NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Advances in Chase with Win

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Advances in Chase with Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kevin Harvick overcame the fastest competitors Sunday in New Hampshire to score a vital win that guarantees himself a spot in the final 12 contenders to lift the 2016 Sprint Cup trophy. Martin Truex Jr. and the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were the dominant teams throughout the weekend in New Hampshire, but late cautions and the right decisions to pit for fresh tires led Harvick to the opportunities he took advantage of in the final restarts. He was in position and capitalized upon Matt Kenseth's tire spin on the final restart and cruised home to the all-important win on Sunday.

The final race of he round of 16 in the Chase comes next at Dover International Speedway. Only 12 drivers will remain with a chance of lifting the Sprint Cup, and four will remain fighting for fifth in the final standings. Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, Tony Stewart, and Jamie McMurray are on the outside looking in, but all it takes is one victory to move on. The order is sure to be jumbled even further after Dover.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick pulled off another Chase victory when he took full advantage of the circumstances that played out at the end of the Bad Boy Off Road 300 last week in New Hampshire. The former champion did not have the greatest start to his championship fight in Chicago, but got the job done on Sunday. He now heads to Dover knowing that his spot in the final 12 contenders for

Kevin Harvick overcame the fastest competitors Sunday in New Hampshire to score a vital win that guarantees himself a spot in the final 12 contenders to lift the 2016 Sprint Cup trophy. Martin Truex Jr. and the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were the dominant teams throughout the weekend in New Hampshire, but late cautions and the right decisions to pit for fresh tires led Harvick to the opportunities he took advantage of in the final restarts. He was in position and capitalized upon Matt Kenseth's tire spin on the final restart and cruised home to the all-important win on Sunday.

The final race of he round of 16 in the Chase comes next at Dover International Speedway. Only 12 drivers will remain with a chance of lifting the Sprint Cup, and four will remain fighting for fifth in the final standings. Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, Tony Stewart, and Jamie McMurray are on the outside looking in, but all it takes is one victory to move on. The order is sure to be jumbled even further after Dover.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick pulled off another Chase victory when he took full advantage of the circumstances that played out at the end of the Bad Boy Off Road 300 last week in New Hampshire. The former champion did not have the greatest start to his championship fight in Chicago, but got the job done on Sunday. He now heads to Dover knowing that his spot in the final 12 contenders for the Chase is secure. Had his spot not been secure he would still feel pretty good about his Dover chances. He has just one track win, but led at least 90 laps in the last four races at the track picking up two top-five finishes in the span as well.

Martin Truex Jr. –
Truex in picked up in New Hampshire right where he left off by winning in Chicago the prior week. The long green-flag stretch to open the race was commanded by the No. 78. His pace rarely declined throughout the race, but late caution periods tend to jumble the finishing order late in the distance. That is exactly what stopped the No. 78 team from visiting Victory Lane for the second consecutive week. Still, this team may have the most momentum at this point in the Chase, and should not be counted out in any given week. The only Dover top-five for Truex was his win in 2007, but he hasn't finished worse than 11th there in the last five races.

Matt Kenseth –
After winning two New Hampshire races in a row it was Kenseth that was able to challenge Martin Truex Jr. for the lead, but unable to hold off Kevin Harvick through the final restarts of Sunday's race. The No. 20 moved to the front of the field after the halfway mark after being behind his teammates for much of practice and qualifying, but made significant progress during the race and ended up finishing a confident second-place at the end of the 300 laps. Kenseth is a three-time Dover winner, and he won at the track earlier this year leading 48 laps. With four top-10s in the last five Dover races Kenseth may head into this week's race as a favorite.

Chase Elliott –
After narrowly missing out his first victory in Chicago, Elliott continued to impress in New Hampshire. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was a consistent feature in the top five throughout the race distance on Sunday, but the cards he played with at the end of the race left him at a disadvantage to the leaders. His decision not to pit for tires through the final restarts cost him dearly, though. Had the team elected to stop for fresh rubber he may have secured a better finish, but his excellent effort was only rewarded with a 13th-place finish. Elliott has only raced once at Dover in the Sprint Cup series and he finished third in that try earlier this season.

