Going into the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs, Kevin Harvick was the talk of the Cup Series. The driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford had amassed seven wins and a series-leading number of playoff points at that time and appeared to be the clear favorite entering the ten-race dash to the championship. Hardly anyone would have predicted that the No. 4 team would not be a part of the Championship 4 when the sport rolled into Phoenix Raceway to contest its finale last November.
Of course, Harvick ultimately was not one of the four drivers who had a chance of being crowned in Phoenix when all was said and done.
In 2021, Harvick finds himself in a much different situation heading into this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400. With two races remaining in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season, the 45-year-old driver has yet to win a single race and is well behind the number of top-5 and top-10 finishes he had scored at this point in the season last year. As a matter of fact, he has only one so-called podium finish, that being a second-place effort in Kansas back in May.
Harvick currently resides in the 9th position of the overall standings. But with six playoff eligible drivers who are behind him in points that have won a race so far this year, the 2014 champion is actually only two positions above the cutline. In the unlikely event that the next two races be won by someone below the cutline, he would miss the playoffs.
It is unlikely Harvick would fail to make the cut, but not impossible.
However, the NASCAR Cup Series going to Michigan International Speedway this weekend presents a real opportunity for Harvick and his SHR team to turn their fortunes in the right direction. In last year’s double header weekend on that two-mile D-shaped layout, the Rodney Childers-led crew achieved back-to-back victories.
Harvick has pulled into Michigan’s victory lane a total of five times over the course of his career. But most significantly, he has won four of the last five times the series has raced in the Irish Hills.
Not only for the purpose of assuring himself a shot at the title but also to build some positive momentum, Kevin Harvick very much needs a good run, if not a win. And there is no better time and place for that to happen than in this season’s only visit by NASCAR to the Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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