Going into the 2001 season, Kevin Harvick had a plan set for his career – he would run the full Nationwide Series schedule, along with seven Sprint Cup Series races.
“We had kind of mapped out a plan of how my career would go and it kind of went a whole 180 degrees of what you’d called calmed direction,” Harvick commented earlier this week.
However, that all changed with the events of the final laps of the fateful Daytona 500 that opened the season. Harvick was promoted immediately to the Sprint Cup Series to run the full schedule for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 29 Goodwrench car.
“It all started backwards and you wound up with a group of people that you didn’t know and you had to live up to expectations that weren’t really created by anything I had done in my career,” he continued. “It was a unique way to start. I always tell people that my career sort of started backwards with everything and you had to work from there.”
Harvick went out and performed right away, scoring a win in his third start of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a thrilling finish with Jeff Gordon.
“We had already signed America Online and my first race was going to be Atlanta,” he explained. “We had gone there and tested and it was going to be my Cup debut.”
Since then, Harvick has competed in the Sprint Cup Series with Richard Childress Racing. Th0ugh as 38 year old heads into the 2014 season, he will be with a new team for the first time.
Harvick announced during the 2012 season that he would be moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Despite the announcement coming a year earlier than scheduled, Harvick still performed up to expectations last year, finishing third in points.
“Last year, it was a grind, just very tense, awkward situation to be in from a driver’s standpoint and everybody knew everybody was going in a different direction,” he commented. “But you had to keep the focus on the racing and not on business side and hurt feelings and everything that came with the position that we were in. Luckily, I had a group of guys that wanted to race and didn’t care about the politics and we were able to make it through there and have a good year. Everything ended fine and here we are today.”
Going into the year, the thoughts of winning a championship with his new team in their first year are there. Harvick says they have to make sure to be consistent and to be consistent, they have to have speed.
“I think if you have the speed you can find the consistency,” he commented. “That’s a style that’s embedded in the way that you race and I think that experience also leads to that consistency thru what you do in taking care of your car and equipment and things that you do to make consistency come about. Obviously, you can have mechanical problems, but you just go out and usually fast cars take care a lot of things.”
Looking back on the initial decision to make the move, Harvick said the reason was simple – he wants to win a championship. Harvick added that Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart have both won championships, as well as Stewart-Haas Racing as an organization. He hoped, in return, they could help him find the piece of the puzzle that he is missing.
“I expect to win and race for a championship,” Harvick said. “That’s why I came here.”
Harvick added that SHR has the resources to win a championship, through their own personnel and connection with Hendrick Motorsports.
“Gene (Haas) has made a huge commitment from a financial standpoint and they’ve hired a lot of people,” Harvick commented. “We’ve handpicked everybody on our team and spent a lot of time putting the right people in the right places.”
Looking back at his time at Richard Childress Racing, Harvick feels that he could’ve possibly won a championship there – but wanted a change in scenery and a different approach due to being at RCR for 12 years.
“We sold the race teams and we had our son and one thing after another kept getting evaluated and I didn’t feel like I was making any progress at getting closer,” he commented. “I just felt like with Tony and Gene and the commitment that they have made to have already won a championship and have the alliance with Hendrick was something that I felt like was intriguing to go try and try to win a championship. We recruited hard to get Rodney to come over and I feel we had a lot of conversations to see how we would mesh as people and that’s gone really well. He’s big on having relationships and understanding people and being able to communicate with them.
“It wasn’t that I couldn’t – it’s more that I hadn’t.”
So Harvick at all questioned the decision that he made? Not at all.
“Once I make a decision, I’m committed,” he said. “When the checkered flag dropped at homestead, that day my alliance in who I was loyal to switched. You bring all your friends to the race track with you – you always hear that saying. It’s a new group of guys and it’s all about this race team and what we can do to drive the competition of these four cars in the right direction and be as competitive as we need to be. I tested the car three times and the cars have been really fast. I told them on lap two at charlotte, ‘Thank you guys very much. You just confirmed every reason that I came here to drive this car’.”