Kevin Harvick says he is currently under no pressure as he enters the penultimate race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season third in the points and within striking distance of leader Denny Hamlin. The Richard Childress Racing driver arrives at Phoenix, a track where he has won twice in the past, only 59 points behind Hamlin and 33 adrift of reigning champion Jimmie Johnson.
While most of the focus on the title battle has been on the top two contenders, who have won 14 races between them this year, Harvick is currently enjoying his "outsider" chance and hopes to make the most of it as he continues to run his best championship Chase ever.
"I feel excited just for the fact that the worst we can finish in the points is third," Harvick said. "We have two great racetracks for us and we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Whatever it takes to gain is what you do on the racetrack and what you do off the racetrack.
"There's really nothing else that matters at this point. Just throw it all out there and if it gets rough, it gets rough – if it doesn't then we just go race and see where it all falls in the end. It's still a no pressure, no lose situation for us and I like it.
"I like coming from behind. I like when people write us off – it's kind of like how everybody's been my whole career. You just go out there and it's fun to come up and see everybody after that."
Harvick, who led most of the regular season ahead of the Chase, believes he and his team have surpassed their own expectations this year as they continue to perform at their peak in the final 10 races. With the gaps so slim in the standings, he reckons it is going to take wins in the final two weekends of the season in order to have a true shot at becoming this year's champion.
"When you get in these positions and you're racing like the three of us are racing right now, you just exceed the expectations that everybody sets for you a lot of the times, which is what we've done," Harvick said. "You just get in this incredible zone and the team's incredibly focused on making the cars good and everybody is just performing at the top of their game in these situations. It's hard to make up ground, but when you have three guys in the middle of it then you can't – there's no defense.
"I think when you get ahead then you can play a little bit of defense to be competitive or use strategy. With everything so close, it's all offense. The tone has kind of been set that anything less than probably winning a race or two in the next two weeks – you're going to have to go take it.
"I think all three teams are capable of performing. Denny did it last week – he went out and took it at the end of that race and I think over the next two weeks, it's going to be who takes that control and there's no room for defense. If somebody's going to go out and win the race, you're going to lose points. You just have to go on the offense and take, take, take."