Harvick Rolls Dover, Heads to Kansas
After trips to Florida, Georgia, Texas and Virginia, NASCAR fans are headed to the center of America with the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Last week at Dover International Speedway, Kevin Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing organization continued to dominate headlines for the 2018 season.
Harvick led a race-high 201 laps and picked up his fourth win this season. It was his 41st career victory.
Sunday’s Return to Center Stage
If you thought you were seeing double last year in Kansas, you were. Martin Truex Jr. won both Kansas races, topping Brad Keselowski in the spring and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch in the fall. Racing at Kansas is like Truex’s ruby red slippers. The speedway gave him his lone two wins of 2017 and two of his three top 5 finishes.
And while Truex Jr. didn’t lead any laps in Dover last week. He started third, finished fourth and already has six Top 5 finishes this year. Plus he already picked up a win at California, where he won the pole. He also claimed the pole at Richmond.
While Keslowski came close to winning it all in Kansas last year, he is seventh in the standings this season with only two top five finishes. The No. 2 team had a great first half race at Dover last week until a red flag was dropped for rain and an exchange after the start of a 41-minute delay dropped Keslowski back to eighth. He finished just outside the Top 5 with a sixth place finish at Dover after leading 108 laps.
But Keslowski in Kansas is just another way to spell “comeback.” Last season, a loose wheel forced him to pit on Lap 120 of the 267-lap race, Keslowski was penalized by NASCAR for going through too many pit boxes en route to entering his own stall. That forced the No. 2 team to rejoin the race two laps down, in 35th place. But he found a way to get the two laps back and ended up a runner-up in Kansas.
And don’t forget. Keslowski is no stranger to grabbing the checkered at the KC Masterpiece 400. He did so in the track’s inaugural NASCAR year in 2011.
The Keys to Kansas
Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports owned Kansas Speedway five of the last six years, with Joe Gibbs Racing winning back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 and then Hendrick Motorsports winning back-to-back in 2014 and 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing took 2016 until Furniture Row Racing snagged last year.
It’s been back-to-back with car manufacturers too in six of the last seven years. With Toyota cars winning in ‘12 and ‘13, Chevrolet cars in ‘14 and ‘15 and Toyota again in ‘16 and ‘17. Dodge is the only other manufacturer to win in Kansas and that was with Keslowski in 2011 in the race’s first year.
Daniel Suarez is a mix of both, driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Suarez leads the average starting position at Kansas with 10.0 among all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He also finished third in Dover last week.
Who will it be this time: Kevin or Kurt?
Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing may be one of the best on-track stories of the 2018 season and he’s no stranger to coming close at Kansas. He leads all series drivers with three runner-up finishes there. And while Truex Jr. also has two runner-up finishes so does Kurt Busch. Busch finished fifth at Dover after starting ninth. And while recent headlines have been dominated by Harvick, this season has really been a duel between the 4 and the 41. Combined, they’ve won seven of the first 11 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races. Harvick picked up his fourth in Dover. Busch has three. He also has the ninth best driver rating at Kansas with a 87.8. But if the tango continues, it’s Busch turn to take the lead.