When Michael Jordan played in any NBA game, everyone in the arena knew he could dominate at any time. Which is why Jordan is considered one of – if not the – best ever.
Kevin Harvick has only two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500, but has dominated there since 2008 with 11 top-10 finishes in 14 races. He’s led a series-high 1,152 laps and is coming off an impressive victory last year when he started third and led 181 laps along the way.
Harvick has led 100 laps in every Atlanta Cup Series race since 2014 and has also won four of his last six NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the 1.54-mile oval. He will not race in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race but will be the lead driver analyst for the television broadcast on FS1.
Atlanta has always been a special place for Harvick as he scored his first career Cup Series victory there in 2001. Following Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of that year’s Daytona 500, Harvick was named the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and made his series debut the following weekend at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, where he finished 14th. On March 11, less than one month since his debut in NASCAR’s top series and in just his third start, Harvick won his first Cup Series race at Atlanta.
While Harvick will look to continue his Atlanta domination this weekend, the rules will be a bit different than in previous years.
NASCAR officials in October announced two baseline rules packages for the 2019 season, making a move to bolster competition with enhanced aerodynamic and engine configurations. The different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Cup Series circuit, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 – from 750 – and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile. Both features are in place for 17 of the 36 races, the lone exception being last week’s Daytona 500, which ran with traditional restrictor-plate rules. Five races, including Atlanta, will be run with the smaller spacer, but without ducts.
Harvick heads into Atlanta 14th in points after a disappointing 26th-place finish in the Daytona 500. But he did score 10 points by winning the Gander RV Duel No. 1 last Thursday and scored six bonus points in Stages 1 and 2 Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Daytona was three races in nine days to get the season started. But now, the real season begins as there are 35 points-paying events left as Harvick goes for his second championship.