Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – LAS VEGAS, NV – You can’t accuse Kevin Harvick of flying under the radar heading into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs—not a guy with seven victories in 26 regular-season races and speed in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Fords everywhere he goes.
But Harvick isn’t approaching the postseason with the braggadocio of an odds-on favorite.
“I’m just along for the show,” Harvick said during his appearance at a fan event at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa. “For us, we’ve had a great regular season, and we need to keep doing the same things that we’re doing. No need for noise.”
That’s a far cry from the Kevin Harvick who entered the Playoffs in 2015 with the swagger of a defending series champion, saying about the rival Joe Gibbs Racing cars, “I think we are going to pound them into the ground—that’s what I think.”
As it turned out, JGR driver Kyle Busch won the 2015 title, with Harvick finishing second. This year, Harvick is steering clear of inflammatory predictions.
“I think, as you look at the regular season, obviously it’s gone well,” Harvick told the NASCAR Wire Service. “And, really, there is no change of pace. There is no ‘We need to do this, or we need to do that.’ You just need to go execute and do the things you’ve been doing.”
Harvick and Busch are on equal footing entering the 10-race postseason. Both accumulated 50 Playoff points during the first 26 races. But Harvick is well aware that an advantage can disappear in a single round, as Kyle Larson discovered last year.
Considered a lock to qualify for the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson started the Playoffs 33 points above the baseline. But an engine failure 73 laps into the second-round cutoff race at Kansas Speedway knocked him out of contention.
“The lesson to be learned from Kyle Larson last year is everyone was sitting here saying the exact same thing, and he didn’t make it to the Championship 4 with a whole bunch of bonus points,” Harvick said. “He was winning races and finishing top five and doing the things he needed to do, but that was it. You have a blown engine and an accident, and the next thing you know you’re on the outside looking in…
“I think you have to know that in the back of your mind. I think, as it happens, you have to react to it. I think you want to obviously have a plan of going into every week winning the race. That’s unrealistic, but I think that has to be the goal. That’s how you start, and where it goes from there, you never know. And then, after you get done with the first weekend, you start reacting to the second.”
“No need for noise” might be Harvick’s mantra this year, but his performance on the race track already has spoken loudly.
“I feel good about where my team is at,” he said. “My favorite part about where we are it is that I feel we have been in championship form all year, racing for wins and on the preparation side and how we have advanced the cars throughout the year. I don’t feel like there is a switch we have to go flip.
“We have been in the middle of the headlines and noise and all the things that come with the success we’ve had this year. The moment is not going to surprise anybody on my team. It won’t surprise anyone on the pit box. It should be business as usual as you start this weekend, and the goal is to win. Win the race in Las Vegas and go from there.”
With as little fanfare as possible, and with as little concern as possible for Busch, the regular-season champion, or any other possible rival.
“I’m just worried about ourselves right now, focused on the things that we can control,” Harvick said.