Kevin Harvick figures he’s been in this kind of a situation before.
That explains why Harvick – the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion – doesn’t appear to be sweating the fact that he’s one more poor finish away from being eliminated from title contention in this season’s Chase.
“I like these types of situations,” Harvick said on a teleconference with reporters Thursday. “They’re different and fun and it’s all in the approach and how you react to them.”
Here’s Harvick’s state of affairs: He’s 15th in the 16-driver Chase standings, not a good place to be when the top 12 advance to the second round of the playoffs after Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
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Harvick got there by finishing 42nd in the Chase opener at Chicagoland and 21st last week at New Hampshire.
... You swing for the fence and hope that you make a spectacular moment.
Neither of those races was incident-free for Harvick. At Chicagoland, he cut a tire and later wrecked. The tire had gone down after Jimmie Johnson made contact with Harvick, who confronted Johnson after the race, punching him in the chest before being restrained.
At New Hampshire, Harvick was leading with three laps remaining but ran out of gas, allowing Matt Kenseth to pass him and win.
Both of those races might have been considered failed risks for Harvick: Not pitting to get the tire changed at Chicagoland and trying to make it to the finish line before his fuel ran out at New Hampshire.
“I don’t look at either of those scenarios as risks,” said Harvick, who was the points leader at the end of the regular season, thanks to two victories and 10 second-place finishes. “(In) Chicago, the tire rub is hard to see and, with the smoke going away, you didn’t know it was as bad as it was.
“(At New Hampshire), nobody viewed it as a risk, just for the fact that it shouldn’t have even been close with the pace that we had to run and the mileage that we had gathered from everything that we had in the pit box.”
Harvick won last year’s Chase after facing a similar scenario at Phoenix as he does this weekend at Dover.
Johnson said last week at New Hampshire that he and Harvick hadn’t spoken since their Chicagoland altercation. Harvick shed no further light on it Thursday.
“As a team, we have moved on to Dover,” he said. “We’re just concentrating on things that we need to right now.”
Harvick said he hasn’t spoken to crew chief Rodney Childers about how or why his No. 4 Chevy ran out of gas at New Hampshire during a race that he was thoroughly dominating.
“I know from a mileage standpoint, it was definitely something that shouldn’t have been an issue – to make it to the number as far as gas in the tank, as far as how much gas it pulled out, or if the car was actually full or not,” Harvick said. “I don’t know the answer to that 100 percent.”
Harvick will have to win at Dover or somehow earn enough points to vault him from 15th place to inside the top 12 (he’s 23 behind 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.). But Harvick had a similar scenario in 2014 in the third round of the Chase, when he needed to win at Phoenix to be part of the four-driver finals at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
10 Second-place finishes for Harvick this season
“This is not something that we haven’t been a part of,” Harvick said. “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 also said that he’s experienced more challenging times because of different circumstances, such as the 2001 season, when he replaced Dale Earnhardt, who had been killed in a wreck at the Daytona 500, in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Chevy.
Still, Harvick has a difficult task at Dover, where he has never won. But his fellow drivers know they’ll get Harvick’s best shot.
“He’s had the best car in the field, week in and week out,” said Earnhardt Jr. “If you’ve been watching practice, (he’s) been embarrassing everybody. It would be a shame if he gets knocked out, because he has the potential to win it all.”