To some, Kevin Harvick would be considered a sure-fire bet to make the Championship 4 given his track record. Consider that Harvick was a part of the title contenders last year, and the year before that. And the year before that. And, well, you get the idea.
Thursday, however, Harvick said there were doubts about making his fifth appearance in six years among the title contenders in the final race.
“Oh yeah, a lot of doubts,” said Harvick. “As we started the season, the results weren’t bad. We had mediocre results, I think, for what we expect as the No. 4 team, but it’s been a grind and a battle week in and week out as to what do we need, because the thought process is just so much different than what we’ve ever done before. As an organization, we’ve had to struggle through that, and it’s been a grind.
“So, I would be lying to you if I told you it wasn’t taxing on everybody in the amount of work that has been put in to get to this point.”
As he has done before, Harvick reiterated that Stewart-Haas Racing is made up of racers who only care about being competitive. There was no satisfaction in Harvick starting the year with three fourth-place finishes (six top-10s) in the first eight races.
“You have to be able to lead laps, and you have to get top-fives in order to have a chance at winning races, and we just weren’t at that point in the first half of the year,” continued Harvick. “I feel like we’ve still been sporadic in the style of racetrack that we can lead laps on. Phoenix, those types of racetracks have been toughest for us in order to navigate and get what we think we need out of those particular weekends.
“But we have done a good job at being able to get our speed back on the mile and a halfs. We’ve made the (Charlotte) Roval better from where we were last year, and those were really what became the focus in the second half of the year — the Roval and getting our speed back on the mile and a half racetracks to where you could lead laps.”
At the Roval, Harvick led 34 laps and finished third. Of the 912 laps he’s led this season, 549 laps were led on 1.5-mile tracks. It was Harvick’s victory at Texas two weeks ago that locked him into the Championship 4.
“It’s been a great second half of the year; I think our team has really proven to not only everybody else but ourselves just how good we are as a group and how much we have had to work this year to get to where we are,” said Harvick. “It’s been very rewarding to sit here and be able to look at each other and have celebrated in victory lane, and to have a chance to race for a championship… I’m really proud of the team. They’re obviously excited that everything ended the way that it has currently.”