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ANDERS: Milestone underscores Harvick's success

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Jordan Anders

NASCAR Atlanta Auto Racing
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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Kevin Harvick dominated at Atlanta last weekend.

Not only did he get his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at the track, but Harvick also dusted the field in the Xfinity Series race. Those wins are significant because they marked Harvick's 98th and 99th career victories in NASCAR's three national touring series.

If and when Harvick gets his 100th career win, which could be today at Las Vegas, where he starts second alongside pole winner Ryan Blaney, it will make him just the fourth driver in NASCAR history to have at least 100 victories.

The rest of that list? Richard Petty (200), Kyle Busch (183) and David Pearson (106). That's pretty elite company.

Now, whether you want to debate the merits of Harvick's and Busch's accomplishments combining the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, there's no denying winning more than 100 races at any combination of NASCAR's multiple levels is impressive.

Harvick's career has been a somewhat checkered one, as his temper early on had a tendency to keep him in trouble as much as his talent kept him in Victory Lane. The way he burst onto the scene, stepping into Dale Earnhardt's car after his death in 2001, has made him one of the most recognizable drivers of the last two decades.

And yet, it seems like Harvick's name isn't exactly one that jumps to mind when the conversation turns to the most dominant ones in recent memory.

He has three championships to his name — one Cup, two Xfinity — and his 38 Cup wins are third-most among active drivers behind Jimmie Johnson (83) and Busch (43). He has won at least one race in all but three of his 18 seasons (including this one), and has won all of NASCAR’s four “crown jewel” events: the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 (twice) and Southern 500.

Harvick is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer when he hangs up his helmet. Yet, it feels like his career accomplishments and sustained success fly under the radar compared to the likes of Johnson, Busch and recently retired names like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.

The thing is, though, not only is it possible for him to hit 100 wins in the near future, it’s conceivable for him to pass Pearson’s mark with a particularly strong season.

When Harvick took the checkered flag last week at Atlanta, he spun his car around and drove up the frontstretch holding three fingers out the window in a callback to the same way he celebrated after his first win at the track. That was the first Cup win of his career and the fourth in the ranks of NASCAR’s top three series.

After 95 more, he’s knocking on the door of an extremely impressive milestone.

PREDICTION

Harvick and the Ford camp finished 1-2-3 at Atlanta and have the top three starting spots today in Vegas. The Fords have been surprisingly strong to start the year, but until someone dethrones the mile-and-a-half track king from a year ago, he’s still my go-to choice. PICK: Martin Truex Jr.

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

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