After Kevin Harvick beat out Denny Hamlin to take victory in the first race on Saturday for his third victory of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, it was Hamlin and the No. 11 team who used strategy to reverse the roles in Sunday’s Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway.
Harvick dipped on pit road earlier than Hamlin as the laps dwindled in the final stage, but it was Hamlin who was able to stretch out a lead while Harvick was forced to work his way through traffic. Hamlin then gave up the lead to pit for two tires, the exact move Harvick’s team made to triumph in Saturday’s 325-miler at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track.
Surprisingly, Harvick felt his No. 4 machine was even stronger than the race-winning setup roughly 24 hours before. Despite coming up one spot short of a doubleheader sweep on Sunday, Harvick stopped short of disappointment with a second-place finish.
“Our car was actually better today than it was yesterday, just the way the end worked out,” Harvick said in his post-race media availability. “That’s kind of the way it goes, right? You win the one that you don’t think you have the better car. You finish second in the one you think you have the best car.
“Overall, you can’t be dissatisfied with a first and second. I’d feel childish if I sat here and nit-picked that apart,” he added.
But what Hamlin and Harvick have been able to accomplish so far this year is no child’s play. While Hamlin notched his fourth win and third since the sport’s return from the COVID-19 stoppage, Harvick’s three victories since Darlington Raceway has landed the pair in Victory Lane in six of the 11 races so far.
PHOTOS: See the 2020 race winners so far
Harvick pinpointed the leadership on both the pit boxes of the Nos. 4 and 11 with crew chiefs Rodney Childers and Chris Gabehart as major keys to both teams’ success.
“It takes that chemistry between crew chief and driver and team,” Harvick said. “You just never know when it’s going to be like that. … I know Rodney and Gabehart, they’re good acquaintances, I guess you could say. Both of our crew chiefs are just really old-school racers that do a good job in the engineering era of being able to look at the car, come at it from a driver’s perspective.”
With the regular season over halfway complete and Hamlin and Harvick putting a whooping on the rest of the field this weekend in Long Pond, is it safe to say both drivers are championship favorites?
“I think so,” Harvick said. “We’re winning races, doing the things we need to do right now, running up front. I think obviously when you look at the win column, as long as you’re winning races, that’s what it takes to win championships.”