By: Ashley McCubbin
Some times in sports, the most dominant team through the regular season does not get the chance to partake in the battle for the championship. That was the case in 2020 with Kevin Harvick missing out on the Championship 4 after a dismal Round of 8.
In the days that followed, many critiqued the sanctioning body about the playoffs, and fought for it to possibly be changed moving forward, possibly to the old 10-race format or the full-season points system. Those like the drivers and TV analysists before him, NASCAR President Steve Phelps could only offer praise on Saturday morning.
“I think, yes, the Playoff system as designed I think worked incredibly well,” he said.
While recognizing that Harvick had an “extraordinary season by any measure with nine wins,” they ultimately fell short but not without opportunity first.
“I think the hard part is that as hard as they fought, there are opportunities for them in the three races because of the number of Playoff points they had that made it such that everyone, if they’re filling out their brackets, to who was going to the Championship 4, put Hamlin and Harvick in there, right? I don’t think anyone thought there would be a scenario where they wouldn’t make it. But they didn’t,” he expressed. “I think Kevin was very gracious in his remarks. They didn’t do enough to get there. Being two laps down, then one lap down, getting back on the lead lap with a car that was not where they wanted to be. It’s hard to say they didn’t perform because they did everything they could in order to try to advance.
“I for one as a fan was super proud of what Kevin did and Rodney and the whole team did to try to advance. I think this system, how the Playoff system worked in those three incredible cutoff races, particularly the race in Martinsville, gave fans what they wanted, which was intense drama and really this just amazing competition.”