An oil-pressure issue is an inconvenience for most people.
It might be a season-killer for Kevin Harvick, who finished 38th because of engine issues on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Round of 12.
If there was any good news for Harvick, who started on the pole for the race, it’s that he wasn’t alone in misfortune.
Four other Chase drivers — Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano — also ran into trouble and finished 30th or worse.
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Harvick currently sits in 12th place among the Round of 12 drivers, but he’s only eight points behind Hamlin for the all-important eighth and final transfer spot into the next round of the Chase.
Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, now heads to a track he’s dominated in recent years with four top-two finishes in his last six races at Kansas Speedway.
If Harvick, who won the fall race at Kansas in 2013 and finished second in the last three spring races, can notch his second win at the 1.5-mile tri-oval during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the points deficit won’t matter.
“It’s become a race track that we look forward to going to and hopefully we’ll continue to get good results at, because it’s been so good to us in the past,” Harvick said.
Harvick hasn’t always had such affinity for Kansas. He finished better than sixth only once in his first 15 Cup races at the track.
“The repave is definitely what changed there at Kansas,” he said. “I liked the racetrack the way that it was before with the asphalt all worn out and cars sliding all over. But once the repave happened, we were really able to hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style.”
With a Chase cutoff race looming next week at Talladega Superspeedway, there’s a premium on claiming the checkered flag — and the accompanying guaranteed spot in the Chase’s Round of Eight — at Kansas.
“Sometimes, you can’t control the circumstances, which is why you have to go after wins,” Harvick said. “You never know when a track bar mount is going to break or a part is going to fail or you’re going to be a couple inches from going a lap down or staying on the lead lap.”
Harvick has become NASCAR’s “Mr. Consistency” with five top-three finishes in the final points standings during the last six seasons. He was eighth in 2012.
No other driver has more than three top-three finishes in that span (Jimmie Johnson).
“That’s always been something that has been instilled in me from a young age, just from the fact that you had to get to the pay window at some point when we were racing late models and Southwest Tour cars,” Harvick said. “You had to get something out of the day to maximize the winnings that you were going to get, so you could come back next week.”
Harvick’s consistency also was on display entering the Chase. He has a Sprint Cup-best 22 top-10 finishes this season, including 10 in the last 12 races before the Chase started.
“I don’t know if it’s just that combination of he and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers), but they have figured out how to get him really comfortable, and Kevin knows what he needs to be good on race day,” friend and Stewart-Haas team co-owner Tony Stewart said. “I used to be that way years ago, but these cars are so technical. … I have a hard time getting it to the point where I want it to be on Saturday, let alone try to figure out what I need to have for Sunday. Kevin is really good at understanding what he needs that car to do at the end of Saturday to be good on Sunday.”
Unfortunately, that consistency hasn’t shown up in the Chase with three finishes of 20th or worse in the first four playoff races.
The exception was a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weeks ago that punched his ticket into the Round of 12, a circumstance he’d love to recreate Sunday in Kansas.