RICHMOND, Va. -- Heading into Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has been, so far, feast or famine for Kevin Harvick.
The new driver at Stewart-Haas Racing has flourished or floundered at the eight races, so far, this season.
"People are just trying to take chances to get that win, and I think for us, we have been like a Ricky Bobby scene; we have been first or last," Harvick said, comparing himself to the lead character from the move Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. "There has really been no in between."
Harvick is the only driver on the circuit with multiple wins. Seven drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards -- have wins in the first eight races, with Harvick winning the second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway and at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway the weekend before the Easter break.
The five races between those two wins tell a different story, though. He finished outside the top 35 in 43-car race fields in four of those five races, including a next-to-last place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth the weekend before the Darlington win.
The streak got so bad that, by the end of the Texas race, Harvick found himself 26th in the championship points standings. Under NASCAR's new Chase for the Sprint Cup qualifying criteria, wins will not get a driver in if outside the top 30 in the standings. The Darlington victory moved him back up to 22nd, so he is headed back in the right direction.
"The performance of the cars has been really good and, obviously, we have had some problems, but it's just one of those deals where being the points leader and having points is really irrelevant at this point," Harvick said. "You just go out and try to put your best foot forward every week to get a win and protect yourself as much as you can with as many wins as possible."
Fortunately for Harvick, Richmond is the track at hand, and it is one of his best tracks. He has three career wins at Richmond, including two in the last five visits to the track. His Richmond International Raceway stats also include 16 top 10s in 26 career starts at the track.
"This has been a great race track for us in the past," Harvick said. "As we have come through the years, I have been fortunate to have a lot of success. I always look forward to coming to this race weekend, just knowing that and hoping that you can contend for a win. Hopefully, we can put ourselves in a good spot throughout the weekend and be around somewhere at the end."
Richmond win or not, Harvick may be the driver closest to guaranteeing a spot in the 2014 Chase. That is, as long as he can remain in the top 30, and a Richmond victory would propel him farther up the standings and farther away from outside top-30 territory. With 26 races making up the regular season, two wins are a guarantee among the top 30 drivers.
It Looks like Richmond came at just the right time for Harvick. He kicked off the weekend the right way by winning the ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond on Friday night.