Hop Off Harvick’s Wagon…While You Can

Harvick BandwagonKevin Harvick, along with Denny Hamlin, finally gave “The Champ” a run for his money in the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year. Many think the sport needs a new champion, and last year was the closest it has been in a while to happening. “Happy” Harvick was pretty happy in 2010, and his phenomenal average finish of 8.67 probably had something to do with his good mood.

Heading into 2011, Kevin Harvick is ranked pretty high on everyone’s charts–except mine. I’m not buying the hype. Harvick had a great season in 2010, but I don’t think he will come close to that in 2011 (you can only have great seasons back to back if your last name is Johnson). He will probably be a Chase contender, but another run for the championship is out of the question. Do I have a grudge against Harvick? No, but I’m a “numbers” type of guy and when you look at the past five years, it doesn’t look good for the 29 in 2011. Below you will find the top average finishers per year (excluding Johnson in 2006), and how they did the next year.

2005: Tony Stewart — finished 1st in points — average finish of 9.92
The next season: “Smoke” ended up 11th in points with an average finish of 13.78

2007: Jeff Gordon — finished 2nd in points — average finish of 7.33
The next season: Jeff almost doubled his average finish (14.53) and ended up 7th in the standings

2008: Carl Edwards — finished 2nd in points — average finish of 9.50
The next season: Cousin Carl averaged a finish of 15.06 and ended up 11th in points

See a trend happening?

2009: Jeff Gordon — finished 3rd in points — average finish of 10.17
The next season: Gordon went down to an average finish of 13.39 and ended up 9th in the points

In case you didn’t read above, and noticed that 2006 was missing, even the great Jimmie Johnson worsened his average finish after leading the series at 9.67. The following season he ended up with an average finish of 10.75. He still won the championship, but didn’t have as good of a year.

Still don’t believe me? You have to go back to 1997-1998 to find someone who had a better average finish after leading the series the year before. Mark Martin had an average finish of 8.97 in 1997, and backed that up with an 8.64 in 1998 (ending up 3rd and 2nd in the points standings, respectfully).

Some drivers really had a bad year after leading the series in best average finish in the past 14 years. In 2002, Mark Martin had the best average finish with 12.17. He finished 2nd in points that year. In 2003, he ended up 17th in points with an average finish of 20.25. Jeff Gordon finished 3rd in the standings in 2004 with an average finish of 11.39. The following season he found himself 11th in points with an average finish of 17.75.

When you average the past 12 drivers with the best average finish and how they did the following year, you come up with these numbers:

Total average of average finishes in year that they led the series: 9.27
Total average of average finishes in the following year: 14.44

Average points position in year they led the series in avg. finish: 1.58
Average points position in the following year: 7.92

Harvick’s past certainly doesn’t help in predicting a good year for the 29 in 2011, as he has been anything but consistent. I have looked at the statistics of Harvick from 2005 through 2010. In the even years, he finished 3rd, 4th, and 4th in points. In the odd years, he finished 14th, 10th, and 19th. It’s an odd year coming up! I see Harvick finishing around 11th. In terms of average finish, in the even years Happy has an average of 11.09. In the odd years, his average finish is 17.64.

So, to all those Harvick fans out there, as well as those thinking he may repeat (or come close) to the year he had last season in 2011, I leave you with this: talk to me in November. I’ve jumped off the Harvick bandwagon, but it’s still a full ride. And after the Daytona 500, it may become even more crowded. But over the course of the season, seats will become available for the hope of a good season in 2012.