Don't forget Harvick

Anybody want to give Kevin Harvick a shot at the Sprint Cup championship?

He is in this thing, is he not?

It's not all about the Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

At first blush, Hamlin and Johnson seem to offer the most compelling storylines coming out of South Florida this week, where NASCAR's championship will be decided. Johnson is the four-time champion needing to rally from behind for the first time. Hamlin is the young gun who sits in front of the standings, despite coming off a major disappointment in Phoenix.

He led 190 laps but still finished 12th because of fuel-mileage issues.

Can he hang on in Homestead?

But what about Harvick, who is 46 points down heading to a track where he has a cozy comfort level? He has completed every lap in all nine starts there and has finished in the top five in three of the last four races.

"What I think is interesting is that we haven't seen the very best from Kevin Harvick, but we're going to," said Ricky Craven, a former driver who is now an ESPN analyst. "I'm absolutely convinced of that. This is his best track, roughly an eighth-place average. If he can take the lead early, and make it very clear to Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, 'Look, don't forget about me,' it changes the whole dynamic of this thing."

It's definitely a long shot — Hamlin and Johnson will need some buzzard's luck Sunday to fall out of Victory Lane. But still, Harvick looms close enough to be able to shake things in a major way.

"We're not intending on playing defense," Gil Martin, Harvick's crew chief, said Tuesday. "We're throwing the long ball all day long."

Harvick has been trying to drum up momentum in an old-school way — playing the media disrespect card and insinuating how he is a blue-collar guy trying to keep up with the bluebloods — Hamlin and Johnson.

"Disrespect is what has been given for 10 weeks to our team from all the media so the heck with them all!" he tweeted earlier this week.

Insert sarcastic roll of eyes here.

"Our whole team is just a lot different," Harvick said.

"It's a lot different, or we're a unique bunch. I guess you could categorize us as a little rough or hardcore type of racers who have come up through the ranks.

"It's just a little bit different than the other two teams. You guys can figure it out."

I figure it's a lame way to try to cook up a motivational edge.

But Harvick definitely looks like the odd man out going into Sunday's race.

Perhaps Harvick's team will find a motivational push when the guys go deep sea fishing in Key West as a team-building exercise.

The plan is to keep fishing Sunday for a bigger prize.

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