Paid-spokesman Kevin Harvick has finally won a race, and now we can move on to the rest of the season.
While the win further complicates Harvick’s presumed future as a FOX Sports racing analyst, it cleared up one of the two most glaring issues in NASCAR, that of the two oldest drivers in the sport going winless for the entire season.
We can sort of figure out why 43-year-old Jimmie Johnson isn’t winning. But it was a lot harder to try and explain why 43-year-old Harvick wasn’t winning.
The whispers about age and dedication are getting louder for Johnson. That wasn’t the case with Harvick, who’s won at least one race every year for 11 straight seasons. But the two are clearly slowing down.
Harvick has now won a total of two races in two years. Johnson hasn’t won since June of 2017. And now we go to Pocono, where Harvick has never won and where Johnson’s long winless streak began the week after Dover in 2017.
Looking back on that Pocono race now, it helps explain why Johnson hasn’t won since. His crash that day scared him. He sent word to his mother, his wife and his kids that he was OK.
But he hasn’t won a race since.
There’s a fine line between racing and racing to win, and the latter requires the nerves of a young man. The more times a driver crashes, the slower he drives into corners. Any retired driver will tell you that. And once that happens, it’s time to retire. Few do. They almost all keep racing even after they stop racing to win.
Harvick, by the way, finished second that day.
Pocono is as dangerous as any track NASCAR has ever visited, a track that was once surrounded by boiler-plate walls that left drivers damaged for the rest of their lives. It’s still a scary place and seldom won by veteran drivers. There are exceptions of course, but Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth are the only drivers in their 40s to win at Pocono in the last 15 years.
A win Sunday by either Harvick or Johnson would not only change that narrative but alter the career course for the two oldest drivers in NASCAR.
The image of Johnson sitting on the track, injured and scared in 2017, is the image of Pocono, a track that almost killed Richard Petty, Davey Allison, Ken Schrader, Greg Sacks, Elliott Sadler and Steve Park in horrific crashes.
Johnson’s crash there still haunts him. He’ll race carefully this week.
Harvick still wants to win races. This might be one of his last chances to win at Pocono.
Both will head to the triangle Sunday holding their breath.