With only four races left in the season entering this past weekend, we saw veteran NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick clinch his spot in the playoffs via a win at Michigan. Harvick was seen as the least likely of the 3 remaining fringe drivers vying for the last two playoff spots, between himself, Ryan Blaney, and Martin Truex Jr.
However, Kevin was able to beat the odds and pull off a stellar win at Michigan this weekend, and all but clinch himself a spot in the playoffs. The only chance he has of losing his spot would be Blaney or MTJ winning 2 of the next 3 races and stealing his spot via points, which is extremely unlikely to happen as Harvick is 10th in the standings.
In this article, I will be breaking down the race at Michigan and how Harvick was able to pull off this win. Next, I will cover how this win changes the betting odds for the NASCAR Championship, and how it overall has affected the odds for the remaining races.
How did Kevin Harvick manage to overcome the betting odds and win?
Kevin Harvick entered this weekend’s race in Michigan at 17-1 odds to win the race (+2000) with worse odds than 11 drivers. However, this is higher than his normal odds, as he is an absolute phenom at Michigan for the last few seasons.
In the last 7 seasons racing at Michigan, Harvick has won five of them and has won a total of six times there in his career. This is why, despite having a relatively turmoil-filled season, he had decent odds to find a victory on Sunday.
Even more notably? This win ended a 65-race winless streak for Kevin Harvick and made him the 15th different winner of the season. In a season that is already considered one of the most highly contested for each win, this just makes that narrative even more true.
Kevin Harvick was able to pull off this win due to the early competition caution, which moved pole-sitter and top-10 runner all day Bubba Wallace out of the lead. This left Bubba in a bad position, where he would mix up pit cycles and only end up having a shot at the win near the last restart.
The main reason Kevin Harvick got such a large lead near the end of the race was that on the last restart, Bubba Wallace, who started alongside Harvick in 2nd on the restart, was overtaken by Joey Logano, which made the two of them have to race for the position and not focus on Harvick pulling away.
Harvick pulled away by about 4 seconds before Bubba had a chance to come back at him with less than 20 laps left, and Harvick held on to win it.
How does this affect the playoff picture?
As I spoke partially about earlier, this win shakes up the playoff race a huge amount for the final 3 races before the playoffs start. As things sit right now, Kevin Harvick sits 10th in the standings with 618 regular season points and a win to his name.
There is only 1 playoff spot remaining which would not require a win or multiple wins to acquire, which is currently held by young Penske driver Ryan Blaney. This position will be highly contested in the remaining races, however, as perennial championship contender Martin Truex Jr. is only 19 points behind Blaney.
On top of this, MTJ seems to always come to life in the final races of the season, and prove his worthiness of a playoff spot. The most intriguing part? Truex is a 3-time winner at the next race of the season, that being Richmond.
Richmond is one of the smaller tracks on the schedule, and most definitely the smallest remaining with Watkins Glen and Daytona remaining. This is important as Truex is seemingly always a dominant force at small tracks on the schedule, winning twice at Martinsville, 3 times at Dover, and coming close to winning on multiple occasions at Bristol.
The playoffs will now come down to whether or not someone outside the top 15 can get a win, or if not, who out of Blaney or MTJ can score the most points. This has shades of 2020 when William Byron had to win at Daytona for one of the final playoff spots, and the chaos that ensued with Jimmie Johnson crashing in one of the last restarts. It will be an interesting last few weeks, that’s for certain.
How does this win change the betting odds?
After Harvick’s win at Michigan, we also saw some major changes in the betting odds for the remainder of the season. Firstly, the Championship Odds, which now portray Kevin Harvick at +2000, tied with Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. for 10th best odds. This is important as, despite his win, Harvick still has relatively tame odds to win the championship, which seems to be an intriguing bet.
This also gave Kevin Harvick a boost for the next race’s odds it seems, where he is tied for the 9th best odds to win Richmond at +1500. While he is not an exceptional short-track driver, his previous win has now given him improved odds from a week-to-week basis more than likely.
Another driver obviously worth noting at Richmond is who I mentioned earlier, MTJ. Truex is tied for the 1st best odds to win here at +600 with Denny Hamlin also at the same number. As I mentioned previously, Truex is a phenomenal short-track driver, so his odds for this race will essentially be the best of the group.
Regardless, this Harvick win has impacted the odds not only for himself but also for the other racers fighting for the final playoff spot as we can see by Truex’s odds to win Richmond. We should see an extremely determined MTJ now considering his playoff chances come down to these final few races and his ability to grab a win or a huge haul of points.
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