Loose, But Fast: Harvick dominates Texas, Fails R&D Inspection
If you’ve found yourself clicking on this article, you’re probably already familiar with the developments stemming from last week’s playoff race at Texas. Essentially, Kevin Harvick dominated the AAA Texas 500, but later in the week, his car was found to have an unapproved spoiler. NASCAR did not take the victory from Harvick, but they did dock him 40 points and took away his automatic berth to the Championship Four in Homestead. Now he sits only three points above the cut line heading into the final cutoff race at ISM Raceway.
This changes everything.
While Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola still need to win to reach Miami, the Harvick penalty benefits two drivers most, Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott. Neither need to win ISM to advance now. Busch, who is entering his final two races with Stewart-Haas Racing, gained the most from his soon-to-be-former teammate’s infraction at Texas. The #41 SHR team went from 25 points behind Martin Truex Jr. for fourth to only three points behind Harvick. Since, Busch is lame-duck in the 41 and really has nothing to lose, expect that team to go down swinging. I’m also sure Kurt Busch remembers how hard Harvick raced him for a stage victory at Chicagoland earlier in the season (recap and video here). If it comes down to it, we know Busch will push the aggression to the max.
The other team that benefited from the Texas penalties, was Chase Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports #9. Though gaining the 17 points he needs to catch Harvick and 14 points to leapfrog Busch, will be tough, it is not out of the realm of reality. Elliott can make up the deficits by out-earning the Busch and Harvick in stage points early in the race and then beat them outright at the end. Otherwise, he’s going to need both to have major issues at some point. In my opinion, I think you’re going to see Hendrick Motorsports do everything they can to flex their muscle and get Chase Elliott into the Championship Four.
However, just like in the spring, I think Harvick will dominate Phoenix and win. Remember, his win at Phoenix in the spring came on the heels of another win he had encumbered at Las Vegas. This team loves adversity.
Barring issues or antics, I think we’re barreling towards another Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano Championship Four.