Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – LAS VEGAS, NV – In the last two NASCAR Cup Series races, Kevin Harvick has put on a driving clinic. His Stewart-Haas racing team has prepared immaculate machinery that no one in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been able to out-perform.
Is Harvick’s early season dominance a good thing for the sport? Let’s find out by taking a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
After last year’s season long-stranglehold, Toyota has definitely fallen back into the reaches of Ford’s “Blue Oval Brigade.” The advantage once felt by some teams has been erased. For others, it’s creating a whole new challenge as the Chevrolet teams get used to the new Camaro ZL-1.
So far, the Ford teams have shown strength at the first three tracks of the year, with dominating performances at both Atlanta and Las Vegas by Harvick. In the last six race stages, the 2014 Cup Series Champion has been the victor in five of them.
It’s a rare thing these days in any form of oval racing to see one team be so dominant.
While Harvick has been having a field day, the rest of the Cup Series garage has some serious catching up to do. With two intermediate tracks now behind us on the 2018 season, it’s fairly clear that for this year’s regular season to get more interesting to new fans, other teams will need to step their game up to Harvick and SHR’s level.
If not, NASCAR could lose out on ticket sales as a one-man show usually only does well on a Broadway stage.
If those teams can not find more performance, we’re in for a long season of the ‘Kevin Harvick Show.’ Though the last few seasons of NASCAR’s western swing have been one of the stronger points on NASCAR’s regular season schedule, they could take a big hit in attendance numbers when next season comes around if fans believe it will be a cake walk for one team.
So far with Harvick’s performance this season at Vegas and his track record in Phoenix, they may need to re-name this three race stretch the Kevin Harvick Swing.
We all know, on pit road, every tenth of a second matters. This year, that’s even more true with NASCAR’s new rules on pit road for crew members.
Only five crew guys are allowed over the wall on any given pit stop (One extra man is allowed for driver services only). This new choreography seems easy enough for the teams to adapt to but the lack of reliability of NASCAR’s new ‘spec’ pit gun is troubling at best.
Though it’s clear the best car definitely won the last two events, many drivers having good runs in all three races so far this season fall by the wayside due to problems with the new pit guns from a third party company.
NASCAR issued specs for these guns to be built by a foreign manufacturer who specializes in such equipment. However, it seems the overall design has caused issues with hoses becoming disconnected, pressure regulators failing and a myriad of other issues that teams haven’t dealt with in years.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teams notoriously had special guns over the last few years that skyrocketed the cost for mid level teams to keep up with. Though NASCAR had good intentions in mind to level the playing field, pit lane seems more of a gauntlet than necessary. The last thing NASCAR needs is teams losing races because a controlled set of equipment is randomly failing up and down pit road.
When a day’s long battle between two or three drivers gets ruined by something teams can’t control, NASCAR will have an even bigger issue on their hands. Hopefully, the sanctioning body gets their spec equipment sorted out quickly so that never becomes an issue.