Hamlin vs Harvick Sunday In Indy?

It seems like this is going to come down to Denny Hamlin vs. Kevin Harvick for the 2020 championship. Both made it to the final round last year but it was Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. who beat them both as they finished 1-2 respectively.

This season, Busch hasn’t won in 15 starts while Truex has just one trip to victory lane himself.

Meanwhile, Hamlin and Harvick have combined to win seven of the 15 Cup races, including a weekend sweep at Pocono last weekend.

Harvick, beat Hamlin across the finish line in last Saturday’s first race of the doubleheader race weekend while Hamlin bested Harvick on Sunday.

More: Hamlin And Gabehart A Scary Combination That’s Only Getting Better

More: Brickyard/Indy Weekend Lost Luster For Me

“I think so,” Harvick said if both he and Hamlin are the top championship favorites. “We’re winning races, doing the things we need to do right now, running up front. I think obviously when you look at the win column, as long as you’re winning races, that’s what it takes to win championships.

“Those guys are really good. I know Rodney and Gabehart, they’re good acquaintances, I guess you could say. Both of our crew chiefs are just really old school racers that do a good job in the engineering era of being able to look at the car, come at it from a driver’s perspective.

“Yeah, they’ve definitely got their stuff together right now.”

ncs_pocono_celebration_062820
Hamlin and Harvick have combined to win 7 of the 15 races run this season

Hamlin, has four wins now this season to go along with four straight top five finishes and five in his last six starts on the season in his No. 11 Toyota overall.

In fact, one could argue that both drivers are thriving more under these new conditions.

Prior to the lengthy COVID-19 break, Hamlin had a Daytona 500 win but was only 17th, sixth and 20th respectively in the three races after. Harvick, was solid, but not great.

He was fifth, eighth, ninth and second respectively. Then, we went for a 70 day hiatus between races. After that, these two have been on a terror.

All three of Harvick’s wins have some since the break to go along with three for Hamlin too. That’s six combined wins in 11 tries.

What makes them so good now compared to everyone else?

“I think the experience of our team definitely plays a huge role, Harvick said. “I think the experience of our organization plays a bigger role. We have a boss who has been through a lot of different situations that the company has had to navigate in order to move things around, change things, do a lot of things when Tony had his accidents.

“There were those types of situations where we had to put different drivers in the car. It was definitely not easy.

“I think when you look at a company that is able to navigate those types of times, this is a very similar situation with the same group of people. You listen to the things that are happening, the way the shop has to be organized and work, it’s difficult.

“To be able to take this quality of cars to the racetrack is definitely a huge credit to everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

His crew chief Rodney Childers agreed.

“Well, I would say that we have the best group,” Childers said. “We haven’t had a lot of people that have come and gone. Overall we do have the best group, best shop guys, best pit crew, best road crew we’ve ever had. That’s what’s important. I think everybody knows the people side of it is the most important part.

“To say we’re in championship form? I don’t know what championship form is. Is championship form unloading off the truck, no practice and qualifying? Is championship form going back to the old schedule and doing the things that we’ve always done?”

Childers, said the experience of the group in this era of change, especially without practice is actually an advantage.

“I will say I feel like for the 4 team it is an advantage to unload and not have practice and those things,” Childers continued.

“Our history of our team has been unloading good and doing a great job at the racetrack of details, all that stuff.

“I think some of this, since we went back to racing, has been in our hands and our wheelhouse a little bit. Obviously with being able to win three of them, coming close to even more, that part shows.”

Hamlin, also doesn’t favor practicing for the distant future either and notes that his car is great when it matters at the end.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had one top five finish in the first four races but eight over the last 11.

“Yeah, I mean, I would throw the 9 in there as well,” Hamlin said of if he and Harvick are the favorites.

“I think he’s kind of been on a run. Didn’t have a great Talladega, didn’t have a great Pocono. Before that, I think he had about four or five weeks in a row where he was in contention, had one of the best cars.

“But I think, yeah, certainly we’ve sustained some great finishes. Even not great finishes, but great speed through an entire race all year. I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had. I thought we’ve been really good.

“To me that’s a testament to like my team is really strong. They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

“Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points. I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some. The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race-winning cars. I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that race win counts for five of ’em.

“We’ve been doing good. Just marching in the regular season points. Obviously getting some Playoff points there. We just want to get back to the final four with a chance. That’s all I can ask for. It’s going to be a successful season if we find ourselves back in that final four with the chance again.”

Next is Indianapolis. It’s a track similar to Pocono where they finished 1-2 both days last weekend. Plus, Harvick is the defending winner in the Brickyard and has six straight top eight finishes at Indy, all as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Hamlin, may be 0-for-14 at Indy but also has five top six finishes in his last six tries here.

They’re the top two to beat.

Kyle Busch is usually pretty good at Indy but is riding a 15 race winless streak. Prior to his recent string of 34th, eighth and 37th place finishes at Indy, he did have two straight wins and a runner-up before that. In a five year span, he had four top two results. Which Busch shows up on Sunday?

The Team Penske trio is tough to figure out. Ryan Blaney has their top speed this season and has had a top five car the last two Brickyard’s. He’s their best option at winning.

Logano was runner-up last year and has six top eight finishes in seven Indy starts with Team Penske but is 0-for-11 at Indy and only has one top five finish in the 11 races since we’ve returned to racing in May.

Brad Keselowski was second in this race in 2017 and won in 2018. But, he only has two finishes better than seventh over his last eight tries on the season.

Chase Elliott has finished 15th or worse in four of his five Brickyard tries while Martin Truex Jrs last three finishes are 33rd, 40th and 27th respectively.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s