Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 9, 2018, 2:59 p.m.
Kevin Harvick looks nothing like an elephant, and ISM (nee Phoenix) Raceway is ill described as a room, but all eyes are on the driver as NASCAR converges on the Valley of the Sun.
ISM, by the way, stands for Ingenuity Sun Media.
Harvick hasn’t merely won the past two races, in Hampton, Ga., and Las Vegas, Nev. He has dominated them. He has beaten them up and stomped them flat. NASCAR officials penalized his team this week because meticulous observers noted that the rear window in his Ford Fusion habitually sagged on the right side when at speed. Though speed alone may have caused his rear roof to sag because it was that much faster than all the other cars, crew chief Rodney Childers and others cited the fluke collapse of a support.
In the aftermath, the only delighted fans are those who delight in Harvick. His sheer success has herded those who dislike him, Fords, and habitual supremacy into one angry mob.
Harvick doesn’t care. He hasn’t lost a minute’s sleep. If he’s dreamed at all, they have been pleasant. Three races into season, he is on top.
Oh, yeah. Harvick has won a mere eight times at The Track Now Named for ISM. He hasn’t won there since it’s been slightly reconfigured, but it is impossible for a rational man or woman to cast him in any role other than favorite.
Twenty-seven years ago, Harvick crashed in the Daytona 500. Oh, wait. That’s incorrect. It was February 18.
Each week Harvick wreaks havoc on those scrambling in his wake, the odds dwindle of it continuing. Theoretically, he is raising the level of competition, causing those behind him to work harder and harder to erase his advantage. On the other hand, he exerts great pressure while he can rest assured on confidence nurtured by the cool breeze he is on.
The Valley of the Sun is not noted for its cool breezes. As the race beckons, Harvick is a meteorological oddity.
“It just motivates us,” he said in a media conference at the track. “I can’t wait to win another race and jump up and down in victory lane on the back of my car.”
He’d best stay clear of the rear-window glass.
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