How Will Harvick Respond? New Hampshire Preview

Heading into the Sylvania 300 this weekend at “The Magic Mile”, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, defending champion Kevin Harvick is in a difficult position.

Last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Harvick was leading the race on a restart when his car and Jimmie Johnson’s made slight contact.  His tire was cut, and three laps later, he was in the wall and ended up finishing 42nd.

He now sits dead last, 16th, 22 points behind 12th place (cutoff for the next round) after one week.  He basically needs to either win this or next weekend, or finish exceptionally well in both races, get as many bonus points as possible and hope others have some misfortune.

It has been well-documented how Harvick shoved his friend, Johnson, when the six-time champion tried to talk to him after the race.  Tempers were flaring, emotions were high, but now we go to a short track, where there could be more of that.

Harvick has one career win in Loudon, back in 2006 from the pole.  Joey Logano is always strong at the track as well as many other chasers.  But other than Harvick trying to dig himself from the hole he is in (he will start second when the green flag drops), what other storylines are on tap for the weekend?

Jeff Gordon will become NASCAR’s definition of IronMan this weekend.  As soon as he starts the race, he will have started his 789th consecutive race, breaking Ricky Rudd’s former record.  He tied the record last weekend at Chicago, and had his best run of the season.  He is looking to run even better this weekend at NHMS.  His teammates in the Chase, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., will also try to propel themselves into the next round with a win in race two of the playoffs.

Another major storyline that dominated most of the talk during the week is what happened to Clint Bowyer and his No. 15 team.  If you missed it, his team was penalized harshly by NASCAR.  They docked Bowyer and his team 25 points (equivalent to 25 positions) as well as suspended his crew chief, Billy Scott, for the next three races (probation through December 31) and fined $75,000.  The penalty came for an infraction that came on the opening day of practice last weekend, and all of a sudden, his Chase hopes took a huge hit.  This penalty sent him spiraling down to 16th in the standings, meaning Harvick moved up to 15th.  Michael Waltrip Racing is currently appealing the penalty, but it will most likely be held up by NASCAR.

One more storyline that everybody will be watching out for is if Joe Gibbs Racing can continue their sheer dominance of the sport.  With Carl Edwards (won the pole, will start first), Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin (last week’s winner) and Kyle Busch all fast in practice and qualifying, I don’t see how they don’t contend for the win.

A darkhorse pick for the win would be Ryan Newman.  He finished fourth after gaining 10 spots in three laps toward the end of the race last week, loves New Hampshire and has multiple wins there.  This could be the place where the rocket man gets the win.  

With that being said, I think he comes up short for another weekend, and Joey Logano ends up in victory lane.  Team Penske has excelled at NHMS for years, and it being his home track, I think Logano finds victory lane again.  But don’t sleep on Harvick, who has something to prove and his back is against the wall.  Last time he was in a position like this, he went on to win two straight races, and the 2014 championship.