Tony Stewart is satisfied now that Kevin Harvick has earned the proper to compete for the 2017 Monster Vitality NASCAR Cup Sequence title, his possibilities at turning into a two-time collection champion are fairly good.
Harvick handed chief Martin Truex Jr. with 9 of 334 laps remaining in Sunday’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and held on for the victory and the berth within the Championship four at Homestead, Fla., in two weeks.
“Firstly of the yr your purpose is all the time to get into the playoffs. We’re in Section No. 2 of it now that we’re locked into Homestead,” Stewart informed Motorsport.com. “Now, we simply have to complete it off.
“After a day like at this time, I like our odds proper now. We’ve all the time believed in Kevin and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and the No. four staff, however I noticed one thing in them at this time that makes me suppose they’re going to be actually harmful at Homestead.”
It wasn’t all the time that means this season, although.
In actual fact, as lately as three months in the past, Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, and even Harvick himself didn’t suppose SHR might compete toe-to-toe with the Toyotas.
Not capable of compete for wins
It wasn’t till this fall when Kurt Busch carried out so properly at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Harvick led probably the most laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway, that SHR officers believed that they had discovered the pace to persistently compete for race wins.
“Three or 4 months in the past the dialog actually was, ‘How are we going to level our means by way of the playoffs?’ We did not actually really feel like we have been persistently in competition to win races, not main laps,” Harvick mentioned.
“Once you don’t lead laps, you possibly can’t win races and management issues. You possibly can luck into them each now and again, however you possibly can’t management issues like (Truex) has completed this yr and (Kyle Busch).”
The distinction was most obvious on 1.5-mile race tracks, which dominate the 36-race collection schedule, and particularly, the playoffs. It’s additionally the place Truex and his No. 78 Furnishings Row Racing staff have carried out at their greatest this season, gathering six victories.
“Because the playoffs have began, we began main laps once more on the mile-and-a-half race tracks. That is actually been our focus,” Harvick mentioned. “It has been our focus for the final 4 years as a result of that is actually the bread and butter of what we do.
“Three or 4 months in the past it was, ‘How are we not going to make any errors, be thorough, and capitalize on everyone else’s errors?’ Once we acquired completed with Charlotte, it was, ‘Okay, we are able to nonetheless win a championship.’ ”
Bridging the hole
After Sunday, that’s now a really actual chance.
Harvick, Truex and Busch will probably be three of the 4 drivers who will battle for the championship at Homestead. The fourth will probably be determined subsequent week at Phoenix.
Coincidently, these three drivers have been additionally among the many 4 who competed for the title simply two years in the past in 2015, when Busch gained his first collection championship.
Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vp of competitors, mentioned getting the No. four staff into the place it’s to compete for the championship – and the development usually all through SHR – has been a sluggish, methodical course of this season.
“I really feel like we’ve been at an obstacle all yr and we’ve been slowly gaining on it. We have now pace when the automobiles come off the vans, you see Clint (Bowyer) operating higher,” he mentioned. “The motor store has completed a tremendous job.
“This has been a tough yr, a irritating yr. I’m a realist. I understand how onerous it’s to have success and I do know it solely takes a couple of little issues to not attain it. It’s not straightforward making it to Homestead.
“The underside line is we’re going and we’re not going there to complete second.”