- • NASCAR author for ESPN.com
• 2009, 2013 NMPA Writer of the Year
• More than 25 years expertise overlaying motorsports
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Harvick loves challenges and sometimes searches for the subsequent one to encourage him.
He has obtained extra motivation than he actually needed this 12 months, because the challenges even exceeded what Harvick anticipated as Stewart-Haas Racing switched to Ford from Chevrolet.
A producer change would not simply imply altering engines, how they mount and the nostril of the automobile. It means all new expertise, so far as simulation packages and knowledge evaluation. It takes time to study these new instruments.
Add a Toyota emergence all through the summer time in dominating most of the races, particularly at intermediate tracks, and Harvick has discovered this a season of challenges, even with 11 top-5s and one win heading into the AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Heading into Phoenix subsequent week, 5 drivers — Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson — are chasing the remaining finalist spot within the NASCAR Cup championship.
Kevin Harvick went across the exterior of Martin Truex for the lead on the 324th of 334 laps, then stayed in entrance the remainder of the best way to win the Cup Series race on Sunday at Texas and earn his championship shot in NASCAR’s finale.
“[The challenge] was more than I anticipated for sure,” Harvick stated. “But my expectations going into the 12 months, I used to be fairly open-minded of the place issues might go, and [that] there may very well be some struggles.
“The most essential factor is attempt to encourage your folks and learn how to maintain all of them collectively and actually be thorough within the course from a driver standpoint within the issues that you simply inform them and the issues that you simply push for to ensure they’re proper.”
Harvick began to really feel higher about how his vehicles carried out when the playoffs began at Chicagoland, the place he led 59 laps and completed third. He led 149 laps at Charlotte after which 37 laps at Kansas.
So possibly it should not have been an excessive amount of of a shock when he handed Martin Truex Jr. with 10 laps remaining Sunday at Texas and ran away for the win, clinching a spot among the many 4 finalists at Homestead.
“I do not prefer to lose,” said Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers. “It’s been a tough 12 months. To lastly get one again into Victory Lane and to really feel like we now have one thing to race with the final 4 or 5 weeks is spectacular to me.”
While Harvick received the race, Truex was the happiest second-place finisher ever, as he additionally clinched a spot among the many 4 finalists for the championship race Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex would earn one of many potential two berths out there on factors if he would not win subsequent Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. He stays the championship favourite, regardless of Harvick’s win.
“People are going to say, ‘Well, I feel the steadiness of energy, this and that,'” said Truex, whose seven victories this year is five more than that of Harvick. “Did Harvick steal our confidence by beating us on the finish? All that voodoo stuff I am certain can be introduced up.
“The bottom line is our last run we weren’t as good as we needed to be. We got beat, but we still did what we needed to do.”
With Truex in, that leaves 5 drivers vying for the ultimate spot within the championship, becoming a member of Truex, Harvick and Martinsville winner Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski has a 19-point lead on Denny Hamlin, whereas Ryan Blaney is 22 factors again. Chase Elliott (49 factors behind) and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (51 factors behind) face digital must-win conditions, as essentially the most factors a driver can earn by ending second is 55.
Among the three drivers who punched their ticket, Harvick is driving the one Ford. As Ford sponsors the championship weekend races, it provides a little bit bit extra validation that pouring cash into SHR was the precise transfer.
“Even we said it was a big risk,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart stated of the producer swap. “At the identical time, after we have been wanting and badessing whether or not it was the precise factor to do, we stated there’s large alternatives to be mbadive rewards with it, as nicely.
“I do not know if it is validation but. We nonetheless acquired a job to do these subsequent two weeks to validate it.”
Three or 4 months in the past, it appeared SHR might get shut out from the championship. Kurt Busch received the Daytona 500 however could not execute within the opening spherical of the playoffs and located himself out after simply three races.
Harvick had received simply as soon as — on the street course in June at Sonoma — and did not have a automobile that led sufficient laps all through the summer time that gave him confidence he might pull off a win as he did at Texas.
But by across the time of that first win, Harvick stated the crew had discovered the course it wanted to soak up the vehicles. It simply took time to implement these concepts into the fleet of the four-car group.
“Once they actually began discovering the issues that have been working and the areas to work on and the recent buttons of the automobile, then you have to get them put into place,” Harvick stated.
“It’s simple to attract them on the pc and take them to the wind tunnel. Sometimes the manufacturing would not sustain with the R&D aspect and you end up reducing our bodies and issues off which might be model new that by no means go to the monitor, and that is dangerous for morale. It’s a balancing act of how briskly you get there.”
He’s there now.
“We have been in a position to get a few [our best] vehicles within the playoffs and we have been lucky to type of maintain ourself within the sport,” Harvick stated.
“And right here we’re. Two weeks to go. We nonetheless have an opportunity.”