This may sound counterproductive, and honestly borderline crazy, but for all drivers not named Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin, they have to hope that they themselves obviously win one of the three races during the Round of 8, or hope Harvick and Hamlin do if not.
They’ve got a good shot with Harvick and Hamlin winning exactly half of the playoff races run this season (3-for-6) to go along with half of the overall races (16-for-32) too. They’ve upped that percentage during the pandemic with earning a win in 15 of the 28 races run as well.
I mean think about it. Harvick has 67 playoff points. Hamlin has 54. They’re likely not being caught now with the reset in points. We know that all three races this round are likely to be won by a playoff driver still eligible for this year’s championship too. That means you don’t want to be going head-to-head in terms of points for that final wildcard spot with Harvick or Hamlin.
It’s better if they both win this round and you’re battling someone else closer to you in terms of points.
But, I can also make a case that they either sweep this round themselves or get shutout too. This is where the best of the best shine and this duo has won 16 races this year combined. To see them get shut out in a round would be far fetched especially in that Hamlin has won the last two Kansas races and Harvick has won the last three Texas playoff races. They could each earn a win in the first two races this round.
That’s what the other six drivers are hoping for if they themselves can’t win.
Harvick has struggled on 1.5-mile tracks in terms of grip levels this year though.
At Kansas, Harvick could have a top five car, but that’s about it. He was fourth back in July for his only top five in his last five Kansas starts.
“We just didn’t have a very good night,” Harvick said of his result this past July on this same track. “It wouldn’t turn into the corner and dead sideways in the middle of it. We got to the lead, we just went dead sideways after 4-5 laps. We were just holding on and hoping for another restart because that’s about all we had in it for a couple of laps.”
Sounds a lot like to what Harvick said after his 10th place finish at Vegas a few weeks ago, which is a track similar to Kansas.
“We just missed everything tonight,” Harvick said. “The car just didn’t drive good. We were slow on pit road and that was pretty much it. We just got buried in the field there.”
Here’s what he said going into that race too.
“I think as you look at Vegas, it’s a low-grip racetrack,” said Harvick of the Vegas weekend. “I think it’s probably been some of our races that we’ve had most of our trouble at, but we’ve figured out a way to race well and strategize well and do what we need to do, so we’re just going to go out there and battle.”
Texas is his best option of winning as he has won the Fall race there in each of the last three years. Then, it’s to Martinsville to where Harvick only has two top five finishes in his last 16 tries.
Hamlin meanwhile, has won two straight at Kansas but was 14th and 16th respectively in his previous two starts there. In Martinsville, he has three top five finishes in his last four tries but hasn’t won since 2015. At Texas, he won the spring race in 2019 but was 28th in last year’s playoff race and 20th this past July. Four of his last five starts have seen him finish 20th or worse there.
This could open the door for someone else. That could eliminate the drivers trying to sneak in.