Follow the leader: Kevin Harvick is playoff master


It doesn’t matter if Kevin Harvick has been the favorite or an underdog, he’s thrived in the Cup playoffs.

No driver has topped Harvick’s 11 postseason wins since the playoff format debuted in 2014. Harvick enters Sunday’s Round of 8 race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) as a favorite. The 2014 champ has advanced to the title race three consecutive years and five times in six years.

Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team have done what top athletes and teams in other sports do. They raise their performance in the postseason. Harvick has won 16.7% of the playoff races since 2014 compared to winning 13.2% of the regular season races during that same time.

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That is among the reasons why the 44-year-old driver — at a time when most competitors have retired or suffered a performance dip — signed a contract extension through 2023.

“The one thing that I try to explain to all the younger racers, an extra 100,000 people on Twitter isn’t going to make you stick around longer,” said Harvick, who is about to complete his 20th full-time Cup season. “Performance on the racetrack is really the bread and butter of what we do, and no matter if you have a funny personality or you have a famous last name, it doesn’t matter.

“In the end, Danica Patrick is probably the best example that I can think of that, is just the fact of having the results on the racetrack. I think every week we’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves to figure out why we didn’t run like we did or why we ran like we did in order to try to continue that trend forward.”

Harvick has won at least one playoff race all seven years of the format. No other driver can match that streak.

Harvick opened this year’s postseason winning at Darlington and Bristol in the first round. His second round was mediocre. Harvick finished no better than 10th in the past three races, but that round featured wildcard races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

It’s survive and advance at this particular point,” Harvick said. “You just have to see what the first week brings and then go to the next week and try to do the same thing and in the end you want to try to win. That’s the safest path forward, so hopefully we can do that and put ourselves in a good position and try to move on to Phoenix.”

Kevin Harvick’s win at Bristol in the first round of the playoffs was his ninth victory of the season. Only Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have won at least 10 races in a season in the last 25 years. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Now comes a round with two 1.5-mile tracks (Kansas and Texas) and a short track (Martinsville) to set the four-driver title race field at Phoenix. Harvick has won the past three playoffs races at Texas. He won a playoff race at Kansas in 2016.

“We’re taking every week exactly like we’ve taken it all year,’’ crew chief Rodney Childers said after the Bristol win. “We haven’t changed anything because it’s the playoffs. We’re still racing to win every week, and that’s what our goal is. If you can’t win races, you’re not going to win a championship anyway.”

Others who thrive in the postseason 

Harvick is not alone among the remaining playoff contenders who have excelled in the playoffs.

Joey Logano has a 7.1% winning percentage in the regular season since 2014 but sees that figure jump to 13.6% in the playoffs, helped by his second round sweep of races in 2015.

“I feel like we got a good shot at getting to the Championship 4,” Logano said after placing second last weekend at the Roval.

Martin Truex Jr. has won 8.8% of the regular season races since 2014 but has a 13.6% winning percentage in the playoffs.

Chase Elliott, who won last weekend’s Roval race, has won 3.7% of his starts in the regular season and 8.7% of his playoff starts.

“We have to have our four best races these last four races,” said Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Elliott, after last weekend’s win. “That’s kind of what it comes down to. We have to operate at our maximum potential.  Certainly we’ll try to improve and do the best we can.

“Right now it’s probably about getting 100% of what you’ve got. … I think it’s going to be more about execution than developing something or coming up with some more performance.

Excelling in the Cup playoffs 

A look at how Round of 8 drivers have fared in the playoffs vs. the regular season in terms of wins (since 2014 when playoff format debuted)

Kevin Harvick

16.7% winning percentage in playoffs (11 wins)

13.2% winning percentage in regular season (24 wins)


Joey Logano

13.6% winning percentage in playoffs (9 wins)

7.1% winning percentage in regular season (13 wins)


Martin Truex Jr.

13.6% winning percentage in playoffs (9 wins)

8.8% winning percentage in regular season (16 wins)


Chase Elliott

8.7% winning percentage in playoffs (4 wins)

3.7% winning percentage in regular season (5 wins)


Brad Keselowski

7.6% winning percentage in playoffs (5 wins)

10.4% winning percentage in regular season (19 wins)


Denny Hamlin

6.1% winning percentage in playoffs (4 wins)

9.4% winning percentage in regular season (17 wins)


Kurt Busch

1.5% winning percentage in playoffs (1 win)

3.9% winning percentage in regular season (7 wins)


Alex Bowman

0.0% winning percentage in playoffs (0 wins)

1.5% winning percentage in regular season (2 wins)

Justin Haley replaces Kyle Busch in Kaulig car for Xfinity race


Justin Haley will drive Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car in Monday morning’s scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Haley replaces Cup Series regular Kyle Busch, who was scheduled to drive for Kaulig in the 300-miler. The race was postponed from Saturday to Monday because of weather, giving NASCAR a 900-mile doubleheader at the track.

Busch decided to concentrate on the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race, scheduled for a  3 p.m. start.

Haley also will race in the 600.

Ty Gibbs is scheduled to run in both races.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”