RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes In keeping with NASCAR's throwback-themed Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, here's a nod to Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Budweiser Chevy team's historic run this season. You have to go back to the days of lava lamps, bell-bottoms and the AMC Gremlin to find the last time a NASCAR Cup driver (Bobby Allison, 1972) has reeled off double-digit runner-up finishes as Harvick now has. The reigning Sprint Cup Series champ's two wins -- back-to-back trophies at Las Vegas and Phoenix -- punched his title defense ticket into the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . But it's his 10 second-place efforts and career-high 17 top-fives that keep him a favorite for his second Cup championship. It's the kind of superior consistency that creates confidence, maintains momentum and ultimately makes the team more likely to deliver in the clutch. There's two ways this many near-misses can be viewed -- either as encouraging "almosts" or discouraging "not-enoughs" -- but Harvick and his crew chief Rodney Childers are glass-half-full kind of guys. "It's a really fine balance and getting yourself frustrated over the success we're having would be really, really silly,'' Harvick offered with a smile as he waited out a rain delay during a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week. "I'm proud of what we've done and what we've accomplished. "We're all really confident with the way the year has gone. I think if you look at on a piece of paper it's definitely the best year I've ever had from a career standpoint. "I've been around this deal long enough to know those 10 second-place finishes could have swung to wins just as easily and they could have swung to 25th-place finishes just as easily. I'm really proud of the things we've done and feel like we're a better team than we were last year and having better results up to this point." The second-place finishes have contributed to a series-best 7.5 average finish through the first 24 races -- better than three-time winner Joey Logano (9.0 average finish) and four-time winners Jimmie Johnson (12.0) and Kyle Busch (12.5). So while Harvick may not have been visiting Victory Lane as often as those others, no one's been in close proximity more often -- heartening news for his Stewart-Haas Racing team and worrisome for everyone else. "The whole point of coming here (to SHR) was to have a chance of winning races week in and week out and we've done that; you can't force winning, when things are going your way they are and when they aren't, they're not,'' Harvick said. "It's a lot of fun to be a part of it and see the intensity and enthusiasm this team brings week in and week out because it's such a calm confidence around here. "The way we've run I think we could win the championship with everything we've done so far. I don't think we need to do anything any different because the cars are running great and we know what we're up against when the Chase starts and the grind of what that is. And I think we'll do that better than we did last year. "The best for us is in front of us." Runner-up finishes in a season Number Driver Year 18 David Pearson 1969 15 Bobby Allison 1970 14 Richard Petty 1964 13 Ned Jarrett 1965 12 Bobby Allison 1972 12 David Pearson 1968 12 Joe Weatherly 1962 12 Dick Rathmann 1953 10 Kevin Harvick 2015 10 Buck Baker 1958
Eight tweets from around the NASCAR Twitterverse Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets you might have missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Of all the games in the arcade, Keelan picks this one... pic.twitter.com/cz5wC6rATo — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) August 29, 2015 2. The teams that show up @TooToughToTame with no throwback scheme will be like those people who show up at costume party's not dressed up. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 30, 2015 3. Trying to persuade/peer pressure @epaigewhite to wear 70s throwback clothing Sunday @TooToughToTame Suggestions? pic.twitter.com/M7HA7EXQ2u — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 31, 2015 4. More COWBELL!! @glove pic.twitter.com/wnixk6U8Ag — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 31, 2015 5. Hello @HayesGrier If you need any wardrobe suggestions for @DancingABC let me know. I'd be glad to help. pic.twitter.com/hXD5bCDfwX — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) August 30, 2015 6. Tony's doing it again. This sort of looks like a redneck "Ghostbusters" now. #flamethrower #nascar pic.twitter.com/hUB97qUZ6s — nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) September 2, 2015 7. Live in the sunshine! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/oIPvQbJQhX — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 29, 2015 8. So.. Honestly who rocked it better...or can you tell a difference? @Drake #RaymondWiggles pic.twitter.com/VnDs09rL7g — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) August 28, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: For my #NASCARthrowback , I'll be drinking a @TonyStewart Powerade from 2005. Only expired 9 years ago, I'll be fine. pic.twitter.com/a2C0gBZsAC — Elijah Burke (@ElijahWhosoever) September 2, 2015
