Five Cup drivers who could challenge Kevin Harvick – ESPN

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick has won the past three NASCAR Cup Series races, and even though Kyle Busch led a race-high 128 laps Sunday, he felt Harvick was the class of the field Sunday at ISM Raceway.

“I don’t think anybody’s got anything for Harvick, considering we got our butt beat so bad last week, then we just got beat a little bit this week,” Busch said.

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If there is anyone who could possibly knock Harvick off this dominant stretch, it appears it could be Busch, who has been trying to run him down the past couple of weeks before coming up short.

Here are five drivers who have the best chance of ending Harvick’s dominance:

He has finished second to Harvick the past two weeks. He might have beaten Harvick at Phoenix if his team didn’t have a problem with the jack on its final pit stop.

“We’re playing a little bit of a catch-up game to see where we needed improvements to get our stuff going better,” Busch said. “It’s pretty good to know we’re a little bit off now, but we’re finishing second each week. … Our cars were pretty evenly matched [at Phoenix].

“If roles were reversed, maybe we would have won. I don’t know.”

Truex has a fifth, a fourth and a fifth in the past three races. The 2017 NASCAR Cup champion has led a handful of laps each week.

While he doesn’t appear to have the speed of Harvick, Truex is close. And a guy who won eight times a year ago is going to be a favorite to win early this year.

“At times, we were really good [at Phoenix],” Truex said. “At times, we were off a little. … If you think about it, we’ve been getting those results, which is great.

“Everybody hasn’t really been home [during this swing], home to work on their stuff, so there’s still a lot to do and a lot to see.”

Larson finished a disappointing 18th at Phoenix, but he heads next to a track (California) where he won last year.

Even though he never got the balance right on the car Sunday, he typically does and will be a threat at least on the intermediate tracks.

“We’ve been OK compared to him up until this weekend [at Phoenix],” Larson said. “I still think when we go to Fontana next week, we’ll be fine. Whatever we had going on with our setup we ran last year [at Phoenix] just wasn’t working with this aero package or tire.

“I’m still confident that we’ll go to most of these race tracks and be just as good as we were so far this season.”

Hamlin was fourth at Atlanta, had a poor outing at Las Vegas and was fourth again at Phoenix. He led 33 laps at Phoenix and gave Harvick everything he could handle.

“We’re close, but we’re not really there yet,” Hamlin said. “When we had our balance perfect, we could be even with him, but it seems like his balance stays perfect longer than mine. … We just need a little bit of speed there to really compete.”

Elliott was 10th at Atlanta and third at Phoenix. Of all the Hendrick Motorsports cars, he appears as the most stout.

His run Sunday showed he is back to where he was last year on the brink of earning his first NASCAR Cup win.

“It was solid,” Elliott said after Phoenix. “[It was] a lot better than we have been for sure. We are just trying to gain.”

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