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ANDERS: Harvick's accountability a welcome sight

NASCAR Atlanta Trucks Auto Racing-7
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Kevin Harvick leads off the start during a NASCAR Monster Cup series auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., Sunday, March 5, 2017. (AP Photo/John Amis)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 12, 2017

One of my favorite things about NASCAR, and the thing I think makes it the most entertaining, is just how many moving parts have to align to win a race.

It's not just about which driver is the most talented, which equipment is the best, which pit crew is the fastest. It's all of those things, having to work together in unison.

Kevin Harvick had all those things last week in Atlanta. The 2014 Cup champion had the field covered and then some, winning the first two stages in dominant fashion and appeared to be cruising to the checkered flag.

Everything was working in unison, just as the No. 4 team needed, until Harvick got dinged for speeding on pit road on the final pit stop. The ensuing penalty relegated him to a ninth-place result.

Now, the adage of "win as a team, lose as a team" is as tried and true as any sports cliché. Harvick's team has had its share of pit crew issues since he came to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and the driver has not been shy about calling them out both on the team radio and in interviews.

The shoe was on the other foot last weekend, with Harvick and Harvick alone responsible for a shot to win getting away. Where other drivers have been known to explode on the radio and claim NASCAR's timing system was somehow to blame, Harvick manned up when he hit the mic button following his penalty.

His message was simple: "I am so sorry, guys."

The driver fell on the sword of his own mistake. That shouldn't be something that needs to be outwardly pointed out, but given that so many in today's society shun personal responsibility, I found it admirable that he so easily claimed responsibility and apologized, especially given his penchant for being rough on his team for its mistakes in the past.

BLUE OVAL BRIGADE: Speaking of SHR, if there was any question as to whether their shift to Ford was going to hinder their performance, I think we already have our answer.

That speeding penalty on Harvick is the only reason Stewart-Haas isn't 2-for-2 in 2017 following Kurt Busch's win in the Daytona 500. Add in the fact that Clint Bowyer ran in the top-10 much of the day before cutting a tire, and it appears the switch to the blue oval is going as smoothly as the team could have hoped.

YOUNG BUCKS: Harvick's misdeed opened the door for Brad Keselowski to win at Atlanta, but he had to run down and pass Kyle Larson to do it. Larson and Chase Elliott have been in position to win late in both of this season's races.

Factor in strong showings thus far from Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones and the first two weeks of the year have been a sign that there is plenty of young talent ready to challenge the established names as the season goes along.

VEGAS, BABY: The biggest midweek story was the movement of one of New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Cup Series dates to Las Vegas, which will give it the second weekend a year it has long desired and a race in NASCAR's playoffs.

The loss of a date at Loudon isn't nearly as much of a bummer as the addition of yet another 1.5-mile track to the Cup circuit. New Hampshire may not have provided the greatest racing, but the fairly flat one-mile oval was anything but cookie-cutter, which is exactly what Vegas is.

But, money talks, which is really all you need to know about why this deal happened.

PREDICTION

If there's anything more dangerous than Kevin Harvick, it's Kevin Harvick a week after he and his team feel like they let one get away. This feels like a week where he will punish the field for last week’s mistake.

PICK: Kevin Harvick.

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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