In February 2001, Richard Childress was forced with the tough decision of who to choose to replace Dale Earnhardt after the unfortunate events of the Daytona 500. Childress took his young Nationwide Series driver Kevin Harvick and put him in the car, painting it white and putting a No. 29 on the side. The thought was to hope for success, but scared of failure.
13 years later, that decision was a good one by Childress as it resulted in 23 wins, 100 top fives and 209 top 10s in 466 races. In the process, some things didn’t go as according to plan as Harvick found himself getting into a lot of trouble in the form of arguments with fellow drivers.
“I obviously handle a lot of situations wrong, but it pushes a lot of buttons to try to make things better,” he commented.
One of those situations happened this year when Harvick had a run-in with Childress’ grandson Ty Dillon in the truck race and called him a spoiled rich kid.
“I said things that I shouldn’t have said and put everybody in a position that was not good, but I think we had conversations about things after that that probably made us closer as people, and I think as we move forward will probably make us closer as friends,” he said. “It was a tough week to handle, but I think that some of the conversations that we had were good for all of us and made us really understand just the fact that how successful we’ve been together and how successful we’ve been for each other as RCR, and for me it’s great to be able to put it into perspective, just made you think about everything that we’ve been able to accomplish and the things that we’ve been through together. It’s more of a family conversation than it probably was a racing conversation.”
“We’re like family,” Childress said. “You spend a lot of time with each other at the track, so you’re going to have your spats and stuff, and just got to make it work.”
As they headed into the final year this year together, a lot of people put them on the burner – calling them the lame duck team. However, they ignored that, did their jobs and finished third in points with four wins.
“They look for any kind of flaw that you may have to drag you down because the competition is so close that they try to break your team down,” Martin said of the skeptics. “And that’s what I told these guys, that they have to be the toughest group that I’ve been around, just because of the simple reason of everybody has been expecting us to implode, everybody is expecting us to fail and not succeed, and with the rest of the garage trying to force some of that upon you, to not get distracted, whether it’s the team, whether it’s Kevin, whether it’s anybody involved with our organization, it just shows the quality of these guys because this is just a tough environment. Nobody knows how tough this environment is until you live it every day.”
Going through not only this season, but season’s prior with Harvick’s temper, having to sit out a race and the situation that saw him put in the seat, Harvick says that Childress has helped him become a better person.
“We’ve had life lessons, and you try to become a better person, and I think as I’ve been at RCR, you learn from situations,” Harvick said. “You always try to take those situations, and it’s not just really about you want to make your race team better, but in the end you want to be a better person, and you try to take those situations and apply them to what you’re doing and make yourself better.
“I think we’ve been through a lot of the situations. He’s taught me a lot about being a dad.”
As we near closer to the start of the 2014 season with testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday, a new chapter starts as Harvick joins Stewart-Haas Racing.