Kevin Harvick in Position to Clinch Playoff Berth Despite Adversity-Filled Final Season
Kevin Harvick's farewell season in the NASCAR Cup Series hasn't gone exactly to plan, but the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion has overcome bad luck and injury to be in a position to clinch a Playoff berth at Indianapolis.
Kevin Harvick stands on the precipice of locking in his place in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field. The 2014 series champion, who is in the midst of his final driving season, stands 180 points above the cutline heading into Sunday's Verizon 200 at The Brickyard.
According to NASCAR, if there is a repeat race winner or if the winner of the race this weekend is ineligible for the Playoffs (Shane van Gisbergen for example) Harvick would clinch a berth into the Playoffs by scoring 44 points this weekend.
It seems like a clear-cut path, but scoring 44 points will be a challenge in and of itself this weekend, as Harvick will start from the 37th position in the 39-car field at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. However, if there is one thing that Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team have been good at this season, it's overcoming adversity, including an injury that he chose to reveal this week.
"It's been an interesting year as far as how things have worked out," Harvick said in his media availability on Saturday. "We feel like we've performed okay with what we have, and the guys have done a good job in making something out of it. And put ourselves in a position to win a couple of races. And had some bad ones and some good ones. And kind of fought and scrimped and scraped. Worked through an injury after the break over the next six weeks, and we have just fought one battle after another. It's been typical [No.] 4 car stuff that we've worked through. We'll just keep grinding away for 13 more [races]."
Harvick detailed that he sustained an injury to his ribs during the NASCAR off-weekend following the event at Sonoma Raceway on June 11th.
"I fell down a flight of steps in Italy, and had a stack of busted ribs for several weeks," Harvick explained.
While the 47-year-old is winless through the opening 23 races of the 2023 season, his overall consistency has led to him and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team being in a position to advance to the Playoffs. How consistent has Harvick's season been?
He has just five finishes outside of the top 20 this year, and of those five finishes, three of them came in the three races directly after he sustained his injury in the off-week. Since a string of finishes that included a 24th, 29th, and 30th place finish at Nashville, Chicago, and Atlanta, Harvick has found his stride once again.
He has four consecutive top-10 finishes including a pair of fourth-place finishes leading into this weekend's race at Indianapolis. Even if Harvick doesn't clinch his Playoff berth this weekend, he has had a healthy season, and now with his ribs becoming more healthy, he could be a surprise contender for the championship if he indeed makes it into the Playoffs.
What a story that would be.
Other Indianapolis Playoff Implications
The only other driver, who is not already locked into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field, that can clinch a berth by way of points this weekend is Brad Keselowski.
The driver of the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford Mustang, like Harvick, would need a repeat winner or a Playoff ineligible winner in order to make it work, but if that scenario happens, Keselowski could clinch his place in the 2023 Playoffs by scoring a total of 54 points this weekend.
The 2012 series champion has been knocking on the door to victory lane over the last few races and seems poised to break through for his first win as an owner/driver any weekend.
Keselowski's quest to lock in this weekend will begin from the 22nd starting position.
While Harvick and Keselowski can clinch on points this weekend, any other eligible driver can clinch on any given weekend with a win. And several drivers, who are outside the cutline, have shown speed so far this weekend in Indianapolis.
Daniel Suárez, the polesitter, is one of those drivers. In all, five of the full-time drivers inside the top 10 of Sunday's starting lineup find themselves without a win heading into the race. Winless drivers joining Suárez inside the top 10 for Sunday's race are Chase Elliott (third), Michael McDowell (fourth), Alex Bowman (ninth), and Ty Gibbs (10th).
If any of those drivers can sneak out a win in the Verizon 200 at The Brickyard it could totally flip the script on their entire season.
The NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at The Brickyard is scheduled for Sunday, August 13th. NBC will provide television coverage of the event beginning at 2:30 PM ET. IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast of the race.
Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, Racing America