Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 5, 2018, 9:07 a.m.
This is known of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s a lesson that lingered for a week and shows no signs of abatement.
It’s not Kevin Harvick’s job to slow down. It’s Harvick’s job to go as fast as he can, competition be damned.
“I’m just fortunate to be riding the wave, and you can call me old, you can call us old, but cars are fast and things are going well,” he said after making a mockery of the competition for the second Sunday in a row.
Age isn’t a factor. Harvick makes this self-evident as he is 42. In a season that was forecast to be marked by youthful emergence and Ford struggles, Harvick is dominating the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in a Ford. He led 214 out of 267 laps in Vegas a week after leading 181 out of 325 in Hampton, Georgia. Harvick is batting .667 in both races and, since the Daytona 500, laps led.
How’s that for consistency?
The Fords? The manufacturer whose drivers — okay, mainly Brad Keselowski — left Homestead last November fretting about being able to keep up with the dominant Toyotas and the spanking-new Camaros? Oh, they captured six out of the top 10 positions: Harvick, fifth-place Blaney, sixth-place Brad Keselowski, seventh-place Joey Logano, ninth-place Paul Menard, and 10th-place Aric Almirola.
It’s been 25 years since the conspiracists in the stands alleged that NASCAR and Ford were sharing the same bed. It’ll happen soon. Harvick might as well be sitting behind a grassy knoll instead of a steering wheel.
At age 42, Harvick is the biggest star to come out of Bakersfield, California, since Merle Haggard, and Merle, sadly, is gone. Sunday marked Harvick’s 100th NASCAR “touring series” (Cup, Xfinity, Camping World Truck) victory. That’s 39 Cup, 47 Xfinity and 14 Truck in case you’re keeping a scorecard at home.
“Touring series” victories are meaningful to busybodies and anathema to purists, but Harvick’s body of work, which includes a Cup championship, is going to put him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame someday.
Harvick cannot possibly keep up this pace. Those who couldn’t keep him in sight are redoubling their efforts. Domination is fleeting in modern NASCAR, which goes to great lengths to prevent it on paper if they can’t manage it on the track. Besides, the next race is at ISM Raceway (heretofore Phoenix), where Harvick has only won, oh, eight times. The track has been changed, and the folks who run the place claim the changes weren’t even made to stop Harvick.
Didn’t hurt, though.
At the moment, if the next race required driving up a ramp and through a flaming hoop at the start-finish line, Harvick would be favored.
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