Kevin Harvick built a 219-point championship lead before the standings were reset for the Chase for the Sprint Cup and he's looking to make a statement on Oct. 10 at Auto Club Speedway.
He will start the fourth of 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup races exactly where he started the first, ranked third in the standings and 30 points off the lead.
"We have been consistent and had solid top-five finishes all year. So, we just have to keep doing those things, keep our cars running up front, lead some laps and grab those bonus points when we can," he said.
Auto Club Speedway hasn't been all that kind to Harvick through 16 career Sprint Cup starts. He owns an average 18th-place finish at the track, but the 34-year-old Richard Childress Racing competitor scored his track-best second-place finish behind Jimmie Johnson on the two-mile oval during the series February 21 visit this season. The finish marked his second top-five and fourth top-10 finish in his past five Golden State starts.
"In February, I feel like I let one slip away there. I was running the 48 down, I just brushed the wall and the car went really tight. We still had a good finish and we're looking forward to going back.
"Obviously, a lot can change. It's been a hot summer and the racetrack will be different, but it's been a good racetrack for us over the last few years. We need to capitalize this week and make something happen. We feel good about where we are right now," Harvick said.
He has collected three victories along with a total of 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes this season while remaining on pace for the best Sprint Cup championship finish of his 10-year career. He took fourth in both 2008 and 2006, a season during which he registered a career-high five victories.
Expect defending series champion Johnson to be squarely back in this week's front-running mix as well. He will start Sunday's race with an eight-point Chase for the Sprint Cup lead over the second-place Denny Hamlin.
The championship spotlight will be more intense than usual on Johnson when makes his 16th career start on an oval where he's captured two straight and four of his five career track victories in his past six starts. His average Auto Club Speedway finish in that stretch is 2.5.
As the record reflects, the El Cajon, Calif., driver will feel right at home when the green flag flies for Sunday's 400-mile fight.
"I really enjoy the racetrack. I enjoy the weather, the atmosphere and am fond of the area. It is always good to go home, there is a certain feeling about it. I won my first race there, my 48th race there and there are a lot of cool things about the racetrack for me," Johnson said.
Race coverage is set for a 3:00 p.m., start on ESPN, Motor Racing Network radio and Sirius XM 128.
Story by Mike Schmaltz