If history is any indication, then it’s likely that Kevin Harvick will be in the mix on Sunday when the laps are winding down at Auto Club Speedway.
Harvick, 36, is the defending race winner at the California track, having chased down Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch in the closing laps of last year’s event, eventually flashing past the five-time Cup champion with less than half a lap remaining.
He chased Johnson down in 2010 as well, until contact with the wall less than three laps from the end cost him a shot at the victory.
Harvick has finished 10th or better in his last four starts and in six of his last seven at the 2.0-mile track and currently sits second in points, trailing leader Greg Biffle by nine.
“It’s been a good race track for us, especially over the last several years,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said Wednesday. “For whatever reason, it’s been a fun race track to run on, just because the track is getting worn out and there are some bumps and the groove has moved all over the place.
“It’s been awhile since we had won something there. ... To get that [win] under our belt and to come back this year with a decent start ... we are all pretty excited.”
Harvick, who has 18 career Cup wins, has had better starts to a season – he opened 2010 with four consecutive top-10s and led the points – but he’s also started off in much worse shape. A year ago, he was 15th in points through the season’s first four races.
The 2011 win at California, however, jumpstarted Harvick’s season, vaulting him into the top 10 in points. A win the following week at Martinsville put him solidly inside the top five. He would go on to win two more races and finish third in points for the second consecutive season.
As well as his team has performed this year, Harvick says there is still room for improvement.
“We have not had everything go 100 percent correctly,” he said. “With the wreck last week at Bristol and obviously with the mistake at Las Vegas – we’ve made some mistakes. We still have a lot to do to make things better.”
Harvick finished 11th at Bristol after battling back from damage sustained in an early seven-car accident. Although able to continue following repairs to his car, the race was past its halfway point before Harvick found himself back inside the top 15.
“By the time they told me to check up, I was in it,” he said of the accident. “I didn’t even have time to touch the brakes before I was into the car in front of me. All in all, I think we had a fairly decent day considering all the damage.”
A week earlier at Las Vegas, lost track position during pit stops left Harvick battling race traffic for much of the second half of the race. He made up nine spots in the closing laps to finish 11th and move into second in the standings.
Now, with the series’ fifth stop on the horizon, Harvick says he is looking forward to a return to the west coast track.
“It’s one of those race tracks that the tires just wear out a lot,” he said. “You can move around the race track and you have to kind of search for grip; [there’s] a lot of throttle control and momentum to go along with that.
“It’s a race track that fits our cars and our engine package and our driving styles. Really, as a company we run well there.”
Story courtesy of Kenny Bruce and SceneDaily.com: