Keep smiling, Kevin! Third place is nothing to be ashamed of in 2011.
When the 2011 season ends, Kevin Harvick will undoubtedly feel at least a pang of disappointment with his final standings. As it stands right now, third place is as high as he can go.
This not not without reason: he entered the Chase in Chicago in first place after scoring the most regular season victories, along with Kyle Busch. At the conclusion of the Chicago race, he had grabbed sole possession of first place by seven points.
This was his last taste of first place, as the results from the second Chase race reversed the lead when Tony Stewart won his second race in a row and relegated Harvick to second place by seven points.
Harvick continued to fight and remain a solid contender, but he ran into two competitors that simply got hot at the right time: Stewart and Carl Edwards.
He could have done a few things better to at least shore up a chance to take the title, but Stewart's wins and Edwards' near-flawless consistency have been nothing short of remarkable.
Harvick actually has been quite consistent himself. He never dropped lower than fifth place in the point standings. His only real error was finishing 32nd at Talladega after qualifying 13th.
Even this is a bit spurious to fault him on due to the highly unpredictable nature of the tandem drafting that has become the standard at Talladega. Despite this setback, he will enter qualifying at Homestead with a relatively large 14-point lead over current fourth place driver Brad Keselowski.
Based on his previous results at Homestead, he appears to have a very strong chance to easily defend this lead. If he does end up falling to fourth place at season's end, that could be considered a disappointment.
But, he should not hang his head. It is just not his time. He will end up losing to two drivers who have doubtless performed better than him week in and week out for the last nine races.
Richard Childress Racing should be content. Kevin Harvick should be content. This will almost certainly not be his last shot at a title.