His title hopes on life support, Kevin Harvick not backing down
Make no mistake about it: The task Kevin Harvick faces on Sunday at Dover International Speedway is no small one.
The reigning Sprint Cup Series champion doesn’t deny it.
But neither is he intimidated by it.
Harvick, who in all probability must win for the first time in 30 starts at Dover to move on to the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, isn’t backing down from the challenge.
In fact, he embraces it.
Of course, Harvick is no stranger to pressure-packed scenarios. He faced one last November at Phoenix when he had to win the race to move on to the Championship 4. He did it.
Then, in the one-race, winner-take-all championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway just a week later, Harvick took care of business again, winning the race and the title.
So it’s no wonder the driver whose nicknames are "Happy" and "The Closer" carries confidence into Dover despite having never broken through at the "Monster Mile."
"I think as you look at the scenario, I think obviously, we have been in this position before," Harvick said Thursday on a national teleconference. "But in the end, it doesn’t really change the approach at all. As you go into the weekend, you start on Monday, you finish up last week, you have your competition meeting, you talk about next week and then you go about normal life throughout the week.
"So, it’s really no different, other than the circumstances with the points and the championship and everything that goes with it. But as far as an approach standpoint, we’ll do everything exactly the same."
Armed with one of the fastest cars all year, Harvick led the standings after all but two races in the regular season before the points were reset for the Chase, with the drivers with the most wins starting out on top. Harvick, who won just twice in the regular season, began the Chase as the fifth seed but sits 15th among the 16 championship contenders after disappointing results in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway and last weekend’s event in New Hampshire where he ran out of gas while leading in the final laps.
In both instances, Harvick was a frontrunner in contention for the win, but finished poorly. Now sitting 23 points behind 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 12th and final driver in position to reach the next round, Harvick has to go to Victory Lane in Sunday’s third and final race of the Challenger Round to punch his ticket to the Contender Round that begins next weekend in Charlotte.
"I think as a race team, you know that these types of situations are going to come about and you react to them the best that you can and you swing for the fence and hope that you make a spectacular moment," Harvick said. "So it’s something that you know you’re going to be a part of at some point, and we have been a part of many times throughout my career as far as scenarios, situations, and it’s just really part of sports and that’s what makes it exciting."
"I think as we go into this weekend, I think it’s been a really good racetrack for us, performance-wise, over the last year and a half," Harvick said. "And we have had a couple of freak things happen with the lug nut knocking the valve stem off a couple of times at the same racetrack. But led a bunch of laps, and looking forward to the challenge this weekend."
With rain washing out qualifying on Friday and setting the field for Sunday’s AAA 400 based on points, Harvick will line up 15th on the grid and have the 15th pit stall on pit road — both less-than-ideal circumstances.
"For me personally, I like these types of situations," Harvick said of needing to win to advance. "I think they’re different and fun and it’s all in the approach and how you react to them.
"So I think as a team, we’ll do everything … from a preparation standpoint the same. But I think if you can get the result and get that sensation of winning and all the things that come with the type of situation that we’re in, it’s even more fun."