By Jared Turner
Kevin Harvick earned the nickname “The Closer” several years ago for his ability to turn up the wick at end of races, often coming out of nowhere to score the win. But in the past couple of years, Harvick on numerous occasions has had by far the fastest car in the field but been unable to get to Victory Lane whether it be due to a pit-road miscue, lack of speed at the end of the race or just plain old rotten luck. A familiar situation unfolded on Sunday when Harvick — whose No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was in another zip code — had to settle for a ninth-place finish as a result a penalty for speeding on pit road on Lap 311 of 325. Harvick — to his credit — took the blame for the penalty and offered no excuses. The question going forward, however, is how the 2014 series champion keeps such mistakes of reoccurring. For whatever reason, a pattern has developed where Harvick often has the best car but can’t close the deal. Until Harvick can actually start living up to his nickname, he should get a new one.
The 48/88 Shop Has Some Work To Do
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — whose teams share a shop known as the 48/88 shop — couldn’t be in a direr predicament two races into the season. After getting caught up in wrecks, respectively, in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt and Johnson both struggled mightily in Sunday’s race at Atlanta — where Johnson finished 19th and Earnhardt crossed the finish line in 30th. So how bad does it have to get for the 48/88 shop before it gets better? Considering Earnhardt’s enormous popularity and the fact that Johnson is trying to become the sport’s first eight-time champion this season, it would be good for NASCAR if both drivers turned things around soon.