Heading into NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup race Saturday at Kansas Motor Speedway some fans still had a couple questions left to be answered about Kevin Harvick’s unprecedented success so far in 2018? Is this driver for real or is this a fluke? Is Kevin “The Closer” Harvick who we think he is?
After his performance Saturday night Mr. Harvick not only answered those questions, he answered them by winning in dramatic fashion, the only way of winning Kevin has ever known. His driving is bringing pure excitement back to NASCAR. Every race now is complete with a beginning, a middle and an epic ending. Not unlike a dramatic three-part play. So far in 2018 there is no doubt Kevin Harvick is has the role of leading actor. His come from behind, final laps reeling ‘em in, driving style, and record setting winning pace is sure to draw old and new fans alike to the sport.
As a former NASCAR hater myself, the narrative of just going in circles left, I can tell you non-NASCAR fans that it is seasons like this one is shaping up to be that will hook you and reel you in, just like it did me. I’m thankful that I finally came around to realize and appreciate NASCAR racing and its unique competitiveness. So many things can go right or wrong. It makes these last several races a joy to watch. For the the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford everything is going right so far in 2018.
Kevin Harvick has won 5 out of the first 12 races. This has put him on pace to shatter the modern era record of 13 set by a 24 year old Jeff Gordon back in 1998. That stat might not mean much to the average sports fan, so I will try and put it into perspective. In equivalent baseball terms it would be like a 20-year veteran player coming along and besting Barry Bonds’ single season record of 73 by knocking out 84! Let that sink in for a minute. One thing I do know is that 2018 is surely to be a record breaking season. One for the record books. The kind of record breaking by Kevin Harvick would put him in rarefied air. Harvick also matched a record by Gordon in ’97 where he picked up 5 wins in the first 12 races of the season.
Winning is one thing but does the commanding performance of the driver of the #4 Ford stack up against drivers from the past. Let’s start with “Six-Time” Jimmie Johnson, the only driver in the history of NASCAR to win five straight championships from 2006-2010 and is tied for the record of six championships with the late great Dale Earnhardt and “The King” Richard Petty. In his best season back 2007, he also matched Harvick’s pace winning 5 of the first 12 races. Afterwards through the rest of 2007 Johnson added just 5 more with a season total of ten checkered flags. The last driver to record double digit win totals in a season that will be challenged this season by the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.
I would not be surprised if Kevin, aka “Happy,” aka “The Closer” Harvick gets yet another nickname. “The Dominator” perhaps. That nickname would be similar to one from the past, Dale Earnhardt, “The Intimidator.” Earnhardt is considered to be the best driver of all time. Ironically Kevin Harvick was the driver who had the impossible task of stepping into Earnhardt’s shoes after his fatal accident at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Kevin Harvick took over the #3 team driving the #29 car for RCR and in near heroic fashion he drove it to victory lane in just his third ever start in the Monster Energy Cup series at Atlanta.
I believe the greatest aspect of his success this year is Kevin Harvick and his clutch ability. Kevin does not have the nickname “The Closer” for nothing. It comes from his clutch ability to chase down his opponents and once he is passed them, he shuts the door. This was once again the case Saturday night when in the final few laps he caught defending champion Martin Truex Jr., passed him shutting down the #78 and his hopes for victory lane.
The excitement, competitiveness and level of driver skill is at an all-time high for NASCAR. Throw in the drama that Kevin Harvick has shown he can supply and you get a winning combination not only for NASCAR, but for the fans. The excitement generated by Kevin Harvick will also no doubt also attract a new audience to the sport for he has demonstrated that he is the total package. In 2018 it has been proven that Kevin “The Dominator” Harvick is real deal.