NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Speeds to Kansas Win

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Speeds to Kansas Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Martin Truex Jr. wasn't able to steal Kevin Harvick's victory Saturday night in the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing team tried to use track position to hold off the streaking Harvick, but the No. 4's fresher tires were more than Truex could handle, as Harvick closed him down and made the pass for the win.

The race initially set up a battle between Harvick and Kyle Larson as the pair dueled for supremacy early in the race. That battle was nixed when Larson made contact with Ryan Blaney, giving both machines damage. Larson soldiered on, but the speed bump proved too much to overcome before the finish. That left a late red flag period to set up a battle of track position versus fresh tires, and Harvick made sure that the fresh tire option won.

On tap are two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a build up to the biggest weekend in motorsport. The Showdown and All-Star Race are first up. NASCAR will use a new rules package in those events to spice up the already intense action, but most teams focus on returning to points-paying opportunities two weeks out in the traditional Memorial Day weekend 600-mile race. Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have the current advantage, but this weekend's exhibition races could signal who will come out on top the following week in the season's longest race of the year.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick picked up in Kansas right where he left off

Martin Truex Jr. wasn't able to steal Kevin Harvick's victory Saturday night in the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing team tried to use track position to hold off the streaking Harvick, but the No. 4's fresher tires were more than Truex could handle, as Harvick closed him down and made the pass for the win.

The race initially set up a battle between Harvick and Kyle Larson as the pair dueled for supremacy early in the race. That battle was nixed when Larson made contact with Ryan Blaney, giving both machines damage. Larson soldiered on, but the speed bump proved too much to overcome before the finish. That left a late red flag period to set up a battle of track position versus fresh tires, and Harvick made sure that the fresh tire option won.

On tap are two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a build up to the biggest weekend in motorsport. The Showdown and All-Star Race are first up. NASCAR will use a new rules package in those events to spice up the already intense action, but most teams focus on returning to points-paying opportunities two weeks out in the traditional Memorial Day weekend 600-mile race. Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have the current advantage, but this weekend's exhibition races could signal who will come out on top the following week in the season's longest race of the year.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick picked up in Kansas right where he left off at Dover. He started the weekend by winning the pole for Saturday night's race and then led until the initial competition caution period. His pace didn't diminish after that, and he came on strongly at the finish, using his fresher tires to chase down Truex and make a late pass to snag another win in his memorable 2018 season. Nothing seems to be stopping this charge, and Charlotte could produce even more success for the squad. Harvick has three Charlotte wins and started from pole in two of the last three races there. Most impressively, he also only has two finishes outside of the top 10 there in the last 15 races.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex came from virtually nowhere to factor seriously into the finish Saturday night. He leveraged a late caution to gain track position and take the lead for the final laps in a duel with Harvick for the win. He wasn't able to hold off the No. 4 car that had fresher tires for the win but he turned an otherwise unmemorable night into a battle for a win with a runner-up finish. Truex returns to the site he has dominated recently. His two Charlotte wins have come in the last two seasons. He added 716 laps led to his tally at the track in that span, which will make fantasy players eager to add him to their lineups in the coming weeks.

Joey Logano – Logano ran a relatively quiet race Saturday night but maintained position near the front throughout to finish an impressive third for the team. Those types of races add valuable points to the season's tally that set up championship runs in the playoffs. Logano already has a win in his pocket, and additional top-fives give the team confidence to draw from and improve upon as the season moves on. This team also has been strong at Charlotte in the past, which could serve to build even more momentum in the coming weeks. Logano won there in fall of 2015 but hasn't finished in the top 10 for the last three races. They will return there this week confident they can break that streak.

Kyle Larson – Larson was forced to start deep in the field after spinning in qualifying and changing those tires, but plowed his way forward in the running exceptionally quickly. He maintained that speed through the second stage to take the segment win for his first stage win since last season, too. Close racing with Blaney cut short what could have been a run of the win when the two made contact, but Larson was able to stay in the race and ultimately salvaged a top-five finish despite rear-end damage from the incident. Larson has never won a regular-season race at Charlotte, but he did lead 12 laps on his way to a 10th-place finish there last fall. He appears close to a 2018 win, too.

DOWNGRADE

Ryan Blaney – Blaney used the competition caution to beat leader Harvick out of the pits, and then went on to lead the rest of the first stage to claim the segment win. He did well to stay inside the top five for most of the distance, leading 53 laps, until a late battle with Larson generated contact and a cut tire, sending Blaney into the wall and to the garage. It was a disappointing ending to such a promising race for the team, but at least they gained a stage victory before ending the night. Blaney has just one top-10 at Charlotte and will look to improve his fortunes at the track over the next two weeks.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer was an innocent bystander in a wreck that took him out of his home race. His frustrating weekend began with him unable to make a qualifying lap after not making it through inspection. He then fought hard in the race to move forward as quickly as possible but ultimately had his night ended earlier than planned when William Byron lost control on his inside and took him out of the race in the biggest crash of the night. Bowyer has won at Charlotte in the past and also has been running well so far this season. He will be eyeing the next two weeks at that track as an opportunity to restore some of that finishing power.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson was forced into an unscheduled stop under green in the first segment after a string of issues on the prior stop led to a loose wheel that he couldn't ignore. He battled valiantly to stay just one lap down before the stage one finish but couldn't repeat that versus Larson in the second. The race became an exercise in surviving until the finish at that point, and the car never had the pace to contend for anything more than a top-20 run. They barely scraped into that with a 19th-place finish in what was a terribly disappointing night for the former champions. Johnson has eight regular-season Charlotte wins and is in desperate need of something to improve his season.

Brad Keselowski – A quick car went south on Keselowski in Kansas. After running toward the front early in the race, he wound up two laps off the lead at the start of the final stage and fell further as the miles clicked off. Staying in the fight and making laps allowed him to take advantage of attrition to move back into the top 15 by the finish, but that isn't the type of race for which this team strives. The team knows they are capable of more than a 14th-place result. Keselowski won the fall Charlotte race in 2013, and had been on a run of four consecutive top-10 finishes at the track before struggling last season with a best finish of 15th in the 600-mile race.

Daniel Suarez – After a strong afternoon at Dover, Suarez was on course for maintaining momentum in Kansas until he got loose. His car skidded a bit off of turn 2 and tapped the wall, which ultimately sent him into the side of Alex Bowman as well. Suarez's machine had some significant damage that the team tried to fix on pit road, but with little attrition, there was virtually no opportunity to salvage many points. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had some good races at Charlotte last season, finishing 11th in the 600-mile race and then picking up a sixth-place finish in the fall. The lesson to fantasy players is that this team remains inconsistent, and a top finish one week doesn't mean it will continue the next.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Erik Jones – After a few weeks of disappointment, Erik Jones can now point to Kansas as a step on his route to the front of the field. It wasn't a flashy performance like we've seen at times from the first-year Gibbs driver, but it was a confidence builder in that he survived the distance and scored a seventh-place finish. That was his first top-10 since Texas and just his second top-15 in the same period. The team and driver needed a confident finish, and that's what they got last week. They now face two weeks at Charlotte where Jones also scored a top-10 last season. Last week's Kansas finish could be the boost they need to replicate that in 2018.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the EchoPark Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the EchoPark Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS:  AutoTrader EchoPark  Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS: AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 Preview: New Date for Texas
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 Preview: New Date for Texas
NASCAR DFS Trucks:  SpeedyCash.com 250
NASCAR DFS Trucks: SpeedyCash.com 250