Success tends to breed success in NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Texas Motor Speedway.
From 2012 through 2015, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson dominated the fall race at the 1.5-mile track, winning four straight Playoff events there.
Kevin Harvick has a chance to duplicate that feat in Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). A nine-time winner this season, Harvick will start from the pole in the second race of the Round of 8, the same position from which he won last year’s Playoff contest at Texas.
Harvick took the lead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings in the fourth race of the season (Phoenix) and has held it since then with only one break—after the Playoff race at Talladega. Last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, in the opening Round of 8 event, he chased Joey Logano lap-after-lap in the closing stages but couldn’t find a way around the eventual winner, who did a masterful job blocking and taking Harvick’s preferred line.
It was the runner-up finish at Kansas, however, that buoyed Harvick’s confidence as the Texas race approaches. Harvick started and finished fifth in the July 19 event in Fort Worth, won by Austin Dillon.
“I feel better about Texas than I did (at Kansas),” Harvick said. “Our guys did a pretty good job of bringing a whole lot better car than what we had at the first race. If our car’s that much better at Texas than it was the first race, it should be a good weekend.
“You just never know how the cautions are going to fall, the strategy, anything like that. You just have to go lap-by-lap and see where it falls.”
Among Playoff drivers, Harvick and Denny Hamlin have three victories each at Texas. Logano, who triumphed in the spring race of 2014, is the only other Playoff driver with a win at the track.
Hamlin used his “mulligan” at Kansas, where he scraped the outside wall early in the race and finished 15th, leaving him just 20 points ahead of Chase Elliott, the first driver below the current Playoff cut line. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota last won at Texas in last year’s spring race. Sunday’s event could well evolve into yet another showdown between Harvick and Hamlin, a recurring theme throughout the 2020 season.
Johnson, who has won a record seven times at the track, has three races left to claim a victory that would tie him for fourth on the all-time list with 84 wins. Kyle Busch needs a victory over that same stretch to avoid the first winless season in his 16-year Cup career.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!