JOLIET, Ill. -- You know things are going badly for Kevin Harvick when there's a question of whether he'll be able to run well at Chicagoland Speedway. But this year, only Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have consistently run well at the 1.5-mile tracks.
Harvick, on the other hand, has struggled everywhere as of late and is coming into Joliet, Ill., where he has twice won in four tries, having finished 24th or worse in four of his last five events.
"We need to get things turned around here this weekend," Harvick said. "We can't worry about the Chase [for the Nextel Cup]. We need to worry about running up front and getting back to the top five. I know its cliché, but if we do what we are capable of doing, the points will take care of themselves."
The points weren't flowing so freely the past month. Harvick fell from a perch at seventh in the standings and now stands in 14th. He's one of the bubble drivers still capable of sneaking in when the cutoff is made nine races from now, but he's lost any zone of comfort and, in truth, needs to make a move soon.
The dip began in Dover, Del., where Harvick finished 25th. After cracking the top 10 at Pocono Raceway with an eighth-place run, he met more misfortune in Michigan with another 25th-place finish. Mechanical issues runied his day at the road course in Sonoma, Calif., (he finished 37th) and then a wreck in Daytona, Fla. relegated Harvick to a 25th-place finish last weekend -- a finish that knocked him out of the 400-point range of the leader.
"We have struggled putting an entire race together lately," Harvick said. "We broke a motor at Sonoma, Calif., [Infineon Raceway] and then we got wrecked at Daytona. It's been frustrating because we have had fast cars. We just can't seem to get them to the finish line without some sort of problem."
The No. 29 Chevy team is hoping that the run of misfortune is about to end. This team won the first two races run in this Chicago suburb, and has another top 10 to boot. There's no single track where the stallion of the Richard Childress Racing stable is more confident. The question is whether the swagger Harvick and Co. naturally walk into Chicagoland Speedway with is enough to surmount the doubt pitted in their minds from the past month -- and from their track record on the 1.5-milers this year.
Although Harvick started the season out with a fifth-place run at a 1.5-mile track (Las Vegas), he's since finished 21st, 13th and 14th on them.
Still, Harvick says this weekend won't be about rules changes and how other teams have caught up with his at the aero tracks, etc. This weekend is about Chicagoland Speedway, for which his RCR crew has mastered the ability to build a strong car and where Harvick's become accustomed to driving to the front.
"Chicagoland Speedway has definitely been good to us," Harvick said. "It just fits everything we do at RCR and it really fits my driving style. It is one of those races we look forward to and it couldn't come at a better time for this team."
Crew chief Todd Berrier agrees. He knows his driver's licking his chops just to get back into contention. He knows all it'll take is one strong run to get things going in the right direction. And he knows that this is the perfect time of year to get hot.
"The biggest thing is that we know we've got a chance to win because we've done it before in the past," Berrier said. "That automatically gives the guys on this team a boost and I know it does the same for Kevin. We're taking a car that Kevin really likes. We have run it on just about every type of track out there and it just responds to whatever we throw at it."
Rupen Fofaria is a freelance writer living in Chicago and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.