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Kyle Busch
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Statistically Speaking

Head-to-head: Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 22, 2020, 1:52 pm ET

For the past two years they have been two of the Big 3, dominating NASCAR and making a mockery of the concept of parity among drivers. This year, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. have gotten off to a slow start. And just as things were beginning to turn around, an unanticipated hiatus for the COVID-19 outbreak has put the 2020 NASCAR season on hold.

As with most factors, how a driver responds can go in two directions. They will either use this time to regroup and come back stronger, or they will fixate on the problems to date and continue to struggle once the series returns to action.

Ultimately both Harvick and Busch will go back to challenging for top-fives in the vast majority of races, but one of them might do so earlier and more consistently than the other.


If a fantasy player looks only at the raw results, it would appear Harvick has not missed a beat. He was almost perfect in regard to top-10s last year during the playoffs with a single bad finish on the wild card plate track of Talladega Superspeedway. After that, he posted five consecutive top-10s to end the year with a victory in Texas and a fourth-place finish at Homestead.

Harvick survived the Daytona 500 carnage in fifth and is now the only driver with a sweep of the top 10 through four races. He has a current nine-race streak of top-10s. That is the good news.

The bad news is that he really did not look like his old self in the first three races. He was a good value at Las Vegas, but was overshadowed by Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman and didn’t get his number called very often. He had an Average Running Position of 3.44, but slipped back at the end to finish eighth.

Harvick finally showed dominance at Phoenix – a track that he has owned in recent years. He had the best Average Running Position of 2.60 and finished second. Harvick had a better long run car than the FanShield 500k winner Joey Logano, but lost track position during the green-white-checkered finish.

 

Kevin Harvick

Race

Finish

Start

Avg. Run

Phoenix

2

2

2.60

Auto Club

9

5

10.5

Las Vegas

8

3

3.44

Daytona

5

10

19.6

Average

6.0

5.0

*9.02

 

Harvick has momentum.

Kyle Busch may or may not have momentum when the series returns to action. He enters the weekend with back-to-back top-fives after finishing second at Auto Club and third at Phoenix. That is only half the story, however.

Busch was sullen after his runner-up finish in the Auto Club 400. And it wasn’t his usual moodiness surrounding getting beaten. He was fully aware that the No. 18 was not up to the task of finishing in the top five. His Average Running Position backed that up. Busch spent most of the day on the high side of the top 10 with an average of 8.66. That ranked fifth among 38 drivers, but it is not the performance we expected from the defending champion on a track that has been mostly kind.

Busch felt better about his Phoenix performance. He posted an Average Running Position of 6.08 that ranked third in the field. That suggests he was inside the top five often enough to soothe his ego. Better still, his third-place finish was good enough to cover his salary cap expense.

 

Kyle Busch

Race

Finish

Start

Avg. Run

Phoenix

3

10

6.08

Auto Club

2

17

8.66

Las Vegas

15

1

13.8

Daytona

34

28

17.3

Average

13.5

14.0

*11.46

 

How these two drivers return to competition will depend on when the NASCAR series actually gets rolling again. If NASCAR races at Martinsville on May 9 as anticipated, then Busch is liable to have the upper hand. Before he lost his composure there last fall and damaged his car through overly aggressive driving, he had an eight-race streak of top-fives on the short track.

Harvick will enter Martinsville with a five-race, top-10 streak on the paperclip. But only two of these were top-fives and his average of 6.6 is not going to support what will undoubtedly be a prohibitively high salary cap.

NASCAR will have to make some adjustments to the calendar if they still want to run all 36 races. That is going to result in a long stretch of racing without a break and the possibility of multiple weeks with two or more events. Again, the advantage may go to Busch because he has the experience of being the top Buschwhacker and Truckstopper, which has trained him to put in a lot of laps in a given week.

* NASCAR Statistical Services Average Running Position through Week 4.

Previous Head-to-head matchups:
Tyler Reddick vs. William Byron
Chris Buescher vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Rick Jones vs. Christopher Bell
Chase Elliott vs. Ryan Blaney
Joe Gibbs vs. Team Penske

Dan Beaver
Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.