By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 19
Career Wins: 49
Biggest Accomplishment: 2014 Cup Series Champion
Kevin Harvick finished third in the 2019 standings, his third straight season in that spot and sixth of his 19-year NASCAR Cup Series career.
Harvick’s sixth year with Stewart-Haas Racing started off slow and more often than not, wasn’t contending for race wins despite leading the series in poles with six and being in the top-three in points in throughout the opening 19 races.
Lack of winning performances was the case for everyone in Harvick’s team, but the former series champion was able to do something that his three teammates (Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez) failed to do and that’s winning.
It wouldn’t be until the summer stretch when Harvick finally got his No. 4 Ford Mustang back into the swing of things by having a tremendous battle with Denny Hamlin at New Hampshire in July, winning for the first time since Texas in November 2018.
From there, Harvick finished in the top-10 in 15 out of the last 17 races, including wins at Michigan, Indianapolis and Texas. The latter is what punched Harvick’s ticket into the Championship 4 for the sixth time in seven years.
“Well, we’ve already been going down the road. They’ve already built the car, picked a direction,” Harvick after winning Texas that got him to the Championship 4. “We’ve got so many things that ‑‑ so many things that you had to choose from from an aero standpoint, and Homestead is such a unique racetrack. We’ve already been to the simulator, we’ve already built the car, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens.”
The torch carrier of SHR was no match for Joe Gibbs Racing as drivers Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Erik Jones (who wasn’t in the title battle) swept the the top spots in the finale at Homestead. Harvick had to settle for fourth after leading 43 of 267 laps, the third most behind Busch and Truex who combined a total of 223 laps led.
Harvick’s comments about whether or not he was outnumbered was short and simple.
“Not really,” Harvick said. “I mean, you race against these guys and it really turns into individual battles and I would say those guys were all racing for each other and trying to win a championship. I didn’t really look at it quite that way.”
Entering his 20th Cup season, Harvick has scored at least 20 top-10s in the last seven years and once again will have Rodney Childers as his crew chief for the seventh straight year. Imaginable, both even hungrier than ever to get their second Cup title.
Harvick describes that Childers and the entire team expects him to be prepared both physically and mentally at all times and it comes from his experience that puts him a win away from becoming the 14th driver to score 50 wins.
“There’s not a day that goes by that he (Rodney) doesn’t send me a text, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’ or one of the engineers will send me a text and say, ‘What do you think about this gear ratio or what do you think about whatever.’ One of them is texting me at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, as to what’s going on and what’s happening,” Harvick said.
“Those are those relationships that are constant and steady, and everybody believes in each other because that’s just how it works. It’s never a bad time to text me or it’s never a bad time to call me. It’s never a bad time to ask me to do something. It’s never a bad time. When they need something, I put down what I’m doing and I go and I try to figure out how we’re going to do it and how we’re going to go to the simulator, how we’re going to go to the race shop, if you need me to come to a meeting, just tell me.
“The priority is these guys and that race team, and the things they need. But I am a thorough believer that the circle of life has to be balanced for you to show up to this racetrack every single week, to be as focused as you need to be to process all of that information and listen to those guys and listen to the things you do and know that I’m just a piece of information that allows them to put the puzzle together. It’s a big puzzle.
“You throw all the pieces out on the table and those guys put the puzzle together. There’s a deep belief in each other that we can go out and be better than anybody on any given day, and most of the time we can talk ourselves into it even when we probably don’t really have a chance. We can talk ourselves into it and, just by the experience of the things we do and the experience of racing in general and them calling a race, there’s just that belief that we can figure it out.”
The 62nd Daytona 500 on February 16 will mark Harvick’s 19th appearance as he’ll look to bring SHR its second 500-mile win and the second of his career to kick off the season that lies ahead.