Loudon, N.H. — Yes, even Dick Vitale has endorsed NASCAR's new tournament-style bracket to crown a champion.
Just win and advance, baby!
Time for a T.O.
Sure, winning races earn a driver an automatic berth into the next round, decided after every three races, before the final four drivers are left to duke it out for the Sprint Cup championship in the finale at Homestead.
But piling up points can get a driver to Homestead even without a win.
Kevin Harvick would love to add at least a third win to a solid season for him at Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick, though, would trade wins for his first career Cup championship as long as he's consistent enough over the first nine Chase for the Sprint Cup championship races to be in the mix at the end.
"All you've got to do is be the first car out of the four cars to finish the race at Homestead," Harvick said. "You don't necessarily even have to win a race to win the championship."
Harvick has been in the hunt to win plenty of races this season. His six poles this year matched his total for his entire career entering this season and he's second behind only Rochester Hills' Brad Keselowski with 1,265 laps led. He was wins at Darlington and Phoenix and was fifth in the Chase opener last week at Chicagoland.
In a championship showdown that many believe will boil down to Team Penske vs. Hendrick Motorsports, Harvick could be a spoiler to watch. He doesn't plan to gamble down the stretch to win a championship.
"I think the whole winning thing is really overrated," he said. "Obviously you want to win. You want to win every week and you show up to try to win, but you can't take any unnecessary chances and that is kind of the box that the point system puts you in."
Like his July race at New Hampshire, for example.
With two early wins, Harvick already was locked into the Chase, and could afford to take a win-or-bust mentality the rest of the season. When the race needed a green-white-checkered finish, Harvick lined up second on the final restart. He ran out of fuel as the field took the green flag and coasted to finish 30th. Not this time around.
"The short-term risk versus reward is not there this time of year," Harvick said. "No matter what they tell you about the new system, it's not all about winning."
Stewart-Haas Racing gave Harvick the crew from Tony Stewart's 2011 championship in a move to strengthen Harvick's title chances in his first year with the team.
Harvick had been critical of the No. 4 team's pit stops this season and said it had to be addressed for him to have a shot in the Chase. He was pleased with the crew at Chicagoland.
"We had a lot of situations where we came in leading and went out leading," he said. "That's really what you're looking for."
Here are some things to know about Sunday's race at New Hampshire.