A NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory?
That’s gold, Jerry. Gold.
Actually, winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race might be better than gold.
Never in the 65-year history of the series has a win held this much importance. It means more than a trophy, and a trip to Victory Lane.
In all likelihood, it means a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; a chance at a championship. It means hope.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows the feeling, winning the Daytona 500 and admitting he can now take bigger swings in the hopes of piling up victory after victory.
And now Kevin Harvick knows the spoils of a victory. His dominant – and with a Driver Rating of 149.9, near-perfect – win at Phoenix put the Chase directly in his cross hairs.
Both Earnhardt and Harvick will make the Chase unless there are more than 15 different winners in the first 26 races – something that’s happened only twice in the 65-year history of the sNASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In other words, they should feel pretty good.
And after this weekend, Harvick might feel even better. Another win would leave only two hurdles left to clear to lock up a Chase spot – finishing in the top 30 and attempting to qualify for every race. A second win would mathematically guarantee that he – or anyone – would be among the top 15 winners.
Harvick has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but has come close. He scored a runner-up finish in in 2010, part of an overall Vegas record that includes three top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 12.7. He finished ninth last season, driving for Richard Childress Racing.
This, too, might play into Harvick’s hands: his crew chief, Rodney Childers. Though this weekend will be Childers’ first at Vegas with Harvick, he has plenty of experience there. In seven starts, Childers has called the shots at Vegas for four different drivers. His best finish is fourth, with David Reutimann in 2009.
Harvick’s boss – Tony Stewart – might actually run a tad better. Including a Vegas win in 2012, Stewart has scored three top 10s in the last four races at the 1.5-mile track. In 2011 and 2012, he led more than 100 laps per race. Last season, he finished 11th.