Kevin Harvick’s in near must-win situation … again

rir_nscs_harvick_042216Kevin Harvick seemingly always ends up in dire situations within the new “win-and-you’re-in” Chase format implemented in 2014.

And he always finds a way to make his way out.

Currently 18 points below the cutoff line for the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick essentially has to win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) to earn a berth in his third consecutive Championship Race.

Luckily for Harvick, there’s no place he’d rather be in a “win-or-go-home” situation than Phoenix. He has won six of the last eight races there and holds the track record with eight victories.

“I feel like that can be gone at any point,” Harvick said of his perceived edge at Phoenix. “That’s the hardest thing about having success. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep moving forward. If you don’t have an open mind or are not willing to try a fresh approach, then it will get stagnant. You’re going to become stale and get left behind.”

This isn’t the first time Harvick virtually needs a victory to advance in the Chase. He was in trouble in the first two rounds this season and won at New Hampshire and Kansas, respectively, to transfer to the ensuing segments. Last year, he took the checkered flag in the Dover Chase race when he would’ve been knocked out if he did anything less. Finally, in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship 2014 campaign, Harvick would’ve failed to take home the title if he didn’t win back-to-back races at Phoenix and Homestead.

Harvick discussed his preparation for Phoenix rather than any pressure he might be feeling.

“As we go to Phoenix, we have to look at the things that we’ve done well,” Harvick said. “Obviously, we’ve done a lot of good things. We look at the race tape and pay attention to the lines and braking, steering, throttle and all the things that you have access to and you try to mimic that immediately when you get on the racetrack. The hard part about our sport is the conditions are never the same. You never know if it’s going to be 100 degrees or if it’s going to be 50 degrees. That makes a big difference on the balance of the car, how much downforce it makes and how much tape you can run on the front. There are all kinds of things to navigate through once you get there. There are a lot of good race car drivers and lots of circumstances that could play out to have things go wrong. You go there with a fresh start like you’ve never won there before and try to get the car dialed in.”