After missing NASCAR’s Championship 4 Kevin Harvick ready ‘to get the season over with’

Kevin Harvick proved Sunday that winning the Regular Season Championship and scoring nine race victories in a season does not make a NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

Coming off a subpar finish at the rain delayed Texas race only a few days ago, Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford struggled early on at Martinsville Sunday. He was running 24th when things went from bad to worse as a tire went flat and forced him into the pits under green on lap 182. He reemerged 32nd two laps down.

Harvick was able to fight his way back to the lead lap, but with Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin running higher in the order in the closing laps, Harvick was 1 point below the cutline coming to the checkered flag. He spun Kyle Busch coming to the line, but the move punted Busch’s Toyota across the line to finish ninth, while Harvick limped his Ford to 17th, and will miss the Championship 4 for the first time since 2016.

“It was just a move I had to try knowing that I needed one point,” Harvick said. “I needed to hit him square in the door, but at that point I was too late and wound up hitting him in the back.  It was just a Hail Mary that didn’t work out.”

Harvick began the day seemingly safe to move on to the Championship 4 based on points. He was second in the standings behind Kansas winner Joey Logano. However, Harvick was already struggling. A misty rain the shortened the Texas race last Sunday came too late for Harvick. The race was stopped at just over 50 laps but not before his Ford slipped on the damp traction compound and scrapped the wall. The team had to endure nearly three full days before the race was able to finish. Harvick brought his damaged car home 16th.

He needed a good run at Martinsville, not another day of misery. Harvick said he felt like the team was already down even before the green flag.

“For sure with the way we’ve run here in the past,” Harvick said.

Despite his nine race wins, Harvick came into Martinsville on his longest losing streak of the season, five races. He knew what he needed to do.

“Look, these championships aren’t like winning like Petty and Earnhardt used to win them,” Harvick said. “You have to put them together three weeks at a time and it comes down to one race and it came down to one race for us tonight and came up short.”

Had Harvick been able to pull off the last lap pass on Busch, he would be challenging for a title instead of Keselowski.

“Not a great three weeks. It didn’t go our way. We fought for everything we had and it just came up short.”

Harvick tried to console himself looking back on his overall season.

“We won nine races, had a great year,” he said. “The championship is kind of a bonus.  It would be great to win it, obviously, but I’d rather go through the year and win races and do the things that we did and just came up short.”

In the final round Harvick opened finishing second at Kansas. The following week however came the 16th in Texas, combined with his 17th place finish Sunday, Harvick knew he would be in trouble.

“That’s the system that we work in and it’s obviously skewed more towards entertainment than the whole year,” he said. “So it’s exciting to watch and has that format that goes with it and you take them as they come and we race within the system that they give us and do our best.  It just didn’t work out for us.  The last three weeks didn’t go exactly how we needed them to and you’ve got to be right when you get to this Round of 8.”

Harvick will now go to Phoenix, the site of the final race of the season, without a shot at another title.  But with nine wins at Phoenix he may still be able to finish 2020 with a win.

Harvick’s rival all season long, Hamlin, will join Logano, Sunday’s winner Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski in the Championship 4.

“I feel badly for Kevin, they probably deserve a little better than that, it’s just the format, I guess, it’s just three races and everything you do for eight innings doesn’t matter if you don’t have a great ninth inning,’’ Hamlin said.

“It’s been a great racetrack for us and obviously that’s what we want to do,” Harvick said.  “I just want to get the season over with.”