Harvick Faces Uphill Battle At Martinsville

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Oct 25 1336

If Kevin Harvick truly is one of the heavy favorites to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, he’s going to have to prove it on Sunday.

Fighting a loose handling car during Friday’s time trials, Harvick brushed the wall at Martinsville Speedway and qualified 33rd. Starting that deep in the field for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 presents a litany of complications for the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

With the 33rd pick of a pit box, Harvick won’t have a stall that will lend itself to making up ground under yellow. Starting that close to the rear of the field in the first event of the Chase’s Eliminator Round, Harvick will have to tax his equipment to keep from getting lapped.

“You start back there, and it’s tough for a lot of reasons,” said second-place starter Joey Logano, when asked to describe the problems Harvick will face. “Obviously, the leaders are going to be there in a second, so you’ve got to go pretty hard. But, really, when you’re that far back, the line checks up so much… the inside lane just keeps checking up a lot into the corners and you can shove the nose in pretty quick there and really be trying to take care of yourself, and the next thing you know, you’re in the back of a car.

“So I think that will probably be something you’ve got to be aware, and obviously guys fighting to the bottom and the sense of urgency back there is very high, so you’re not really saving any tires because you’ve got to go. If it’s a long run, that’s where you can get in trouble pretty quick--if it’s a long green flag run on the first run. I’ve been there before. That’s how I know.”

All that said, the main things mitigating against Harvick are history and statistics. Only once in the annals of the legendary .526-mile track, over the course of 131 races, has a driver won a Cup race from a starting position outside the top 24.

That was in 2002, when Kurt Busch collected the first of his two Martinsville wins from 36th on the grid.

The good news is that Harvick was fifth fastest in race trim during Saturday morning’s Sprint Cup practice session and fastest during Happy Hour.

The bad news is that he has a lot of cars to pass on Sunday.