NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Wins Sixth Race of 2018

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Wins Sixth Race of 2018

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kevin Harvick won Sunday's rain-delayed Foxwoods Casino 301 to grab his sixth win of the season and third at New Hampshire International Speedway. His team gave him the best car on long runs in the field, and circumstances allowed him to close down Kyle Busch in the final laps. Slight contact between the pair allowed Harvick through to regain his spot atop of the series standings. It appeared that the Toyotas of Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had closed the gap to Harvick's dominance in recent weeks, but the Stewart-Haas Racing team had things firmly in hand. With Kurt Busch on pole, Harvick's win, and Aric Almirola's strong run, it appears as though the SHR Fords have another gear to grab as the playoffs approach.

This week the series returns to Pocono Raceway where Truex won earlier this season. All three of the top contenders led laps that afternoon, and are likely to again be the favorites this week. The coming weeks are shaping up to be a battle of titans as the race to the playoffs continues.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick had the car to beat on long runs Sunday in New Hampshire. The race truly came his direction as the final stage played out. He battled with teammate Almirola and championship rival Kyle Busch in the final 100 laps, and ultimately made the move on Busch that made him the first driver to reach six wins in 2018. The win was his first since Kansas, and it

Kevin Harvick won Sunday's rain-delayed Foxwoods Casino 301 to grab his sixth win of the season and third at New Hampshire International Speedway. His team gave him the best car on long runs in the field, and circumstances allowed him to close down Kyle Busch in the final laps. Slight contact between the pair allowed Harvick through to regain his spot atop of the series standings. It appeared that the Toyotas of Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had closed the gap to Harvick's dominance in recent weeks, but the Stewart-Haas Racing team had things firmly in hand. With Kurt Busch on pole, Harvick's win, and Aric Almirola's strong run, it appears as though the SHR Fords have another gear to grab as the playoffs approach.

This week the series returns to Pocono Raceway where Truex won earlier this season. All three of the top contenders led laps that afternoon, and are likely to again be the favorites this week. The coming weeks are shaping up to be a battle of titans as the race to the playoffs continues.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick had the car to beat on long runs Sunday in New Hampshire. The race truly came his direction as the final stage played out. He battled with teammate Almirola and championship rival Kyle Busch in the final 100 laps, and ultimately made the move on Busch that made him the first driver to reach six wins in 2018. The win was his first since Kansas, and it erased any thoughts that he and the team had lost ground to the other top contenders. Fantasy owners will again have three top drivers to carefully select next week in Pocono. Harvick will assuredly be one with four consecutive top-fives and a fourth-place finish there in the spring.

Kyle Busch – Busch struggled in the second segment of Sunday's race, but the team overhauled the car's handling with adjustments in the final stage. Those wholesale changes gave him what he needed to move back into the top five after briefly slipping outside of the top 10. He took the lead with a fast stop under caution, but didn't have the car to hold off the charging Harvick in the final 20 laps. He will settle for second but grow hungry for another victory. Busch has one Pocono win from 27 starts, and hasn't finished outside of the top 10 there since the spring of 2016. He consistently leads laps at the circuit, and fantasy players should expect him to be at the front again this week.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex picked up right where he left off last week by scoring the win in the first segment after the rain delay in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the domination that he had two weeks ago didn't go further than that. His car faded in the middle portion of the distance, and he wasn't able to make the adjustments he needed to get back out front as his championship rivals battled to be the first to score six wins this season. Still, things are looking very good for this team right now. He's entering this weekend's race as the hottest driver fantasy players could choose with a chance to sweep the victories at Pocono Raceway to further destroy his competition.

Kurt Busch –Busch had almost everything going his way in New Hampshire. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver put his car on pole and had a car quick enough to battle at the front of the field throughout the rain delayed race on Sunday. A close call on pit road with neighbor Ryan Blaney caused him to lose track position, and it just took too long for him to recover from that, so he settled for an eighth-place finish. Busch has three career Pocono wins but finished just 19th there earlier this season. If he is able to carry the pace he had over the weekend into this week's race he could be capable of visiting Victory lane.

Chase Elliott – Elliott was a legitimate contender Sunday in New Hampshire. He and the Chevrolet-powered teams have taken a long time to get up to speed and truly be competitive this season, but things were clicking for him on Sunday. He led laps in the second stage after battling Truex and went on to capture the stage victory. That was his first stage win of the season. Elliott has only failed to finish in the top 10 in one of his five series starts at the circuit, and he had a top-10 result there earlier this year. The team looks to have more speed now, which could be a good omen for his chances of another top finish this week.

DOWNGRADE

Denny Hamlin – Many expected Hamlin to be challenging for the win Sunday but he seemed to fade as quickly as the race got underway. The team had plenty of time to correct whatever was slowing Hamlin down, but he was still running outside of the top 15 as the final stage got underway. Hamlin is winless in 2018 and has a mountain to climb to be a contender in the championship fight. Pressure continues to build on this team, and another poor outing this week at Pocono could be detrimental to its confidence. Hamlin has won four times at this circuit but crashed out of the spring visit this season. Building momentum with top-10 efforts is what this team needs now. Victory appears too far out of reach at the moment.

Erik Jones – The No. 20 team did not live up to the expectations they had heading into New Hampshire. An errant tire pressure adjustment in the second stage gave him a loose car that sent him tumbling through the field. Earlier he had endured bumps from a number of other cars on course, and it simply was a difficult day for him and the team. His spot in the playoffs is secure thanks to a win, but reality suggests it will be difficult to advance far into the knockout stages unless significant improvements are discovered. Time is running out to find those changes, but a visit to Pocono could be good timing. With two top-10s from three starts, Jones should have a chance to reverse his slide.

A.J. Allmendinger – Contact with Ryan Newman caused a cut tire, which sent Allmendinger spinning into the wall early in Sunday's New Hampshire visit. Allmendinger has been struggling much of the season and probably only has one or two more shots at grabbing a win that would redeem his year. Pocono Raceway isn't one of those, but the visit to Watkins Glen in two weeks is. Allmendinger's best finishes so far this season have come on the flat tracks and the superspeedways. His two career top-10 Pocono finishes aren't inspiring, and fantasy players would do best to put him in the garage until the series unloads at Watkins Glen, where Allmendinger has a win and six top-10s from nine career starts.

Daniel Suarez – New Hampshire had been one of the tracks Suarez felt most confident that he would outperform his 2018 results, but that optimism didn't pan out on Sunday. He described the flat oval as similar to circuits he grew up racing on in Mexico, and past results for him had been good. All of those hopes faded Sunday as he struggled to even stay inside the top 10. Instead of outperforming, the team actually underperformed. They, like many others, will feel the pressure building as the regular season approaches its end. His visit to Pocono earlier this season wasn't as strong as it was in 2017, and he will need something better than that 24th-place finish from the spring this time.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Aric Almirola – Almirola had a lot of things going his direction last week at New Hampshire. The SHR teammate nailed the setup from the start, and ran among the leaders throughout the distance. A slightly slow stop under caution late in the race may have been the only reason Almirola didn't get the win, which is representative of the huge leap forward in performance he has made this season. He continues to rewrite his statistics with this team, and the best measure of Almirola at Pocono for fantasy owners would be his only visit with SHR. His highest finish prior to joining SHR was 18th, but he drove from the 34th starting position to seventh earlier this season.

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.
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak
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