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Why Kevin Harvick will win the 2018 Monster Energy Series title

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four stories examining why each driver could win the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Coming Tuesday: Martin Truex Jr.

RECAP: Martin Truex Jr. | Kyle Busch

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Kevin Harvick will win the 2018 championship because … 

He has the fastest car in the field and a penchant for big-race performances that rivals anyone else in any professional sport. It’s no secret the No. 4 Ford has been operating at an elite level all year, and it won’t be any different Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Of Harvick’s eight wins this year — which are most in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, by the way, tied with Kyle Busch — four have come on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been fast on unload, and his cars get even better during the races.

Let’s go beyond speed, though.

MORE: Kevin and DeLana through the years

This is the most decorated Championship 4 field in the history of NASCAR’s elimination-style playoff format. Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano are superstars, and whoever wins the championship Sunday will have without question earned it.

But of those four, even with so many big wins among them all, no driver has risen to the occasion and won when it mattered most like Harvick. Phoenix 2014 … Miami 2014 … Dover 2015 … New Hampshire 2016 … the list goes on.

Harvick is the author of the clutch win and feels like NASCAR’s version of Kobe Bryant. When the stakes are highest, he wants the ball in his hands, so to speak.

MORE: Clutch wins in playoff history

And a word about Rodney Childers. Yes, the crew chief and car chief Robert Smith are suspended from this race due to an L1-level penalty issued after a win at Texas. Yes, his absence will be felt.

Will it cause them to lose the title? No. Childers will put in 14 hours per day at the shop this week, and building the Miami car has likely been months in the making. The car is what the car is, and Childers and Smith had a big hand in building it. SHR has worked tirelessly to build a deep bench, and veteran Tony Gibson is the perfect, steady voice to call the shots Sunday.

To tweak a quote from Harvick’s post-race interview from Phoenix — The internet works well from Miami to North Carolina, too.

RELATED: Breaking down the Championship 4