Until recently, Kevin Harvick has been running under the radar in 2019, and that’s an ominous situation for his competition.
Although Stewart-Haas Racing has not set the world on fire this season, the No. 4 team has remained in the hunt with consistent finishes.
With Harvick’s past history at Dover International Speedway, is this the weekend he climbs from the shadows and establishes himself as a top championship contender?
“This place wasn’t one of my favorites until I came to SHR,” Harvick said. “I think as you look at it, it has been a race track that from the very beginning we put a lot of focus on it to make it a better race track.
“From the very first time we came here, we ran well as a group and fine-tuned it from there. It’s a place you have to have a lot of confidence in your car, and they let me do that and it makes it a lot more fun.”
Prior to moving to Stewart-Haas in 2014, Harvick posted three top-fives, 13 top 10s and led 145 laps at the Monster Mile. In 11 starts in the No. 4 Chevrolet, Harvick has earned two poles, two wins, four top fives and six top 10s. He has led 1,298 laps in eight starts.
On Friday, Harvick rolled off the truck 11th fastest in his sixth of 39 laps but topped the tour in Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. In Happy Hour, “Happy” was third on the speed chart in single-lap runs and fourth in Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. He qualified fourth on Saturday.
“I feel good after qualifying,” Harvick said. “I didn’t think that was going to be our strong suit and we got a good lap in there. Starting towards the front will be important. I think our car is really good in race trim.”
Harvick finished fourth at Dover in the spring. A win in the Drydene 400 could propel the No. 4 team to the Round of 8 of the Playoffs and allow crew chief Rodney Childers to concentrate on the next set of tracks. Even if Harvick is off on Sunday, he has 16 victories over the final seven tracks, including Homestead in 2014 where he won the championship in the first year NASCAR established its current Playoff system.
“We want to be racing for the lead and trying to win stages and be aggressive,” Harvick said. “I think that being aggressive is just going to bite you less than kind of being passive and just trying to mediocre your way into the next round by looking at the points. We want to go out there and try to do the things that we have done all year and lean on our experience of being in these types of situations before there is nothing that is going to surprise us.
“Anything that happens that is off the wall shouldn’t be a surprise to us because we have been a part of some of those situations and seen them as we have gone through the playoffs. You have to adapt and adjust as the weeks go by but it is definitely an aggressive, one week at a time approach.”