Kyle Busch –
We usually talk about the Penske Racing teammates as being the best at piecing together the fastest cars for the end of any given race, but on Sunday in New Hampshire that honor went to Busch and his crew. The car came on so strongly after the decision to make a late stop under caution that he was the fastest car on track in the final laps. One final restart left him behind the top two finishers, but third was still the result of decisions late in the race. Busch has two Dover wins, but has crashed out in three of the last six events at the circuit. His inconsistency could come into question next week in the final race of the first knockout round in the Chase.

DOWNGRADE

Carl Edwards – Despite starting from pole in New Hampshire Edwards was unable to capitalize. A late penalty on pit road put him to the back of the field for the final laps, but the truth was that he didn't have the pace of the other cars for much of Sunday's race. He has said that this year may be his best opportunity to win a championship, but he'll need to race better than he has recently if he wants to realize that dream. Edwards does have one track win at Dover, but hasn't finished in the top 10 there since a fifth-place run in the fall of 2012. He crashed out of the race there earlier this season after leading 27 laps.

Austin Dillon –
It took a late caution for Dillon to be able to move back onto the lead lap with less than 20 laps remaining in Sunday's race. After damaging his primary car in the first practice he was forced into the back-up car. That move may have been the downfall of his weekend because he was never on pace with the rest of the Chase field after making the switch. Sixteenth position was where he finished, and that is simply not enough to continue his fight. Now Dillon is facing a long shot chance of keeping his hope alive for another three races. His Dover record wouldn't suggest he could get the job done either. In six career track starts he has yet to score a single top-10 finish.

Jamie McMurray –
McMurray was one of a handful of cars where late-race decisions worked against him. He decided not to pit for tires under caution late in the race, lost position, and then decided to make the change under the next period of yellow. The second move to change tires was the right call, but it came about 10 laps too late for McMurray to really make any impact. He had already fallen too far behind those drivers that did, and 19th-place was the best he could do. McMurray now heads to Dover needing to have one of the best races of his career, and certainly the best Dover race of his career. He has never won at the track, but does have two top-10 finishes in the last four races.

Chris Buescher –
A 30th-place run in New Hampshire virtually guarantees that Buescher will be exiting his first run in the Chase after the race in Dover next week. While his team deserves all the credit in the world in making the championship fight, they simply have not been competitive enough consistently throughout the season to warrant a spot in the final 12 contending for the Sprint Cup. Buescher has to win next week to advance, but even the most optimistic wouldn't give him much opportunity of doing so. His 30th-place run at New Hampshire put one more nail into the coffin, and we fully expect Buescher to be eliminated next week. He finished 18th there earlier this year, but only a win will do this time.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ryan Newman – For Newman to qualify inside the top five along with his past career at New Hampshire to have the race he did on Sunday is a terrible outcome. He narrowly missed out on making the Chase this season after an incident with Tony Stewart, but he hasn't been able to demonstrate that he would be a championship contender if he had made the championship fight. The consistent top finishes that got Newman to Homestead a few season ago is not present in the team currently. We head to another track where Newman has three victories this week in Dover. However, he has only led six laps there in the last 10 races and has failed to finish inside the top 15 in the last three.

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: NASCAR All-Star Race
NASCAR DFS: NASCAR All-Star Race
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Wright Brand 250
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Wright Brand 250
NASCAR All-Star Race Preview: Old School All-Star Race
NASCAR All-Star Race Preview: Old School All-Star Race
NASCAR Barometer: Brad Keselowski Snaps Wins Drought with Darlington Victory
NASCAR Barometer: Brad Keselowski Snaps Wins Drought with Darlington Victory