RELATED: Homestead-Miami hosting Goodyear tire test HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Waiting out a morning shower in the Homestead-Miami Speedway garage on Wednesday, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was dressed casually but clearly at work, talking with his Stewart-Haas Racing crew as they hovered over laptop computers and gestured toward his plain gray No. 4 Chevrolet SS. The last time this group was at this track, they were getting showered in champagne, not rain, celebrating Harvick's 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship title, thanks to a victory in the season finale here. But it was all business for Harvick Wednesday as he and nine other drivers came to the 1.5-mile track for a one-day open test for Sprint Cup teams, attended by three of last year's four championship contenders, also including last week's winner Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). RELATED: Anheuser-Busch to change look of SHR's No. 4 car in 2016 "You know, I actually hadn't even thought about it to tell you the truth," a smiling Harvick said of his first time back at Homestead since his title-winning performance last November. "I know that doesn't make for a great story, but no one [on the team] has even mentioned it. Everything happens so fast in this sport from a week-to-week basis and you get so caught up in what you need to do the next week. "We're always trying to look forward so I really hadn't thought about everything that happened last year. We're so focused on being in position, to hopefully have a chance to do that again and get back here." Harvick's primary championship challengers were of similar mindset. And like all of the 10 drivers here -- also including Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kyle Larson , Martin Truex Jr ., Ty Dillon , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne -- the lone opportunity to turn some extra test laps at Homestead is something not to be missed, even if track time boiled down to a couple late morning hours before heavier rains interrupted the schedule. With the elimination-style format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs heading into its second year, the importance of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway has increased exponentially. When the Sprint Cup Series arrives in South Florida in three months, four drivers will be eligible for the title – the highest finisher in this race will be crowned champion. Last year, Harvick won the race and therefore, the season trophy. Logano, who collected his third win in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford last weekend at Bristol, also spoke about the emphasis teams now place specifically on being prepared for Homestead. MORE: Logano victorious in Bristol night race "Hopefully this test is very important for us," Logano said with a slight laugh. "You hope it is [because that means you're in the championship hunt.] Just getting to here (season finale) is a challenge. "If we do, then this test today will be the most important test of the year. So we definitely want to put a lot into it and make sure we get a lot out of it and really understand what we learned out of it." Logano's three wins would rank him right behind the season's four-time winners Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch for the start of the Chase on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway and like Harvick , Logano believes his team is right where it needs to be at this point in the season. "Right now, we're peaking at the right spot, and getting a couple wins in the last three weeks is what we need to do heading into the Chase," said Logano, who finished 16th in the 2014 Homestead race. "Winning the Bristol night race last year kind of propelled us into the Chase, I thought, and gave us good momentum into the Chase. Getting all the way to here [Homestead] was a heck of an accomplishment. And we just need to focus on what we need to do. I feel like as a team we learned a lot in terms of how to execute a championship weekend." RELATED: Harvick scores another runner-up finish It looks like everyone will have to raise their game to dethrone Harvick , however, who has a pair of wins and a series-best 17 top-five finishes highlighted by 10 runner-up showings already this season. "We've struck a pretty good course in terms of being able to have a plan in place for the Chase, and everyone has done a good job in terms of being prepared when it comes time for Chicago," Harvick said. "We've been ready every week. We've just got to keep doing those things. ... No different than last year when we made it happen when it counted." WATCH: Harvick chases Logano in the closing laps at Bristol
Kenny Wallace on driver accountability, plans for Bowyer's 2016 season RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Kenny Wallace is decidedly old school. When it comes to the debate about NASCAR being tougher in policing restarts, Wallace insists that it's the drivers who need to serve as judge and jury for those guilty of too much gamesmanship. That hot-button issue kicks off this week's installment of Herman Unplugged: NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: Drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr . have been vocal about NASCAR too loosely policing restarts. Is there room for improvement there? HERMAN: "No, I disagree with all that. Ten to 15 years ago we had something called gentlemen's agreements. We have these restarts between two red lines and it's gamesmanship to where you’re gonna start. I tell you how you fix that: If the driver in front brake checks you, you beat his ass in between the haulers. In my day, Terry Labonte and Kyle Petty chewed my ass out when I did something wrong. I feel that the drivers need to do what we did, which is go between the trailers and say, 'If you brake check me on a restart again, I'll whip your ass.' These guys just need to go, that's all there is to it. If they start playing these games, you