Entering the penultimate race at Phoenix in last place among Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders, Kevin Harvick could only guarantee himself a spot in The Championship 4 by winning at the Arizona track. Shrugging off the pressure, Harvick turned in a dominant performance leading 264 of 312 laps on his way to Victory Lane.
Now, Harvick heads into Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship Round Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) needing just one more clutch performance to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in his 14 years competing on the circuit.
Following last Sunday’s showdown at Phoenix, Harvick and the three other drivers who advanced to The Championship 4 – Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman – had their points reset to 5,000. At Homestead, the format is simple. Drivers cannot earn bonus points for leading laps. Whoever crosses the line first among the quartet will win the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. None of the drivers have ever won a NSCS title, guaranteeing that the series will crown its 30th champion in its 66-year history.
Harvick, whose 109.9 driver rating and 2,083 laps led lead the series, has to like his odds of taking home his first title. He has finished higher than Logano, Hamlin and Newman in 11 races this season – the most of the Championship 4. Comparatively, Logano was the highest finisher of the four in 10 races; Hamlin in eight and Newman in six.
Although he has never won at Homestead, he has been highly successful at the 1.5-mile track with five top fives, 11 tops 10s and an average finish of 8.1 in 13 starts. The No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet driver has two victories in the past five weeks and four total this season.
If Harvick wins the championship, he would join Bobby Labonte and Brad Keselowski as only the third driver to boast both a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Competing in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, he would earn the organization its second premier series title.