Kevin Harvick isn’t eligible for the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. But he can still make history if he wins by becoming just the 11th driver to win 10 races in a season in the modern era.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has won a career-high nine races in 2020, the wins coming at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he won twice, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a sweep of the doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
If he wins at Phoenix Sunday, he will join Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip as a member of the 10-win club.
And Harvick would not be the first driver to win 10 races and not win the championship. It’s happened several times before.
Bobby Allison 1972
Richard Petty 1974 (won championship)
Cale Yarborough 1974
David Pearson 1976
Cale Yarborough 1978 (won championship)
Rusty Wallace 1993
Jeff Gordon 1996
Jeff Gordon 1997 (won championship)
Jimmie Johnson 2007 (won championship)
David Pearson 1973
Bill Elliott 1985
Dale Earnhardt 1987 (won championship)
Darrell Waltrip 1981 (won championship)
Darrell Waltrip 1982 (won championship)
Richard Petty 1975 (won championship)
Jeff Gordon 1998 (won championship)
The points system was different in prior years, but 10 would be a nice number to achieve and hasn’t been accomplished since 2007, when Jimmie Johnson won 10 races.
It’s been a solid year for Harvick as his nine wins, 20 top-fives, 26 top-10s and 1,531 laps led are all series-bests in 2020. He can also keep climbing the record books. Harvick is 14th all-time in laps completed with 204,792 after Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and is the leader among active drivers. He could pass 1989 Cup Series champion Wallace, who is 13th with 204,818, at Phoenix by getting to lap 27. If he gets to lap 208, he will surpass 205,000 completed.
Phoenix has always been good to Harvick as he has a series-high nine career Cup Series wins at Phoenix, including five with SHR, topping a list that shows Johnson next-best with four, Kyle Busch with three, and Davey Allison, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano with two each.
Harvick has won seven of the last 16 Cup Series races at Phoenix. He is the only driver to win four in a row as he won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won in March 2015 before ending his streak with a runner-up finish in November 2015. Johnson is the only other driver with a three-race streak at Phoenix, when he won the November 2007 race and swept the 2008 races. Only five drivers have won consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice, having also swept both races in 2006.
He’s scored a perfect 150.0 driver rating at Phoenix on three occasions. His first was in November 2006, when he started second, led 252 of 312 laps and reached victory lane. His second was during his November 2014 win, when he started third and led 264 of 312 laps. His third came during his March 2015 win, when he started first and led 224 of 312 laps.
Harvick has finished outside the top-10 only once at Phoenix since March 2013, and has only three finishes of 11th or worse since April 2010.
While a championship is not possible, Harvick would still love to set a couple more records to close out the 2020 season.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Are you still OK with this system? You have nine wins and don’t make it to the Championship 4.
“We had a great year. Like I’ve said, they aren’t won the same way that Earnhardt and Petty did. You have to put together a few weeks and we didn’t put together these last few weeks like we needed to and just came up short.”
Is this up there as one of the worst gut punches you’ve had to take?
“No, I’ve been punched in the gut a lot harder. We won nine races, had a great year, and, like I said, the championship is kind of a bonus. It would be great to win it, obviously, but I’d rather go through the year and win races and do the things that we did and just came up short.”
How do you justify that you won’t be racing for the championship when you are clearly on one of the top four teams this year?
“That’s the system we work in and it’s obviously skewed more toward entertainment than the whole year, so it’s exciting to watch and has that format that goes with it and you take them as they come and we race within the system they give us and do our best. It just didn’t work out for us. The last three weeks didn’t go exactly how we needed them to and you’ve got to be right when you get to the Round of 8.”