just fix it with a fistfight and that will stop it right there." NI: Tragic situation with IndyCar driver Justin Wilson losing his life at Pocono. Tony Stewart loaned his plane to Wilson's brother Stefan so he could be with him at hospital Sunday night. It was another example of the motorsports community rallying to help in a time of need. Do you have a personal story on that front to share? HERMAN: "We get so wrapped up in competition and when it comes down to the end and we have perspective, you realize competition for what it is and then we have life over here. When my father passed away October 30, 2011, Rick Hendrick gave us one of his big team planes that seats some 30-50 people and we flew my dad's casket in the belly of that airplane all the way back to St. Louis. We went to write a check to Rick and he would not take it. We tried hard to pay him and he would not take anything." NI: The last on-track fatality in NASCAR came on that dark day at Daytona in 2001. Not to compare the two series, but what do you think it says about NASCAR that there hasn't been a death in that long? HERMAN: "I feel that NASCAR has reacted much stronger than any other sanctioning body in the world. NASCAR reacts quickly now whenever something happens from a safety perspective. If a driver finds a concrete wall they thought they would never hit, by the very next race there's something done about it. Within a year, IndyCar had a driver get hit by a spring in the head and then a driver get hit by a wheel, and it amazes me that with technology and the new world we live in that they haven't reacted faster. To their credit, after Dan Wheldon's passing, they redesigned the whole car. But they have to do something with those cockpits. It's a must." NI: What's your best guess on where Clint Bowyer lands in 2016? HERMAN: "The reason this is the best kept secret is I truly believe Clint Bowyer doesn't know where he's going. I don't think there's any story here; all we know is Clint Bowyer will go somewhere because he's got some money from 5-hour Energy. He's a good driver and he has money. That's a recipe for a bidding war. Although we know that 5-hour is only enough money to get you halfway, so whoever wins the bidding war for Clint has to know he's only gonna have enough money to get you to the 50-yard line. So you'll have to have more money to fund the rest of the season. 5-hour is a great sponsor but not one for the whole year." NI: Notwithstanding all the wins by Joe Gibbs Racing and Joey Logano lately, it's hard not to like Kevin Harvick to repeat as Sprint Cup champion. Is that how you see it too? HERMAN: "I see that he's a favorite and I'll tell you why. He hasn't started his mind games yet. He's been real mellow. Once he starts being a hard ass, he'll get into people's heads. He hasn't even used his bumper yet. Once he starts that and using that cage fighting mentality, it's gonna be a different game. He hasn't used his psychology and his mouth yet and once he does it'll be pretty fun to watch." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Ride along with Kevin Harvick as he tries to chase down race-leader Joey Logano in the final laps at Bristol Motor Speedway.
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Kevin Harvick became the first driver since 1972 to post double-digit runner-up finishes during the course of a season Saturday night, trailing race winner Joey Logano across the finish line in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had to overcome two pit road penalties to put himself in contention for the win, but was unable to reel in the Team Penske driver in the closing laps of the 500-lap event. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the disappointment of another near-win in stride. He's had worse finishes that weren't "near as cool as finishing second," he said. "I'm not frustrated at all because I've been on the other side of this fence, and you'd give everything in the world to finish second every week because it's not easy. This is a hard sport, and to go to all these different types of race tracks and see the success that the team has, I couldn't be prouder … because I know that at any moment you can rattle off two or three wins in a row at any type of race track, so it's fun." No driver had posted 10 or more runner-up finishes in a single season since Bobby Allison managed the feat in '72. Harvick became just the eighth driver to do so, joining Allison, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, Dick Rathmann, Joe Weatherly and Buck Baker. Pearson holds the overall mark, registering 18 second-place results in 1969. Harvick failed to lead a lap at BMS, but not for lack of trying. Starting seventh, the Sprint Cup Series champion had driven up to fourth by Lap 126 when Kyle Larson brought out the second caution of the night. But a violation for crewmen coming over the wall too soon dropped the No. 4 Chevrolet back to 22nd on the ensuing restart. He had raced his way back inside the top 10 by the halfway point of the race, and was in the top five at Lap 350. But another penalty, this one for speeding on pit road, dropped him back outside the top 10. With less than 70 laps remaining, Harvick was third on a final restart, taking second from Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski , when the race resumed. "He (Logano) was just one step ahead of me in traffic," Harvick said of his attempts to track down Logano. "I couldn't get my car to rotate across the center like I needed it to, and every time I tried to force it, it would snap the back out." Logano called it "a very exciting last 20, 30 laps for sure." "I really