Kevin Harvick finally punched his ticket for the playoffs.
Harvick won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the weekend. The victory was his first since Texas Motor Speedway in November. It was just in the nick of time too, seeing as there are only six races left in the regular season. That means there are six more opportunities for a new winner to emerge.
Harvick passed Denny Hamlin with a nudge on the final turn. He also won this race last season.
“I’m like, ‘You’re not getting under me again.’ And he drove to the outside of me, and I waited until he got near me, and I just put a wheel on him,” Harvick said.
Hamlin, who was driving a backup car, led 113 laps of the race. He finished second, followed by Erik Jones in third, Ryan Blaney in fourth and Matt Dibenedetto in fifth.
Harvick joins Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Justin Haley, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. on the list of race winners so far this season. Even better, there have been seven different winners over the last seven races. Of course, some of those drivers have multiple wins this season. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr each have four wins, Brad Keselowski has three and Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin each have two.
One of the big questions right now is whether Jimmie Johnson will make the playoffs this year, not just on a win but at all. Johnson is currently winless and sits 17th in the standings. Perhaps the biggest problem isn’t whether he’ll make it but whether he’ll be a contender in the event he does make it. Johnson has been very inconsistent this season and has seen more lows than highs, so being a contender is more unlikely than simply getting into the playoffs.
Johnson sits at a 79-race winless streak. His last win was in June of 2017. Also, he’s finished 30th in the last two races. He’s only had a few races this season that have gone well for him. Johnson isn’t too far outside of the top-16 but he needs to get there soon and — even harder — he needs to stay there for the last few regular season races in order to simply make it.
It’s hard to see someone as successful as Johnson have such a bad year, especially when two of his teammates are in the playoffs on wins. I hope Johnson and his team is able to pull it together and not only make the playoffs, but pick up the season well enough that they can contend for a championship.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Pocono Raceway this weekend. Live coverage begins Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBCSN.