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