Kevin Harvick says Sprint Cup title is there for the taking
Jimmie Johnson's back-to-back wins are spurring talk that the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is poised to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive title.
To which Kevin Harvick says: Not so fast.
Harvick still leads the Cup standings by 105 points over Johnson thanks to consistently strong finishes through the season's first 17 races.
The top 12 drivers in points after 26 races compete in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff over the remaining 10 races of the season.
Harvick has one win (at Talladega) and 12 top-10 finishes overall as the series prepares for the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. Harvick won the Daytona 500 there in 2007.
"This is the best opportunity that we've ever had to win a championship," Harvick, 34, told reporters on a teleconference Tuesday.
"Obviously you're going to have to knock off the 48," the Bakersfield native said, referring to Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, but he said "the ball is in our court."
Harvick's best previous point finish was fourth, in 2006 and 2008, and he and the rest of the Richard Childress Racing team have shown a huge improvement from last season. Harvick was 19th in the standings in 2009.
Johnson's wins at Sonoma and last weekend at New Hampshire gave him five for the season, tying Denny Hamlin (who's fourth in points) for the series high. But Harvick said "consistency is really what we are looking for."
The key is not "trying to force the issue," Harvick said, adding that "I learned this lesson the hard way this year at California." As Harvick chased down Johnson for the lead in the waning laps of the race in February at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Harvick scraped the wall and had to settle for second behind Johnson.
"You can't force winning," Harvick said. "You learn not to get greedy. I've been around this deal long enough to know that [if] we keep running like we are, we'll win our share of races."
-- Jim PeltzPhoto: Kevin Harvick pits his No. 29 Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., where Harvick finished fifth. Credit: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images