In last year’s edition of this race, Kevin Harvick had one of his worst performances at Phoenix in six years. Putting his money on a series of two-tire stops in the final segment, he hovered outside of the top 10 for a while and it appeared he might finish there. He crept into the top 10 at the end of the race and finished ninth.
Take a moment to let that sink in, though: Harvick’s worst finish since fall 2013 is ninth. Every other result before and since then has been sixth or better. Eleven of Harvick’s last 13 races on this track ended in top-fives, which equates to 84.6% of the time. His average finish in that span is 3.23.
Something magical often happens on flat tracks. Drivers describe it as a switch flipping and that is what Harvick experienced in 2012.
Prior to 2012, he had some success. Harvick swept Victory Lane in 2006, but those wins were two of only three top-15s in his first eight attempts on this track; the other was a fourth in 2004. In the next 10 races, Harvick recorded one more top-five and five top-10s.
And once that switch flipped, Harvick amassed one of the most remarkable recent records of any driver on any track. From spring 2012 through spring 2016 he won six times and finished second in two other races in nine attempts. The only time he failed to finish that well was in spring 2013 when he sustained suspension damage in the early stages of that race. Even so, he managed to remain on the lead lap.
In fact, Harvick enters the weekend with a 16-race streak of lead lap finishes and a perfect record of top-15s.
Harvick’s success at Phoenix is reinforced by his record at New Hampshire. In his last nine races on the other flat, 1-mile oval he has three wins and seven top-fives. Two of his wins came in his last two attempts, and it was on that track last year that he showed just how well his team would contend for the championship.
No matter how one looks at the numbers, Harvick is a prohibitive favorite. ON the four short, flat tracks (Phoenix, New Hampshire, Richmond, and Martinsville), he is riding a current streak of 16 consecutive top-10s – giving him a sweep of the track type in both 2018 and 2019. Last year’s average on course type was 5.57 and players should be shocked if he doesn’t beat his average.
The only downside to having Harvick on your roster this week is that practically everyone will have him. You won’t gain any points on the competition, but it will likely be impossible to win your league without the No. 4.
Career Average Finish: 9.2 in 34 starts (ranked 4th)
2019 Phoenix 2: 5
2019 Phoenix 1: 9
2018 Phoenix 2: 5
2018 Phoenix 1: 1