Years from now when a race fan looks back through the NASCAR Cup Series records and comes across the 2020 season, he could come to the conclusion that the champion had to be Kevin Harvick because of the highly successful season that he put together.
Sometimes in sports the numbers put in the record books doesn’t tell the whole story and that is exactly how 2020 played out as Chase Elliott’s season totals paled compared to Harvick’s but if that race fan dug deeper into the record book for that season he will find out that it was Elliott not Harvick that was crowned the series champion.
While Harvick was not able to capture his second Cup Series title, he was honored last week as the 2020 Richard Petty Driver of the Year by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association.
It is one of the highest honors that a driver in any motorsports series can win and he did so just like he did during the regular Cup Series season as he dominated the voting by receiving 45 percent of the votes. It was his third Driver of the Year award as he also won it in 2014 and 2018. Any recap of the year that Harvick put together without a title could stir up a debate about the format that NASCAR uses to determine who wins the title but that is a story for another day.
The format consists of a regular-season consisting of the first 26 races on the schedule followed by the final ten races of the season that makes up the playoff portion of the 36-race schedule.
Harvick won the regular- season championship but finished fifth in the final standings that determines who wins the series championship. He and his team had the ability to win at any track on the schedule as he posted wins at a variety of tracks.
He nine wins came at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
Included in his win total was a sweep of back-to-back races at Michigan and two trips to victory lane at maybe the toughest track on the entire schedule at Darlington.
Seven of those wins came during the regular season which helped him build up a war chest of 57 Playoff Bonus Points that he carried with him through the playoffs. It was an amount that everyone thought would propel him to being one of the Championship 4 drivers that would enter the season ending race at Phoenix with the opportunity to run for the title.
Once the Playoffs started his continued with his domination of the series as he won two of the three races in the Round of 16 at Darlington and Bristol. Those would be his last wins of the season and suddenly his path to the final was riding on his position in the points.
The Playoff field was being reduced by four drivers after each three-race rounds and with checkered flags being claimed by drivers lower in the points than himself, Harvick was scrambling to advance during the Round of 8. Joey Logano and Chase Elliott punched their ticket to the final with wins during this round with Kyle Busch a non-playoff driver at this point winning a race during the round.
That left Harvick battling for one of the final two spots on points but a 17th place finish at Martinsville ended his bid for the title as he finished third in the points behind Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. The title as it turned out was the only thing that Harvick did not collect in 2020.
While there will be other drivers win titles in the seasons to come, it may be tougher to see one duplicate the season that Harvick put in the record book.