings, Textron Off-Road, Liftmaster and the fans, especially. It was great to see those fans stick around for the finish, but it’s fun racing your teammate. That says a lot about our company and one of your good friends as well.”
Behind Bowyer, it was Daniel Suarez leading the Toyota Racing party, bringing home a third-place finish.
KEVIN HARVICK vs. KYLE BUSCH
Through 11 races in the 2018 season, the main focus has been between the winning ways of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
Harvick, who scored his fourth win of the season (third win that counts towards the playoffs since his Las Vegas win was penalized), is still 40 points behind Busch, who recently won three-in-a-row at Texas, Bristol, and Richmond.
Joey Logano sits ahead of Harvick in the standings as well, with only one victory to his name.
Going back to Harvick’s penalty at Vegas, which cost him 20 driver points and the benefits of the win, including the stage and playoff points, the standings would be a lot closer between Busch and Harvick.
Besides the mechanical failure this past weekend, Kyle Busch has been the model of consistency, and along with his wins was able to knock down seven straight top-five finishes before Talladega.
Harvick, on the other hand, has a total of eight top-five finishes over the season, but not consecutively like Busch’s top-five finishes were.
It seems that on the bigger tracks, the Ford camp, and therefore Harvick, has the upper-hand. With the shorter tracks, the Toyota drivers, AKA Busch, seem to flourish.
Of course, Bowyer has a win at Martinsville, which is the shortest track, and Martin Truex Jr. has a win on the biggest intermediate track at Auto Club, so it’s not concrete that one has the advantage over the other at one place or another.
With 15 weeks remaining in the regular season, it will be interesting to see if Harvick or Busch take a clear advantage over the other, or if they start splitting success with other manufacturer teammates like Truex Jr. or the Penske group.
Maybe the Chevy camp wakes up at some point.
WHERE IS CHEVROLET?
Jimmie Johnson is the MAN when it comes to Dover, but he was shut out from leading a lap at the concrete monster, which in 32 previous attempts, has only happened six times.
Johnson has 11 wins at Dover, and although he was the highest finishing Chevrolet on Sunday, was nowhere close to being a factor.
In fact, Johnson hasn’t been a factor all season. He hasn’t led a single lap all year, and sits 12th in the Driver’s Standings.
Seven-Time has had a rough time this season, but so has everyone else in the Chevrolet camp.
Kyle Larson leads the Chevy pack, as he sits 10th in the standings and has led more laps on his own (254) than every other Chevy driver (165). Larson has been the closest to pulling off a win, besides Austin Dillon’s lone win at Daytona in the season opener.
Other than a few flashes of brilliance from everyone else, the Chevrolet group has been non-existent this season. Considering the hype that the new Camaro ZL1 produced in the off-season, it’s very concerning.
The Fords have the oldest car model and the most wins on the season. Toyota, who won the championship and Manufacturer’s Title in 2017 with a new car, is just as fast and competes weekly with the Fords this season.
The Chevy camp needs to be concerned yesterday. At this point, only five Chevrolet teams will make the Playoffs, and more than likely with their performance at this point, four will be eliminated in the Round of 16, and none will have a shot to make the Final Four.
Kansas will feature a double-header with the Camping World Truck Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headlining the weekend. The NASCAR Xfinity Series takes off this weekend and next, and will return for Memorial Day weekend festivities.
Martin Truex, Jr. swept the Kansas series in 2017, and although he has not been as dominant this season, is still a threat week in and week out, and could take his second victory of the season this weekend.
Of course, I expect Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to be in the mix, as they usually are, but I’m predicting a Truex victory party in the KC Masterpiece 400 on Saturday night.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.