Nascar Stuff

Kevin Harvick

Why Kevin Harvick Is The Best Race Car Driver In The Whole Damn World

This is one area where Radt and I agree. Why? Harvick's from Bakersfield. The boys from Bakes stick together. Radt thinks Harvick got him sideways at Marin but he doesn't hold a grudge. He does promise a payback when they meet on the track again though. He also claims to have an N2K3 Replay video of himself where he jumps completely over the 29 car at The Widowmaker. I'd have to see it is all I can say.

Radt On Harvick

As we say in Bakersfield, "Payback's a mutha". I'm gonna send him up the track but I think I'll wait until we're racing for the win at mmmmm (unintelligible mumble). As for the video? Would I say it if it wasn't true? I got yer video... right here... proof is in the pudding. Want the game version so you can check all the camera views? Got that too... right here.

The Evidence

Awhile back I was at Racing Reference playing around, checking out how Harvick had done at a track where he was going to be racing soon. I started messing around with some stats and moved them into a spreadsheet. You know what they say... there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. As a longtime baseball stats buff I know that you can manipulate stats to prove any point you want.  That wasn't my plan though. What I wanted to see was if there was anything in the stats that supported what I've been telling people all along (most of them don't want to hear it anymore but I say it anyway). Here are some of the more interesting things that jumped out at me.

Item #1: Running At The Finish

Kevin is first among active drivers (who have been in over 100 races) in the percentage of races where he is still racing at the finish. Actually he is first among all active drivers who have been in over 30 races. Think that is insignificant? Look at the top ten drivers in this category and you'll see a few names you recognize.

Driver Races RAF % Miles
Kevin Harvick 198 93.94% 76611.5
Tony Stewart 268 89.93% 101433.2
Jeff Burton 423 89.60% 156304.6
Elliott Sadler 269 88.85% 99949.3
Jimmie Johnson 167 88.62% 64213.2
Greg Biffle 134 88.06% 50624
Matt Kenseth 240 87.92% 90465.6
Jamie McMurray 134 87.31% 51292.4
Kurt Busch 204 87.25% 74555.4
Dale Earnhardt,Jr. 239 86.61% 89911.9

Since I discovered this stat I've been watching him. Kevin drives smart. Contrary to reputation he is not involved in a lot of incidents (at least during the race -;). He takes care of his equipment and if he doesn't have a car to win he realizes it and takes what it will give him. If he does have a car that can win he will go balls out. I remember only one time this year where he may have pushed it a bit--the Busch race where he got into Menard while racing for the lead at the end. Afterwards he cut Menard off at pit lane and exchanged words (pleasantries?). Asked about it later he grinned and said that he was congratulating Menard on his win. I remember laughing and saying "Bullshit Harvick!". Remember I'm a Bakersfield boy too. Let me see if I can guess what he said. Something like "You couldn't race me ya putz so you went for the block. I'll remember that next time". Sound close?

Item #2: Average Start/Finish Differential

Ok, so this might be a little bit of a gray area. If you start in 35th every week and you finish 30th (Kyle) you have a good start/finish differential. Someone like Ryan Newman comes in last among all drivers (-8) because he's had so many great qualifying runs and it's hard to improve on your position when you start at the pole. There's only one way to go from the top just as there's only one way to go from the bottom.

Driver Races Ave.St Ave Fin S/F Dif Miles
Matt Kenseth 240 21.2 15.4 5.8 90465.6
Jeff Burton 423 21.7 16.3 5.4 156304.6
Mike Wallace 183 31.9 26.6 5.3 65018.8
Kevin Harvick 198 18.3 16.2 2.1 76611.5
Jimmy Spencer 478 24.5 22.5 2.0 166771.2
Tony Stewart 268 14.4 12.5 1.9 101433.2
Jamie McMurray 134 18.7 16.9 1.8 51292.4
Kyle Petty 769 22.5 20.7 1.8 268222.9
Dale Jarrett 623 18.1 16.4 1.7 221036.2
Terry Labonte 843 17.1 15.9 1.2 302085.8

Notice again the company; many of these drivers are known for coming out in a better position than their car was really good for. It could also say something for their crews. Or it could mean nothing--I like the fact that my driver is in the top 10. I was surprised when I didn't see Mark Martin up on this list. Maybe that has something to do with his early years. It always seems though, that he starts middle of the pack, hangs around for awhile, and then finishes in the top 10. Something else here. I see Kevin's RCR team mate, Jeff Burton, on both of these lists also. I don't know what that means but I like to think that it shows Richard Childress to have a pretty good eye for drivers.


I'm going to end with that. My driver does not finish in the top 10 on the list for percent of Top 10 finishes. It seems like those positions all go to the Hendricks and Roush cars. In the past I noticed it seemed to be all or nothing with Harvicks' car. It was either really dialed in or it was crap. I could always tell early in the race. If he started back and climbed pretty quick there was a chance he was good. If the car stayed the same after a pitstop it just never got any better. This year though it seems like there is always a chance. Nearly every week I'll be crowing about his finish and my lady will say "Do you know why?" and I'll say "Because he's the best race car driver in the whole damn world!"

See also:

Harvick Surges To Chase

(Note: I have posted the version of the spreadsheet that I used for my tables here which were at the time taken fresh off the Racing-Reference servers [07/29/07] and converted to .xls) in case you want to play with the statistics yourself).