NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Gets First 2019 Win

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Gets First 2019 Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kevin Harvick used tire strategy to gain track position for the final restart of Sunday's Foxwoods Casino Resort 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which he used to seize his first victory of 2019. The final laps were not easy on Harvick as he had to hold off an aggressive Denny Hamlin, who led the most laps in the race and dominated most of the afternoon. Contact between the pair made for an exciting and tense final lap, but Harvick came out on top to end his winless streak that stretched all the way back to November of last season.

This week, the series heads back to Pocono Raceway where Kyle Busch has won the past two races. Harvick has never won at the track, but with the monkey off his back it will be exciting to see what he is able to accomplish. Six races remain before the playoffs begin. While Harvick's win doesn't change the picture much, the battle is heating up around the cutoff line. Jimmie Johnson's troubles Sunday dropped him behind the line and Clint Bowyer is clinging to a slim advantage in 16th position.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick used tire strategy to gain track position for the final restart of Sunday's race in New Hampshire, which ultimately put him in position to hold off Denny Hamlin in the final laps to claim his long-awaited first win of 2019. The team ran well throughout much of the season but consistently found ways to

Kevin Harvick used tire strategy to gain track position for the final restart of Sunday's Foxwoods Casino Resort 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which he used to seize his first victory of 2019. The final laps were not easy on Harvick as he had to hold off an aggressive Denny Hamlin, who led the most laps in the race and dominated most of the afternoon. Contact between the pair made for an exciting and tense final lap, but Harvick came out on top to end his winless streak that stretched all the way back to November of last season.

This week, the series heads back to Pocono Raceway where Kyle Busch has won the past two races. Harvick has never won at the track, but with the monkey off his back it will be exciting to see what he is able to accomplish. Six races remain before the playoffs begin. While Harvick's win doesn't change the picture much, the battle is heating up around the cutoff line. Jimmie Johnson's troubles Sunday dropped him behind the line and Clint Bowyer is clinging to a slim advantage in 16th position.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick used tire strategy to gain track position for the final restart of Sunday's race in New Hampshire, which ultimately put him in position to hold off Denny Hamlin in the final laps to claim his long-awaited first win of 2019. The team ran well throughout much of the season but consistently found ways to not end up in Victory Lane. It almost happened again on Sunday as Hamlin reached his bumper, but Harvick was not to be denied this time. The win ends a long slump and finally gives Harvick his secure position in the playoffs despite his monstrous points total. It was a long time coming, and this could just be the first of a long string of success for the team.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin was one of the drivers who started at the back of the pack after moving to a backup car earlier in the weekend. He scythed his way through the field and held station once he got to the front, however. He drove a virtually flawless race, while many of the contenders around him suffered problems or made mistakes, but he couldn't overcome Harvick's track position on the final restart to claim the win. He has four prior wins at Pocono and finished in the top 10 in the last two races there. While he has been overshadowed by his teammates much of this season, he remains a very dangerous championship contender and Sunday's New Hampshire race is proof.

Aric Almirola – Winning the second stage Sunday in New Hampshire gave Almirola valuable points as he seeks to consolidate his position in the playoffs without a victory. The well-timed caution allowed him to be out front when the laps ticked off for the stage finish giving him the points he craves as the playoffs approach. The organization's win Sunday should also boost the rest of the cars in the stable. He has two Pocono top-10 finishes in his 14-race career at the track. Both of those came since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, his last three trips to the track. Consistent top-15 finishes should get him into the playoff hunt, and he holds the points advantage as races wind down to the start of the knockout rounds.

Kyle Busch – Busch was able to overtake pole-sitter Brad Keselowski on the opening lap in New Hampshire and then immediately built a lead. He was the car to beat in the opening segment and grabbed his seventh stage win of the season. He lost track position in the final segment, which proved to be extremely harmful to his progress, though. While chasing Ryan Blaney he lost grip and slipped to make contact with the outside wall, making his afternoon more difficult that necessary. More slides meant he couldn't make his way as far forward as he wanted and left him with a frustrating afternoon despite the stage triumph. He has won the past two Pocono races, three of the last four, and finished third in the other.

DOWNGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott had another weekend to forget in New Hampshire. In the second stage the car lost water pressure and was sent to pit road only for the team to discover the engine was missing a belt. The team then went to work on repairs, but the damage to Elliott's race was already done. He remained many laps down to the leaders and watched as his teammates also suffer their own issues. Pocono could be a good venue for fantasy owners to measure this team's potential given a disappointing past few weeks. Elliott has only finished outside of the top 10 once in seven prior starts at this track. The entire Hendrick organization will need a boost to get back on track.

Kyle Larson – Larson started last week's race in New Hampshire and worked his way quickly forward from the start. Unfortunately, a loose rear wheel following the first stop under caution forced him back to pit road. The unscheduled stop just a handful of laps before the finish of the stage left him with another mountain to climb. He climbed back, though. He made it all the way into the top 10 until contact with Alex Bowman on a restart sent him spinning into the wall. It was a frustrating afternoon for the team as they continue to seek a win to secure a playoff spot. Pocono has been a good venue for Larson in the past, but the last two races have both seen him fail to finish in the top 20.

Austin Dillon – Dillon winds up in the downgrade column for the second week in a row after right-front tire trouble sent him into the outside wall to bring out the first caution of Sunday's race in New Hampshire. The yellow opened the door for teams to come to pit road but Dillon was the one that paid the price. It may not get much better for Dillon this week either. He has visited Pocono Raceway 11 times in the Cup series but has yet to score a top-10 finish. His best finish at the track was a 12th-place run last spring. His average career finish there is 19.1 but should be more of a top-15 option for fantasy players who decide to go with him this week.

Jimmie Johnson – New Hampshire was a tough weekend for the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization. Johnson not only gave up one of his cars to teammate Alex Bowman, but he also suffered a similar issue to teammate Chase Elliott when he lost multiple belts in his engine. The issue robbed Johnson of water pressure and power steering and put him in the pits with extensive repairs to undergo, knocking him out of the playoff positions. Things had been on an upswing for Hendrick but it seemed to unravel last week. Fantasy owners will want to see how they respond this week in Pocono but that may not be enough for Johnson, who hasn't finished in the top 15 in four of his last five visits to the Pennsylvania triangle.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Contact with Erik Jones on Sunday was a disappointment from Stenhouse considering he had a car that should have been capable of a top-15 finish. The Roush Fenway Racing driver led 11 laps at the track last season but went into the outside wall in Sunday's visit. The damage put him out of the race, and he notched his third finish of the last five outside of the top 20. He's watching the cutoff line for the playoffs drift further away with these results and is making it tough for fantasy owners to rely on him. In 13 Pocono starts he has never finished in the top 10 and has a best finish of 11th. He was classified in 32nd position there earlier this season when he also crashed out of the race.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Matt DiBenedetto – Much went right for DiBenedetto in New Hampshire. He was quick in practice and qualified inside the top 10 before spending most of the afternoon running with the leaders and then finishing in the top five. It was an impressive showing for the team who has delivered more than a few surprises so far this season. DiBenedetto is having the best season of his career in NASCAR's top level, and while he isn't near the playoff positions, continued performances like we've seen at time from this organization will move them closer in the races to come. DiBenedetto had two top-10s prior to Sunday's race in Daytona and Sonoma. He has never finished in the top 10 at Pocono, but his visit there earlier this season was his best finish at the track – 17th.

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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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