Power Rankings: Two consecutive wins leaves Harvick on top

by | Special to CBSSports.com

It's the oldest clichés in racing but it's been very appropriate in recent weeks.

The saying goes, 'In order to finish first, you must first finish.'

Kevin Harvick celebrates a win at Martinsville -- his second victory of the season. (Getty Images)  
Kevin Harvick celebrates a win at Martinsville -- his second victory of the season. (Getty Images)  
Right now nobody finishes better in NASCAR than Kevin Harvick.

Harvick has demonstrated an uncanny knack in his back-to-back wins at Auto Club Speedway and his latest triumph Sunday at Martinsville to stay under the radar most of the race and surface when it matters most -- at the end in the dash to the checkered flag.

Last week he pulled off a last lap pass of Jimmie Johnson to score the win in Fontana and on Sunday he shot past Dale Earnhardt Jr. with only four laps to go for his Martinsville triumph.

It may not always be by design, but Harvick knows very well exactly when things are on the line.

"My dad always told me the pay window didn't open until the checkered flag was flown, and we survived and raced off of what we won each week," Harvick said harkening back to his days as a local track driver. "So if you tore your car up -- my first year, I tore my late model up and we only got to run seven times because he wrecked it every other week. The second time we wrecked one time and we won the championship because we were always around at the end and would take advantage of other people's mistakes."

"I guess it's just the way I was taught to race. You have to be around at the end to win these races."

In the season's first six races, Harvick has been the only driver with repeat trips to victory lane. While there's still a long way to go before the Chase field is set twenty races from now, the new format for the playoffs that includes two 'wild card' spots for the drivers with the most wins not in the point standings Top 10 plays completely in Harvick's favor.

His pair of victories already in hand means that the Richard Childress Racing team may approach the next several months of racing in a different aspect than originally planned.

"Well, I think when you look at the two wins, I feel it good about our -- I'll take our chances on making the Chase with the wild card stuff," Harvick said. "So here we are, six weeks into the season, and I feel like we can take more chances than we did last year"

Maybe that will lead to more races like the last two when the 29 car is out of the picture for most of the day as the team tries things, only to be there at crunch time to challenge for the win.

It's an early life lesion that Harvick is following very well.

1Brad Keselowski2
Took over the Chase lead by 20 points thanks to a sixth place finish and Jimmie Johnson?s misfortune. This is now the Penske Racing driver?s championship to lose.
2Jimmie Johnson1
Saw his seven point lead evaporate thanks to a cut tire and trip into the wall on Sunday. Johnson now must hope a similar such fate happens to Keselowski next week at Homestead to have any shot at a sixth title.
3Kyle Busch4
Nearly ran the table in Phoenix by leading all practices and taking the pole had he been able to win the race. But a poor decision on lane choice for a late restart cost Busch a shot at Victory Lane.
4Kasey Kahne5
Ending the year on a positive note but wasn?t able to match his Phoenix victory of last November. Still a solid day with a fourth place performance.
5Clint Bowyer3
Was the victim of Jeff Gordon?s revenge that completely eliminated Bowyer from championship contention. He wasn?t an angel in the turn of events but Bowyer definitely got the worst of the situation.
6Denny Hamlin8
Hamlin?s second place finish in Phoenix a welcome rebound from two weeks of disappointment for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He?ll be a factor for a win next Sunday in Homestead.
7Kevin Harvick12
Snapped a 44-race winless drought with Sunday?s win ironically coming on the weekend when reports of his evacuation from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 broke out.
8Greg Biffle6
A decent day for ?The Biff? in Phoenix, who was able to dodge all the last lap craziness to bring home his Roush Fenway Racing Ford seventh.
9Joey Logano13
Minding his own business until getting swept up in the Gordon-Bowyer fight. Logano was on his way to a nice effort to follow up his ninth Nationwide Series win on Saturday.
10Ryan Newman14
Rough way to earn a fifth place finish as Newman was one of the unfortunate souls to get caught in the last lap crash on the main straightaway.
11Tony Stewart9
Not a god day at all for Smoke who spun late after making contact racing for position. A 19th place finish for Stewart.
12Matt Kenseth11
Will make the final Sprint Cup start of his career for Roush Fenway Racing next week at Homestead on the heels of a 14th place effort in Phoenix.
13Martin Truex Jr.10
His race was over nearly before it started with a blown engine. After a stellar regular season Truex Jr. has suffered mightily throughout the Chase.
14Carl Edwards15
An 11th place finish for Edwards as he brings to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in his career.

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