Analysis: Not-so-happy Harvick going through 2021 rough patch

Analysis: Not-so-happy Harvick going through 2021 rough patch
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Terrin Waack
·4 min read
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Kevin Harvick could very well be turning into not-so-happy Harvick any time now.

The 2021 season hasn‘t been all too kind to the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, who accomplished a series-best nine victories in 2020. Through eight races, Harvick has yet to reach Victory Lane, which is fine considering there have been a series of rather surprising early winners (Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell among them). But still a less-than-ideal start for the 2014 champion.

To get the fast facts out of the way, courtesy of Racing Insights:

  • No wins in the last 15 races — longest streak since 2018-19 (21 races)

  • No laps led in the last seven races — longest streak since 2017 (also seven races)

  • No top-five finishes in the last five races — longest streak since 2019 (eight races)

  • No stage points in last three races — longest streak ever

RICHMOND: Weekend schedule | Betting odds | Paint schemes

Harvick‘s best run so far is a fourth-place result in the season-opening Daytona 500. He then placed sixth on the Daytona Road Course and fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since then, Harvick hasn‘t finished within the top-five field. He was 20th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, peaked at Phoenix Raceway with another sixth-place showing and has since come in 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, 15th on Bristol Motor Speedway‘s dirt and ninth at Martinsville Speedway.

All that puts Harvick eighth in the current standings at 253 points. Denny Hamlin, who also has yet to win this season, leads the way with 379 points.

Eighth marks Harvick‘s lowest rank since 2019, but that was only after he placed 26th in the season opener and wound up 13th in the standings because of it. After the second race, he was already back up to second. He never again dropped below fifth in the standings.

So, 2019 doesn‘t really hold a strong comparison here.

Technically, Harvick has been ranked outside the top five for five weeks now. After his Las Vegas flop, he fell from second to seventh. He stayed there for two weeks, moved up to sixth for one, only to move back down to eighth for the past two weeks.

The 2018 schedule was the last one to see Harvick ranked outside the top five for more than a week. He was eighth in Week 5 and seventh in Week 6. But then he never went below fourth.

Still no strong comparison.

In 2017, there was a nine-week span early in the season when Harvick ranged from sixth to 10th in the standings. That‘s probably the best, most recent comparison to his current situation. He had an even worse fate at Las Vegas (38th) in the third event that set him back, and then he bounced in and out of the top 10 in the following races. Once he dug himself out of the hole, Harvick only missed the top five in standings three times and ultimately finished third overall at season‘s end anyway.

Obviously, Harvick has a knack for turning poor standings around. Besides, eighth really isn‘t bad. Neither is 11th, which is where he sits in the provisional playoff standings after the seven different winners and Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski. His current status is just a bit shocking after the season of dominance he turned in a year ago.

That could easily change Sunday at Richmond Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It‘s Harvick‘s best venue when it comes to top-10 finishes (15 overall; 12 in the last 14 races) and second-best in top fives (15). He averages a 9.7 finish at the .75-mile Virginia track — good for his fifth-best — and has won three races there (2006, 2011 and 2013; tied for fourth-most for him).

Harvick isn‘t the best active driver at Richmond — that would be Kyle Busch and his six wins — but he‘s surely up there. Harvick‘s win and top-five total are second only to Busch. His average finish is third best, behind Busch and Hamlin. His top-10 tally leads all.

While another top-10 finish isn‘t the worst outcome possible — he has six, which is tied for second-most overall right now — it surely won‘t turn Harvick‘s 2021 frown upside down.