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Kevin Harvick: the ‘Nighthawk’ of racing under the lights

Bank of America 500

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Kevin Harvick’s natural habitat is a race track at night. When the sun dips below the horizon and lights flare on, Harvick’s racing abilities are seemingly enhanced.

While three drivers have won the as many or more night races than Harvick since 2012, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver still can be considered the biggest threat when the sun goes down.

After Jimmie Johnson (nine wins), Kyle Busch (seven wins), Harvick is tied with Brad Keselowski with six nocturnal triumphs.

But among the 12 drivers left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins its second round Saturday night on NBC with the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Harvick has the best average performance in night races since 2012.

His average finish is 8.72. The next best average is Kyle Busch at 11.07.

Harvick’s performance is fitting of a nickname according to Marcus Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s president and general manager.

“It’s amazing to see what Kevin has done in night races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and throughout the NASCAR schedule,” Smith said in a press release. “He’s become such a predator under the lights that maybe we should nickname him ‘Nighthawk’ instead of ‘Happy.’”

Here’s the average finish in the 57 night races since 2012 among Chase drivers (Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott not included):

Kevin Harvick: six wins, 8.72 average finish;
Kyle Busch: seven wins, 11.07 average finish;
Matt Kenseth: five wins, 11.40 average finish;
Brad Keselowski: six wins, 12.25 average finish;
Jimmie Johnson: nine wins, 12.72 average finish;
Joey Logano: three wins, 12.89 average finish;
Denny Hamlin: four wins, 13.55 average finish;
Carl Edwards: four wins, 13.26 average finish;
Martin Truex Jr.: two wins, 15.80 average finish;
Kurt Busch: no wins, 16.88 average finish.

Harvick’s night race wins over the course of his entire career include three Charlotte victories, the most recent coming in the 2014 version of the Bank of America 500. Though you’ll be forgiven for forgetting about that in the wake of Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski’s wrestling match in the garage that night.

In the seven Charlotte races since the 2012 Bank of America 500, Harvick has not finished outside the top 10. Only twice in that span has he finished outside the top five.

But the “Nighthawk” might not get a chance to come out and play this weekend. There’s the threat of bad weather related to Hurricane Matthew.

If that’s the case, Harvick won’t get to channel the powers of “Nighthawk” until the closing laps of the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While the race starts around 3 p.m. ET, the checkered flag will wave at night.

That’s worked out for Harvick the last two times he has raced there. He won the race and the title in 2014. Last year, he finished second to Busch.

Follow @DanielMcFadin