For the second straight postseason, Kevin Harvick finds himself in a similar position as the UFC fighters he manages.
His back is against the wall.
Ranked 15th on the Chase Grid, 23 points below the cutoff line for the final transfer spot to the 12-driver Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Harvick will almost certainly have to win Sunday’s AAA 400 cutoff race at Dover International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) to advance in the playoffs.
Harvick’s situation is all too familiar.
Last season, the No. 4 Chevrolet driver faced the same predicament heading into the Eliminator 8 cutoff race at Phoenix. He smacked the pressure in the face, leading 264-of-312 laps on his way to Victory Lane, parlaying the momentum into a first-place finish in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to capture his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crown.
“I think we have definitely gained a lot of confidence in knowing we can handle every different situation,” Harvick said. “I don’t think there are a lot of them that can say that. We are definitely happy that we have been through those moments and been able to capitalize on those situations.”
Unlike Phoenix, where he owned five wins prior to the race, Harvick has failed to take a checkered flag at Dover in 29 starts – the most among active drivers without a victory. He enters the race with a little bit of encouragement, as he finished second in the spring race at the “Monster Mile.”
Despite his dire situation, Harvick remains calm and collected.
“This is why everybody watches,” he said. “Every situation is different. You just have to address whatever you think is right or wrong at that particular time to go out and do what is best for your team.”
Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, race winners at Chicago and New Hampshire, respectively, have already punched their tickets into the Contender Round and the other 10 spots will be filled by the winner at Dover if he is a Chase driver, with the remaining positions filled by Chase drivers with the most points.