It has become one of the biggest mysteries of the 2019 NASCAR Cup season: After winning nearly a quarter of last year’s 36 points races – a career-high eight to be exact (tied with Kyle Busch for most wins) – Kevin Harvick has yet to reach victory lane in this season’s first 14 races.
Has Harvick forgotten how to win? Is there an imposter behind the No. 4 Ford Mustang?
The answer to both those questions is no. Harvick still has five top-fives – all fourth-place showings – and nine top-10 finishes thus far in 2019, plus three poles. He just hasn’t been able to seal the deal to take the checkered flag ahead of everyone else.
The 43-year-old Bakersfield, California, native hopes that winless streak finally comes to an end in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He’s a two-time winner at the massive 2-mile oval, including last August, when he led 108 of the 200 laps.
In addition, Harvick has one pole, seven second-place finishes, 12 top-fives, 17 top-10s and has led a total of 480 laps in his 36 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Michigan – including one win, four runner-ups and only one finish worse than 14th there since joining SHR in 2014.
His overall average start there is 15th, his average finish is 12.1, and he has completed 99.4 percent (6,932) of the 6,974 laps run there during his tenure as a Cup driver.
Add all that together and if there ever was a good time for Harvick to win, this Sunday is it. But it won’t be easy. MIS is the fastest track – and one of the toughest – on the Cup circuit. The key is to get to or near the front early and try to stay there.
“How you finish at Michigan depends on how your day is going,” Harvick said in a media release. “If you’re having a good day, it’s not really hard to tell your guys what you need and everyone is in a good mood.
“If you’re having a bad day, you can get behind at Michigan really fast. You’re going to end up with a green-flag pit stop and a whole bunch of green-flag laps. You just have to be going from the time the green flag drops and keep yourself in position at the end.”
As Harvick has gone this season, so too it seems has gone Stewart-Haas Racing. Not only is Harvick winless, so are teammates Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez – even though they’re all bunched together between fifth place (Harvick) and 13th (Suarez).
By comparison, SHR drivers last season won a total of 12 races, one-third of the Cup season.
So this weekend isn’t just important for Harvick and the whole SHR operation, it’s also important to manufacturer Ford, which has won nearly half of the Cup races – 49 (37 by Ford and 12 by affiliated Mercury) of 99 – run at MIS since it opened in 1969.
It would certainly be a significant coup for Ford and SHR to win the 100th Cup race held in the Irish Hills.
There’s an added incentive for Harvick – as well as the nearly 40 other drivers who will take part in Sunday’s race: there is no Cup race the following week due to the Father’s Day weekend.
So if Harvick, a father himself, is to win soon, there’s no better time to do so than Sunday to give himself an early Father’s Day present and send him into the off-week that he won’t soon forget – and which would lock him into the playoffs.
To borrow a phrase from the state’s tourism board, it’s time for Harvick to say “Yes to Michigan.”