Kevin Harvick has once again slowed the changing of the guard.

But can the 43-year-old driver win the playoffs and drive off into the sunset? That would seen to be the perfect script.

Win the championship, walk into the FOX broadcast booth and let the guard change itself.

Probably won’t happen. Harvick’s win at Indy, a dominating performance in front of empty seats, proved two things: One, that he’s still in his prime, and two, that once he’s gone, there will be no one to take his place.

Harvick is the last of the old guard, a throwback to the last of the good old days, when the sport was making its slow and painful transition after the death of Dale Earnhardt to what’s left of the sport now.

It was Harvick, remember, who had the nerve to hop into Earnhardt’s ride, and it was Harvick who won at Atlanta less than a month after Earnhardt died.

Since that season, we’ve seen a slow erosion of talent and stars in a sport that needs both to survive.

Harvick is still one of a handful of drivers who can move the needle.

But unlike Kyle Busch or Joey Logano, he seems to have a quality they don’t have. Yes, they can be rough on the track, moving cars out of the way, and off the track, willing to get in somebody’s face and take a swing.

But Harvick doesn’t really do either. He’s old school in the sense that his car does the talking for him. He’s smooth like Fireball Roberts once was. He’s sneaky fast like Dale Jarrett once was.

He’s street smart and funny and confident and polished in a stock-car racer sort of way. Like, you know, Darrell Waltrip.

That’s why FOX Sports can’t wait for him to walk, not limp, into the booth and save us from Jeff Gordon, not to mention the other team.

So while the sport needs him to be himself for as long as he can hold on, the sport also needs him to change the guard in the broadcast booth.

A year from now, we’re likely going to be watching a different game with Jimmie Johnson entering the last year of his contract and emerging drivers with no personality finally moving into the spotlight.

As long as Harvick is there, the full transition won’t happen. He’s too good. And along with Busch, Logano and Martin Truex, there’s no room at the top for anyone else.

Any handicapping of the playoffs has those four at the top every year. And the win at Indy left no doubt which driver is at the top of the sport right now.

This is Kevin Harvick’s time. And maybe it’s his last time.

Or maybe not.

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