One Chase contender accidentally victimized another on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway when on Lap 229 of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, Matt Kenseth spun out, tagged Kevin Harvick, and sent him into the wall.
Kenseth recovered for a sixth-place finish, while Harvick finished 33rd after extensive repairs in the garage following the crash. Harvick is now last among the eight remaining Chasers at 28 points behind Kenseth, who’s in the fourth and final spot that will advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
A win at either Texas Motor Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway over the next two weeks can still send Harvick to South Florida with a shot at the title.
And considering Harvick’s strong speed all year long on 1.5-mile ovals like Texas, not to mention his superb body of work at Phoenix (five wins, including three of the track’s last four Cup races), the job is certainly doable.
But that didn’t stop Harvick from vowing that Kenseth will not emerge as the champ following today’s race.
“He won’t win this championship,” Harvick said of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. “If we don’t, he won’t.”
Looks like Eddie Gossage and Co. in Fort Worth have something else to promote for their AAA Texas 500 next Sunday.
For his part, Kenseth took full blame for their incident, which came while Harvick was running sixth and he himself was in eighth. Harvick had started the race in 33rd position, worst among the Chasers.
“I don’t blame [Harvick] for feeling that way honestly,” Kenseth said. “It was a mistake — he was an innocent bystander and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I totally understand how he feels and I totally understand why he would say that. I totally get it.
“He knows it was a mistake too, but that doesn’t really help him. I don’t really blame him. He got taken out of the race for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Luckily for Harvick, a poor result like this that would’ve possibly destroyed his championship hopes in the previous Chase format can still be canceled out.
“The good thing about this format is you have two more weeks and two race tracks that we can win on,” he said. “Everybody was so worried about us starting in the back and we wrecked at the front. Unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Kenseth – who’s going to be under enough pressure trying to hold on to one of those four spots in the Championship Race – may have something else to worry about.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.