Kevin Harvick Rises Above Turbulent Final Year at RCR, Places Third In 2013
Neil Sedaka sang about how hard it was, The Beatles certainly made the headlines for doing this in 1970, and at least once in our lives, it's happened to us: break ups. No matter if it was personal or professional, they're never easy to endure but oftentimes, we rise above those difficulties.
While not a strange occurrence in racing, for a NASCAR Sprint Cup racing talent like Kevin Harvick, his last year at Richard Childress Racing (he heads to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014) was probably his most adverse and tasking year in his whole racing career. It would've been totally understandable if he faltered in his final year with the one Cup team he's raced with since 2001.
Instead, he made it a terrific campaign, scoring four victories, a third-place points finish, and most importantly, he battled for this year's championship right down to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. There were rocky moments, like the season-opening Daytona 500 crash, the wreck at the spring Talladega race, or his sheet metal and verbal dissension with Ty Dillon at Martinsville in late October.
Despite those rough patches, Harvick was able to rise above those challenges, overcoming his slow start and won at Richmond, Charlotte, Kansas, and Phoenix to put in the best "one year's notice" that anyone could ever do with an employer.
Harvick lived up to his moniker as "The Closer," as he only led 269 laps this year and save for Kansas and Phoenix, he led a combined paltry total of 31 laps between his victories at Richmond and Charlotte. If one's going to win in NASCAR, he did it in the most convenient time for his No. 29 Budweiser/Jimmy John's/Rheem Chevy SS team, leading when it mattered. Not to mention, steady leadership by crew chief Gil Martin and efficient pit stops by the RCR crew kept the red and white steel chariot at the front of the field at most races.
As Harvick was the driver who often "stole" races towards the end, it may explain for why (other than his few incidents in 2013) this season was somewhat quiet. Racing almost like Harry Gant, he would often go unnoticed until the very end of a race. To put it in general sports parlance, think of Harvick's season and racing style like the New England Patriots, who often dig deep and find ways to win when the final minutes are ticking.
Competition at this level of NASCAR isn't for the faint hearted or those who simply get lucky. Drivers and teams are often cunning, aggressive, and aren't afraid to rub fenders with the best in this series.
Perhaps that's why Harvick has transitioned from a flat out, checkers or wreckers type racer into a more cerebral and brilliant talent since his rookie season in 2001. Comparing the pride of Bakersfield, CA is quite amazing, as he's still a driver who wears his heart on his sleeves - he's just learned to channel that passion in a more proper fashion.
Now in Harvick's horizons is his new home at Stewart-Haas Racing starting next year and the foreseeable future. New teammates like Tony Stewart, former rival Kurt Busch, and Daytona 500 pole sitter Danica Patrick will be looking forward to his arrival.
His sponsors like Budweiser and Jimmy John's follow him and the colors look somewhat similar, except he'll be No. 4. Also new will be crew chief Rodney Childers, who'll surely bring his aggressive and innovative mindset and game plans on race day next year.
Other than that, expect more of the same from this exciting racer - a quality season, a multi-win season and more last lap heroics that we've become accustomed with since 2007. Suit 'em up and drop the hammer, Harvick. Get happy.