Kevin Harvick will tell you that his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team is boring. Now with back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series wins in his pocket, the door has opened for Harvick to capitalize on some of his best racetracks and be even more of a threat in the playoffs.
But that’s where the boring part comes in. Harvick and his team aren’t going to provide any swagger-filled soundbites or headlines about why they should be considered amongst the title favorites.
“We don’t ever look ahead,” Harvick said Sunday night at Richmond Raceway. “They plan ahead; I know that they’re a little bit ahead if I show up at the simulator and they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to work on this particular race that’s two weeks out.’ Then I’m like, oh, OK, we’re working on a project here. I don’t ever say anything, but I can tell,”
Two wins from the last two races has locked Harvick into the playoffs – a 180 turnaround for a driver who was sitting below the playoff grid cutline just a short time ago. The win streak snaps what had been a 65-race winless drought dating back to the fall of 2020. Momentum is on Harvick’s side, and he’s also now got 10 playoff points in his pocket.
But boring or not, there’s no denying that the final 10 weeks of the season feature some of his strongest venues. And unfortunately for the competition those tracks make up the first four weeks of the championship fight: Darlington (Sept. 4), Kansas (Sept. 11), Bristol (Sept. 17), and Texas (Sept. 25).
Harvick has a combined 12 wins at those tracks – three wins a piece at each racetrack.
“We went to Texas and ran last this year,” Harvick rebutted. “I think that all those things are out the window and Darlington was good, Kansas was good. We’ll go back and run better at Texas, but those are definitely good tracks for us.”
Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers is definitely looking at what’s to come, albeit more from the standpoint of team planning.
“You have to look at those tracks a little bit ahead of time,” he said. “Darlington, we were fortunate enough to do the tire test there, and we were able to race there, and we honestly had a good car. But it’s also one of the places that we did everything completely backwards than everything that has made us better in the last two months.
“Monday, I brought it up, and then Tuesday’s that all I worked on all day was Darlington, and then at the end of the day, I’m like, I’ve got to quit worrying about Darlington at this point and put it away. We went to the simulator Wednesday morning, and I never brought it up again. You have to think about those things, and what car you’re going to take and all that stuff.
“You just continue to plan and do the right things and like he said, our system is what is working right now. It’s not that we’ve done (anything) a ton different. It’s that our system is working, and the people are communicating the right way and talking about the right things, and that’s what we’ve got to keep going.”
The narrative change is quite the emotional turnaround for a team that was fighting for its postseason life, and now has the garage questioning how far it can go. A month ago, Childers did acknowledge that wins would provide a motivational boost before the playoffs.
Inside the walls at Stewart-Haas Racing, though, the self-belief began to turn around two months ago.
“The communication and the confidence and the cars we were building and all that stuff just got better,” said Childers at Richmond. “It doesn’t take a lot of confidence with our group to make a huge difference. That group has been a tight-knit group the entire time and we push each other.
“Every team in this garage goes through so many negatives that nobody in here ever hears about, whether it’s somebody in your family that’s sick or somebody has got this or got that. It’s so hard to keep the positives going, even when things are going right. Like the year we won 10 races, a guy on our team had cancer. Those types of things… that’s what you talk about in those meetings more than you talk about making your cars better. But it’s really just about keeping the system the same and not being over here one week and over here the next week, and just treating people the same, treating people right and doing the right things.”
Harvick doesn’t deny he takes satisfaction from proving people wrong. Following his win at Michigan, he said those who counted his team out don’t know them. After Richmond, when asked about coming out swinging when put into a corner, Harvick made an analogy to editors having to print erratum.
“It’s kind of like when they put those small boxes in the newspaper where they have to correct their story, and you can hardly read them,” he said. “I feel like a lot of you should put those at the bottom of your story. I get great gratification out of that.”
Harvick and his team might live by a business-as-usual attitude, but it now looks guaranteed that his run to end this season will be anything but dull.