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Harvick ‘Not At All’ Nervous About Bristol Elimination Race


(Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — In his final NASCAR Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick is at risk of not advancing from the first round of the playoffs.

Entering Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Harvick sits just seven points above the cutline and Martin Truex Jr., who won the regular-season championship. However, Harvick could’ve easily been in a better position ahead of the first elimination race of the season.

With 58 laps to go in the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, leader Tyler Reddick jammed on his brakes to pit when he saw Harvick, who ran second, dash for pit road. Newman ran into the back of Reddick and spun, causing a caution.

Meanwhile, Harvick committed to pit road and entered after the caution had been displayed, resulting in a penalty as crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 team chose to service the car anyway. Instead of contending for a win, Harvick finished 19th.

Last week at Kansas Speedway, Harvick didn’t do anything spectacular, but ran a clean race, earned stage points and brought the car home 11th.

Harvick could end his career with his second-consecutive first-round exit in the playoffs. Is he nervous?

“No, not at all,” he said when addressing the media Friday at Bristol. “It is what it is. You go race as hard as you can and where it falls it falls. It’s like [Truex]’s situation last year. There’s nothing you can do about some things and I don’t worry about those things anymore.

“It’s really just about each moment and each lap and trying to do everything that you can do to put yourself in position to be in the best position possible. That’s really everybody else’s goal and I think the racetrack itself will dictate a lot of what happens.”

Harvick has put together six top fives, 12 top 10s and has an average finish of 13.9 in 2023. His average running position of 13.4 is seventh best among Cup drivers.

Over his future Hall of Fame career, Harvick has an impressive resume at Bristol. He’s won three times with 22 top 10s over 42 starts on the asphalt. That number could’ve been four with a win in 2021, but instead, the finish turned into an iconic Bristol memory.

While racing for the win, Harvick got into Chase Elliott which resulted in cutting his tire and hitting the wall. Elliott returned to the race multiple laps down, and while on fresher tires, got ahead of Harvick and slowed him down so Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson could win the race. Harvick still managed to advance to the next round but still had multiple fiery conversations with Elliott after the race.

(Photo: Cole Penning | The Podium Finish)

Harvick doesn’t anticipate a moment like that happening again on Saturday, but he does foresee that it will be difficult to pass. NASCAR applied PJ1 to the lower groove before track activity started on Thursday, but since the Next Gen car has struggled on short tracks, Harvick isn’t sure how much it will help.

“This particular car is not like the old cars. You have to have options,” Harvick explained. “Multiple cars following other cars around tends to make the cars not be able to get close enough to even push each other out of the way with the aero situation, so you need options. I hope [for the Xfinity Series race] it at least moves up into the three-quarter mark of the racetrack to be able to at least get it cleaned off.

“If they do spray the racetrack again and try to keep the top groove from ever being used like they’re talking about, it could be a one-lane deal. There’s just a lot of scenarios that have to come together and play out and you just never know where those are going to go. It’s hard for me to predict anything because it’s so unpredictable.”

That might mean drivers pushing the envelope, but Harvick said there’s a fine line.

“You can be forceful and do other things, but you’re gonna be aggressive and race hard and do the things that you need to do,” he said. “If you run somebody over, you’re gonna get run back over, so you just have to balance all that stuff. It doesn’t change. If it’s just one groove, it’s not gonna change any of the thought process that goes into trying to put your car in the front to me personally.”

Truex, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell all trail Harvick in points and sit below the cutline.

Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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