With his win in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick assured himself of advancing to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins after next Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway.
Under the rules that allow a Chase race winner to automatically advance to the next round, Harvick joins Chicagoland Speedway winner Martin Truex Jr. in being assured of a second-round spot no matter how they finish at Dover.
Behind those two, there is plenty of uncertainty heading into Sunday, where four of the 16 drivers now in the Chase will drop out before the circuit heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the start of the second three-race round. There will be two more eliminations — after the Oct. 23 race at Talladega Superspeedway and after the Nov. 13 race at Phoenix International Raceway, with the final four drivers deciding the championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
Harvick’s current situation is far different than a year ago, when he ran out of gas while leading with three laps to go, resulting in a 21st-place finish that put him in a must-win situation heading to Dover. Harvick, the 2014 series champion, did just that — and wound up making it to the final round before losing the race and the title to Kyle Busch.
Both last year and this year, Harvick started the Chase with a disappointing run. He was 42nd at Chicagoland last year and 20th this year after being pinned a lap down early in the race and unable to rejoin the lead group. But he and his No. 4 Chevrolet team, led by crew chief Rodney Childers, have a history of finding ways to overcome the setbacks.
“I think it’s really the nature of our team,” Harvick said in his winner’s interview at New Hampshire. “It’s one of those things where you get behind a little bit, and I feel like that’s something I like because you can motivate yourself and you can motivate everybody around you by your actions and the things that you do and the attitude that you carry.”
Harvick also said that bouncing back from a bad weekend has its advantages.
“When you get in these situations, it’s fun to be able to succeed,” he said. “It’s kind of like an addiction. You just love the rush of being able to be behind and be able to perform and make that happen.
“It’s something that is very gratifying.”
It’s also something that several of his competitors will have to summon this weekend at Dover if they want to continue to be a part of the Chase.
Among those Chase drivers with poor finishes at New Hampshire were Jamie McMurray in 19th, Tony Stewart in 23rd, Chris Buescher in 30th and Austin Dillon, who finished 16th in a backup car after crashing his primary vehicle in practice.