Charlotte, N.C. — Tony Stewart has never been fond of predictions and when asked, he almost always gives the same response: "If I knew the answer to that, I'd probably be a bookie in Las Vegas."
Yet when it comes to teammate Kevin Harvick's chances of advancing out of the next round of NASCAR's playoffs, the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing suddenly sounded like an odds-maker.
"There's nobody I'd put money on in a two-race deal more than him," Stewart said of Harvick.
Harvick, who has consistently had one of the fastest cars all season, has been backed into a corner in the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Matt Kenseth spun him on a restart Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Harvick finished 33rd. It dropped him to last in the eight-driver Chase field, with two races to either climb to fourth in the standings or to earn the automatic berth that comes with a victory.
Only four drivers will race for the championship in the Nov. 16 finale at Homestead, where Harvick spent Tuesday and Wednesday testing with SHR.
There was palpable disappointment throughout the SHR organization at Martinsville, where Harvick had climbed from 33rd to inside the top-10 before Kenseth spun him, but no one was ready to count him out.
Although he's never won a Cup race at Texas, site of Sunday's event, he has been strong on 1.5-milers this year and won at Charlotte earlier this month. The Texas race will also mark Harvick's 500th career start.
Then he moves to Phoenix, the site of the final race of this round and where Harvick is a five-time winner. His winning streak includes three of the last four races.
"I think we feel good going to Texas, and Phoenix is one of his favorite tracks," said Stewart.
SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli noted that Harvick can climb out of a hole.
"He seems to do well when his back is against the wall and I think he wants it," Zipadelli said. "Nobody is going to give you it. Racing for years, you gotta go earn it, you gotta race it and some days things stack against you and you've got to go see what you're made of. We'll go to the next couple of races and see what we've got.
"I believe in our people, I believe in our equipment, so we've just got to do it."
Crew chief Rodney Childers said the No. 4 team will change nothing in its approach, and nobody is panicked about Harvick's position.
"We're ready to go," Childers said. "Our Texas and Phoenix cars are already ready. There's nothing we need to change or do differently. We've just got to go win a race."