NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Wins His Second All-Star Race

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Wins His Second All-Star Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

When Kevin Harvick got to the front in Saturday's All-Star race he was unbeatable. He dominated the first and final stages Saturday night, reminiscent of his incredible pace early this season. The night was one of an experimental rules package and unique format, but still it was Harvick who came out on top. It was his sixth win of the season and his second in the history of the exhibition.

While Harvick continued his trend of dominance Saturday night there isn't much the other teams will be able to carry forward in preparation for this week's Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR implemented a unique aerodynamic package as well as restricted engines like at Daytona and Talladega. The racing we will see this weekend will be very different than what we saw Saturday. Still, it wouldn't be a tough choice if you wanted to go ahead and build lineups around Harvick as early as tomorrow.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – A new aerodynamic package and a slightly unusual race format still couldn't slow down the streaking Harvick. The dominant driver so far in 2018 won another in Saturday's All-Star race. He even kicked off the night by dominating the opening 30-lap stage. He fell to midpack for the next two stages, but took advantage of an early stop under caution to gain back track position to close out the final two stages. He's usually quick in points-paying races at this track, too. He has just one finish outside of the top 10 in the

When Kevin Harvick got to the front in Saturday's All-Star race he was unbeatable. He dominated the first and final stages Saturday night, reminiscent of his incredible pace early this season. The night was one of an experimental rules package and unique format, but still it was Harvick who came out on top. It was his sixth win of the season and his second in the history of the exhibition.

While Harvick continued his trend of dominance Saturday night there isn't much the other teams will be able to carry forward in preparation for this week's Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR implemented a unique aerodynamic package as well as restricted engines like at Daytona and Talladega. The racing we will see this weekend will be very different than what we saw Saturday. Still, it wouldn't be a tough choice if you wanted to go ahead and build lineups around Harvick as early as tomorrow.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – A new aerodynamic package and a slightly unusual race format still couldn't slow down the streaking Harvick. The dominant driver so far in 2018 won another in Saturday's All-Star race. He even kicked off the night by dominating the opening 30-lap stage. He fell to midpack for the next two stages, but took advantage of an early stop under caution to gain back track position to close out the final two stages. He's usually quick in points-paying races at this track, too. He has just one finish outside of the top 10 in the last 10 attempts at the circuit. His pace early in this two-week stretch in Charlotte has to have the rest of the garage worried.

Kyle Busch – Busch was the first to topple Harvick, and he did it in the second stage. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver worked his way into the top spot, and then only had to hold off teammate Daniel Suarez to take the stage win. He looked primed to be battling for a top finish until he became a party to the multi-car wreck at the end of the third stage. The team made repairs and he rejoined the fray, but Busch couldn't reach the big payoff after the trouble. Busch has never won a points-paying race at Charlotte. He finished runner-up in the 600-mile race last season and has 11 top-fives from 28 career starts at the track.

Alex Bowman – Bowman won the opening stage of the preceding Open race to become the first driver to transfer into the main event. That small victory may prove to be extremely valuable to the team as they continue to progress and improve their results. Bowman had been consistently improving each week, but hit a small rough patch before the All-Star weekend. That stage win will give him confidence to realize he can get the job done and it should give the team a shot in the arm. While we wouldn't expect Bowman to be in contention for the win at Charlotte next week, this past week's performance should see him back on track and getting faster each week as the season progresses.

Matt Kenseth – After just one race back in action, Kenseth put together two laps and a pit stop faster than the rest of the All-Star contenders. It was a big boost for him and the organization, which has been searching for some success with which to rally behind. Entering Saturday night's even Kenseth wasn't confident in his car's handling, and late contact in the multicar crash left him with a 14th-place finish. While the race itself didn't pan out as the team would have hoped, it was still a weekend of progress. Kenseth has won both the spring and fall races at Charlotte, but hasn't done so since 2011. He finished fourth and 11th in his two efforts there last season.

DOWNGRADE

Kurt Busch – Busch was the first driver to bring out a caution Saturday night when he got loose and made contact with the outside wall. The damage to the rear was significant given the aerodynamic package the series was trying out, and he was at the back of the pack for the start of the second stage. He ultimately was part of the multicar wreck that extended the third stage but was an innocent bystander in that incident. While he had a competitive car, the circumstances just didn't play out for him, largely due to his very first error of losing control. Busch won the 600-mile race in 2010 with Penske Racing, and finished sixth and 22nd in the two visits last year.

Alex Bowman – Saturday night started brilliantly for Bowman; he won the first stage of the Open and got a shot at his first All-Star race. Unfortunately, he became the third caution period of the race due to contact. He, like Kurt Busch, lost control midturn and hit the outside wall. The team sent him straight to the garage due to the damage and that was the end of his exciting night. Bowman did give the team something to rally behind with that Open stage win, but it may be back to reality this week. Hendrick Motorsports still has plenty of work to do to understand this new Chevrolet, and Bowman will be a risky fantasy play until they accomplish that.

A.J. Allmendinger – Allmendinger drive valiantly to win a stage in the Open to get his shot at the All-Star race. When the main event began, he made swift work of the back of the field and was racing in the top five by the end of the first stage. He made some brilliant moves and clearly was confident in his car's handling. Unfortunately, that aggressiveness cost him in the second stage when he scuffed the outside wall. He was forced to pit early due to the contact and went a lap down in doing so. Allmendinger's best Charlotte finishes came in 2011 when he finished fifth and seventh. He missed the top 15 in both tries last season.

Kasey Kahne – Kahne got caught in traffic late in the third stage and lost control, tagging the outside wall and bringing out the caution. He ran decently up until that issue, benefitting from the pack-style racing the rules package created. Still, he wasn't able to get his car too close to the front and was never truly a factor in the outcome despite finishing 10th. It's a shame Kahne isn't in a very competitive machine this week, because he has typically been pretty quick at Charlotte. He has four wins at the circuit and finished ninth there last fall. While he should outperform his early season results this week, he likely isn't going to have the horsepower and speed to be up front.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex entered Saturday night among the favorites and was on course to battle for the win throughout most of the race. It all came undone for him at the end of the third stage when he got together with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., though. Stenhouse was on the bottom of a four-wide run through the turn and clipped Truex's rear, which send the No. 78 spinning into harm's way. With that, the team was done for the night and began the process of preparing for this Sunday's marathon race. Truex should be confident heading into that race, however. He dominated the distance in 2016 and returned to claim victory in the fall last season. Last week's exhibition disappointment should be quickly forgotten.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Daniel Suarez – Suarez pieced together an impressive night in the Open and All-Star races. He was competitive in the Open, and became one of the stage winners to advance into the All-Star race where he then worked to put himself into position to win the big paycheck. He narrowly missed overtaking Harvick in the final restart, but it wasn't to be. Suarez seemed to revel in the rules package at the speedway, and impressively outperformed his more experienced teammates in Busch and Hamlin. The second-year driver was also good at Charlotte last season under the normal aerodynamic rules. He finished 11th and sixth in the two stops last season, and fantasy owners should definitely keep track of him as this week's return to points racing gets underway.

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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.
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