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Can Kevin Harvick pull off a playoff surprise at New Hampshire?

Through a very up-and-down season, Kevin Harvick has run consistently well on the flatter, shorter tracks on the schedule – a good sign entering this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick, Stewart Haas Racing, Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang

Kevin Harvick, Stewart Haas Racing, Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang

Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Time is running out for Harvick to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this season and while it’s still technically possible for him to make the 16-driver field by points, a win looks more and more like a necessity.

The performance by Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team this year on tracks similar to New Hampshire lends to an improved outlook for the weekend.

“If you look at the places like that – at Phoenix in the spring we had a really good car and ran right up front all day and had a shot of winning,” said Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers.

“We lined up on the front row with (Chase Briscoe) on the last restart and Richmond we ran good all day and was fastest in the first round of qualifying and then ran up front and finished second (Denny Hamlin).

“So, if you look at those types of tracks, those are the ones we’ve actually been the best at. Those are the ones he’s felt the most comfortable at with this car and even going to the simulator with him (Wednesday), he hit the ground running. You can just tell the places he’s comfortable with.”

One of the best at the 'Magic Mile'

While Harvick, 46, has always been good at the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., his performance at the track took a dramatic turn upward when he joined SHR in 2014.

In his 12 races at the track since, he’s earned three wins and has only four finishes outside of the top-five. Of his 831 career laps led at New Hampshire, 512 have come in the last 11 races.

“Flat tracks have always been really good for me in my career. When you look at SHR and the things we’ve been able to accomplish at Loudon and Phoenix, they’ve kind of followed that same trend,” Harvick said.

“Our guys have done a great job of having a good short-track, flat-track program, and Loudon is a place that has followed along with Phoenix and the success that we’ve had there and to be able to capitalize on that success and continue it at another track.”

Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang

Race winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

To snap his 62-race winless streak on Sunday, Harvick is probably going to have to do one thing that has eluded him this year – lead laps.

While Harvick has four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes this season, he’s led only 13 laps and none in the last seven races.

But if there is one track on the schedule where experience may matter a lot, it’s New Hampshire – and Childers and Harvick have plenty.

Childers has four wins at the track as a crew chief and Harvick has four as a driver and three of the victories came with the two together, and all of those since 2016.

“You just have to keep focused and keep plugging away and hopefully get better and we do feel like we’ve gotten better and better,” Childers said. “I think the key was Nashville and being able to run with the good cars all night and having a really good race. I hope that was a turning point for us and we can keep moving forward from there.

“We feel good about what we’ve got and what we’re taking and probably the most confident we’ve been in a good while.”

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