Har­vick’s in near must-win sit­u­a­tion ... again

Cecil Whig - - & - Staff RE­PORT

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

Kevin Har­vick seem­ingly al­ways ends up in dire sit­u­a­tions within the new “win-and-you’re-in” Chase for­mat im­ple­mented in 2014.

And he al­ways finds a way to make his way out.

Cur­rently 18 points be­low the cut­off line for the final trans­fer spot to the Cham­pi­onship 4 race at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way, Har­vick es­sen­tially has to win Sun­day’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) to earn a berth in his third con­sec­u­tive Cham­pi­onship Race.

Luck­ily for Har­vick, there’s no place he’d rather be in a “win-orgo-home” sit­u­a­tion than Phoenix. He has won six of the last eight races there and holds the track record with eight vic­to­ries.

“I feel like that can be gone at any point,” Har­vick said of his per­ceived edge at Phoenix. “That’s the hard­est thing about hav­ing suc­cess. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep mov­ing for­ward. If you don’t have an open mind or are not will­ing to try a fresh ap­proach, then it will get stag­nant. You’re go­ing to be­come stale and get left be­hind.”

This isn’t the first time Har­vick vir­tu­ally needs a vic­tory to ad­vance in the Chase. He was in trou­ble in the first two rounds this sea­son and won at New Hamp­shire and Kansas, re­spec­tively, to trans­fer to the en­su­ing seg­ments. Last year, he took the check­ered flag in the Dover Chase race when he would’ve been knocked out if he did any­thing less. Fi­nally, in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Se­ries cham­pi­onship 2014 cam­paign, Har­vick would’ve failed to take home the ti­tle if he didn’t win back-to-back races at Phoenix and Homestead.

Har­vick dis­cussed his prepa­ra­tion for Phoenix rather than any pres­sure he might be feel­ing.

“As we go to Phoenix, we have to look at the things that we’ve done well,” Har­vick said. “Obvi- ously, we’ve done a lot of good things. We look at the race tape and pay at­ten­tion to the lines and brak­ing, steer­ing, throt­tle and all the things that you have ac­cess to and you try to mimic that im­me­di­ately when you get on the race­track. The hard part about our sport is the con­di­tions are never the same. You never know if it’s go­ing to be 100 de­grees or if it’s go­ing to be 50 de­grees. That makes a big dif­fer­ence on the bal­ance of the car, how much down­force it makes and how much tape you can run on the front. There are all kinds of things to nav­i­gate through once you get there. There are a lot of good race car driv­ers and lots of cir­cum­stances that could play out to have things go wrong. You go there with a fresh start like you’ve never won there be­fore and try to get the car di­aled in.”

Sadler in good shape head­ing into Phoenix

El­liott Sadler is one con­test away from a sin­gle-race four-driver shootout for the NASCAR XFIN­ITY Se­ries ti­tle.

Be­fore he can pre­pare for run­ning in the Cham­pi­onship 4 race at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way, Sadler must trans­fer through the penul­ti­mate event of the sea­son in the se­ries where names are made – Satur­day’s Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Po­si­tioned 16 points ahead of his JR Mo­tor­sports team­mate Justin All­gaier – the first driver out for a berth in the Cham­pi­onship 4, — the 41-year-old Vir­ginia na­tive has a strong Phoenix re­sume. In 15 starts at the one-mile track, he claims one win (spring 2012), four top fives, eight top 10s and a 12.1 av­er­age fin­ish. He has fin­ished 12th or bet­ter in his last seven Phoenix starts.

“I have won at Phoenix be­fore and I ran well there in the spring, but I have had some races there that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sadler said. “That is on my mind go­ing into Phoenix, but this is a new year, new points sys­tem, and a new set of cir­cum­stances. I feel good right now and any­time that you are above the cut line, you’ve got to feel good in this deal.”

Sadler used a base­ball anal­ogy to fur­ther ex­plain his points sit­u­a­tion.

“We don’t have to hit a grand slam to make it to Homestead, we just need to hit a few sin­gles, and it is a lot eas­ier do­ing that,” he said. “We just need to do our job and con­tinue do­ing what we have been do­ing and if we stay fo­cused to our­selves, we’ll be fine.”

Phoenix stands in way of By­ron and Cham­pi­onship 4 berth

Wil­liam By­ron hopes his next race at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way goes bet­ter than his first one when he re­turns to the one- mile track for Fri­day’s Lu­cas Oil 150 (10 p.m. ET on FS1).

Last sea­son, the 18- year- old Char­lotte na­tive made his NASCAR Camp­ing World Truck Se­ries de­but at Phoenix, fin­ish­ing 31st af­ter crash­ing on the sixth lap. He re­turns to the Sun Devil State in his 2016 cam­paign with a se­ries- lead­ing six wins, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s.

More im­por­tantly, Phoenix is the only ob­sta­cle separat­ing By­ron from a Cham­pi­onship 4 berth at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way. Head­ing into Fri­day’s race, he ranks sec­ond on the Chase Grid, five points above Ti­mothy Peters on the cut­off line.

“It’s a lit­tle bit of pres­sure for ev­ery­one who is not locked in,” By­ron said. “Hopefully we can cap­i­tal­ize on that and have the fin­ish we need to get in or­der to get to Homestead. I think we’re go­ing to have a re­ally good shot at a win, so if we can do that it would be the eas­i­est way to en­sure we are in the Cham­pi­onship 4 next week­end.”

Al­though By­ron had a hard­luck NASCAR Camp­ing World Truck Se­ries fin­ish at Phoenix last year, he did fin­ish run­ner- up there in the NASCAR K&N Pro Se­ries West race.

“(My Phoenix ex­pe­ri­ence) is def­i­nitely go­ing to be ben­e­fi­cial,” By­ron said. “Just hav­ing the track time from run­ning the K&N Pro Se­ries West race last year and get­ting seat time in the truck as well. I know what I’m go­ing to need be­fore I get there, so that will be a big help. I’m ac­tu­ally re­ally ex­cited that I’ve been there, even though my first truck start did not go as planned when we fell out of the race so early.”

GETTY IM­AGES FOR NASCAR

Kevin Har­vick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Chevro­let, prac­tices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Se­ries AAA Texas 500 at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way on Novem­ber 5 in Fort Worth, Texas.

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