thought we were going to be able to pull away because I thought we were really good in the long run, and then we didn't pull away," Logano said. "And I was like, ‘uh-oh.'" After the race, Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick , said he still didn't understand how his driver could get hit with a speeding penalty when driver Denny Hamlin wasn't cited for excessive speed. "He (Hamlin) was pushing us around the corner," Childers said. "( Kevin ) said his speed went up like 300 RPM when he was pushing him. He was like, ‘Oh God, this is going to be close.' And we were speeding." Otherwise, Childers said, it was another good night for the defending champions. "The team overcame a lot of adversity this weekend, which is a plus getting ready for the Chase," he said. "We had a clutch problem this morning and had to change the master cylinder, the clutch … all kinds of stuff. Then to go through what we went through in the race and fight back. "The biggest thing is just Kevin drove his butt off to get back up there and everybody did a good job overcoming it." Runner-up finishes in a season Number Driver Year 18 David Pearson 1969 15 Bobby Allison 1970 14 Richard Petty 1964 13 Ned Jarrett 1965 12 Bobby Allison 1972 12 David Pearson 1968 12 Joe Weatherly 1962 12 Dick Rathmann 1953 10 Kevin Harvick 2015 10 Buck Baker 1958
Kevin Harvick talks about battling back through the field to finish second after two pit road penalties during the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano holds off Kevin Harvick in the final laps to win the Irwin Tools Night Race for the second year in a row at Bristol Motor Speedway.
RELATED: Full practice results Greg Biffle topped the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Darlington Raceway for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Biffle paced the 115-minute practice with a fast lap of 176.201 mph at the 1.366-mile track in South Carolina. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has two wins in 14 starts at the "Lady in Black" and is currently on the outside of the Chase Grid with two races left in the regular season. Stewart-Haas Racing dominated the leaderboard behind Biffle with Kurt Busch (175.842 mph), Tony Stewart (175.710 mph) and Kevin Harvick (175.654 mph) coming in second through fourth in the session. Harvick is the defending race winner at Darlington. Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (175.647 mph) rounded out the top five. Friday's practice sessions provided the drivers with significant time with the low downforce package. This is the second race of the season to use that particular rules package as it was also used at Kentucky in July. Austin Dillon "earned" a Darlington stripe early in opening practice when he hit the wall off of Turn 2 and had significant damage to the right side of his No. 3 Chevrolet. The team worked to fix the damage on his car instead of bringing out the backup and got him back out on track toward the end of the session. Brett Moffitt also got a Darlington stripe early in the practice session. Chase Elliott , who will be attempting to make his fifth Sprint Cup start of the season, brushed the wall about a half hour into practice. Trevor Bayne also got into the wall during the practice session. RELATED: See Darlington's greatest hits Final practice is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday and will run until 6:25 p.m. ET with coverage on NBCSN. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
LEARN MORE: Bing: Chase predictions " About Bing RELATED: Play the Chase Grid Battle Game here Let the battle begin. The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing, a game in which players make round-by-round picks in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , returns for the second consecutive season. Registration is open now. Go here to sign up and start thinking about your strategy before the first postseason race Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway . New this year is the presence of Bing -- and more specifically Bing Predicts, a methodology that uses algorithms to make predictions. Gamers can consider the Bing Predicts tool when playing the Chase Grid Battle Game and have a leg up on the competition. Throughout the summer, Bing Predicts has made accurate forecasts for events such as the Women's World Cup and the Tour de France. Bing will make predictions for drivers advancing to each round throughout the Chase. Right now, the algorithm predicts Kevin Harvick will repeat as Sprint Cup Series champion, besting Kyle Busch , Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in the Championship Round at Homestead. "We're excited to work with NASCAR to bring the power of Bing's intelligent predictions to The Chase Grid Battle Game to help players up their chances of winning," said Ryan Gavin, general manager of search at Microsoft Corp. "Bing Predicts is quickly becoming the resource for both avid sports fans and casual players to get an edge on the game and impress their friends -- and we're excited to bring it to NASCAR's passionate fan base." Also new in 2015 is a race-by-race scoring format that awards points after each of the 10 Chase races. Prizes for the overall highest score includes a VIP trip to a 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, tickets to a NASCAR driving experience and an autographed driver helmet. The highest-scoring participant after each of the four Rounds in The Chase will also receive $100 to use in the NASCAR.com Superstore. Players can form leagues to compete against friends and other fans, with the option to create up to three entries per user.