Kevin Harvick was consistently one of the top-ranked drivers every week in 2020.
There were only a few occasions when he was not among the three drivers with the lowest odds. That meant that he hardly ever offered the chance to build a slush fund with high odds.
In fact, there were only four races during the season in which Harvick could not be found with lower than +1000 (10/1) odds on at least one of the sportsbooks. His average odds were about +580 with a very small variation in his return on a bettor’s investment (ROI).
Harvick made up for that by winning nine races, which allowed him to end the season with a positive number on his balance sheet. A hypothetical $100 bet for every race he ran would have netted a balance of $460 by season’s end.
Once established, bettors needed to play their hands out and continue to wager on Harvick even when the ROI was modest. He had better than +300 odds on four occasions and won two of those races when he was +250 in the second Michigan race and +260 in the Southern 500.
HARVICK’S BIGGEST 2020 PAYDAYS: Pocono Organics 325, Night Race at Bristol (+650)
One could readily tell how handicappers felt about Harvick last year. Their love affair with his potential was abated only on the superspeedways and one other course.
Harvick is famously popular at Phoenix Raceway where his nine career wins is three times more than any other active driver. In 36 career races on that track, Harvick has an average finish of 8.9. It is remarkable then that one of his four worst unrestricted tracks (in terms of career averages) is Phoenix’s little sister in Martinsville, Va.
It is also notable that an epically bad effort in the first two stages of last Fall’s Xfinity 500 – and one of the worst executions of an intentional spin on Busch on the final lap of that race – led to his not being part of the 2021 Championship 4.
If oddsmakers keep their opinion in 2021, Martinsville Speedway could be one of the places where Harvick can build up a kitty in the spring, however. Harvick improved in the second half of the Xfinity 500. And he is not the kind of driver who will settle for a bitter taste in his mouth.
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Harvick already has one win at Martinsville. That came a decade ago in 2011, but his victory at Bristol Motor Speedway last year and consistently strong runs at Richmond Raceway proves he is a strong short track racer.
Harvick will continue to deserve notice every week. There are currently 16 tracks on which he has a better than 10th-place average finish during the past three years.
Eight of those 16 tracks have landed better than fifth in the last three seasons. Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval track is off the schedule for 2021, but drivers who run there typically also do well at Pocono Raceway, which is one of the tracks on which Harvick won last year. Harvick’s three-year average at Indy is 2.0; his average at Pocono is 6.5.
Another great opportunity for Harvick will be Atlanta Motor Speedway where he also has an average finish of 2.0 in his last three starts. That track hosts two races next year in March and July.
Michigan International Speedway (2.2 in six starts), the minimally-banked New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2.3 in three), Darlington Raceway (2.6 in five), Dover International Speedway (3.3 in six), Sonoma Raceway (4.0 in two) and of course Phoenix (4.8 in six) offer the next best opportunities.
If you have not committed your entire budget, Richmond shows a current 5.0 average over the past five races. One of their events in 2021 was not run because of the COVID-19 realignment of the schedule.
With the exception of a disappointing Round of 8 that denied him a chance to compete for the Cup on his favorite track, last year was a career-definer for Harvick. Nine wins is the most he has ever scored. But one does not want to lose sight of the fact that he also won eight in 2018, nor do they want to sleep on the possibility that he will finish in that same range again in 2021.
If Harvick comes out of the gates fast, ride him hard.
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