Harvick Back at His Bread and Butter
There have been 5 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, much like Chicago this weekend, and they've all been won by Kevin Harvick (3 wins) or Kyle Busch (2). In fact, Harvick also won last November at Texas, giving him 4 of the last 7 1.5-mile track wins. Harvick and Busch haven't just won all 5 races at those tracks, they've also dominated.
Kevin Harvick finished last (40th) in the last race on a 1.5-mile track, after an early crash took him out at Charlotte. That allowed Kyle Busch to lead 377 of 400 laps and cruise to a 3.8-second victory. But before that, you could count on Harvick being a steady presence on 1.5-mile tracks.
Harvick finished 2nd last week at Sonoma behind Martin Truex Jr., his 2nd straight top-2 finish and 4th in the last 6 races and 8 in 16 races this season. That puts him on pace for 18 this season, which would be the most in a season since Jeff Gordon had 19 in 1998. Harvick's 8 top-2 finishes through 16 races this season also puts him in select company.
Truex Eyes a Repeat, Joins Harvick and Busch
Martin Truex Jr. dominated with a 10-second victory last week at the road course at Sonoma, giving him a 3rd win this season, and 2nd in the last 3 weeks. Thanks to his late charge and a penalty to Kevin Harvick, Truex Jr. has almost caught up in playoff bonus points, which will be applied in each of the first 3 rounds.
Truex won last year's championship with a teammate, Erik Jones, but Jones has since moved to Joe Gibbs Racing. Now Truex's Furniture Row Racing is a single-car team, although closely aligned with Gibbs. No driver has won the championship on a single-car team since Dale Earnhardt in 1994.
10 to Go Until the Playoffs
There are now 10 races to go until the playoffs, and only 6 of the 16 playoff spots have been claimed by race winners so far. With potential wild card races at a restrictor-plate track (Daytona), road course (Watkins Glen) and the regular-season finale at Indianapolis, the drivers in the last few positions shouldn't feel safe quite yet.
Although Hendrick Motorsports currently has 3 of its 4 drivers in the playoff field, those 3 occupy 3 of the last 4 spots, including 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Hendrick Motorsports hasn't won yet this season. It's had only one winless season, that coming in 1985, the team's 2nd season, when it was a single-car team.
Who's Hot and Who's Not - Chicago
Martin Truex Jr.: won last 2 Chicago races; looking to be 1st driver to win 3 straight at track (opened in 2001) and tie Tony Stewart for most wins all-time at track (3)
Kevin Harvick: finished 9th or better in 14 of last 15 1.5-mile track races
Kyle Busch: led 340 laps in last 5 Chicago races (0 wins); 182 more than any other driver
Chase Elliott: finished 3rd and 2nd in 2 career MENCS Chicago races
Denny Hamlin: finished 6th or better in last 4 Chicago races (31st, 16th, 33rd in last 3 races)
Brad Keselowski: finished 8th or better in his last 7 Chicago races (2 wins in span)
Jimmie Johnson: Chicago is 1 of 3 active MENCS tracks where he's never won (Watkins Glen, Kentucky are others)
Ryan Blaney: 3 finishes of 34th or worse in his last 5 races overall
Clint Bowyer: finished 13th or worse in last 4 Chicago races (23.3 Avg finish in last 4 races)
Austin Dillon: 0 top-5, 1 top-10 finish in 15 races since winning Daytona 500
Kyle Larson: back-to-back finishes outside top 10 (hasn't had 3 such races this season
--- ESPN Stats & Info ---