By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Sunday at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick led a staggering 292 laps of the 325 that were completed in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. However a costly error by the 41-year old driver on pit road with 16 laps remaining in the event relegated the 2014 Series champion to a disappointing ninth place finish.
Harvick, however, showed grace in defeat when he was interviewed following his latest non-winning dominating effort at the 1.5-mile speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After the race, you could say Harvick took the blame on the chin, much like the punch he took from his son Keelan before the race began.
“I just hate donking myself, and making the kind of mistake I preach about all the time that we don’t need to make; to beat yourself,” Harvick said. “And to do it yourself, I didn’t follow what I preach. That part is hard for me to swallow.”
Those couple of sentences that Harvick uttered after climbing from what should have been a race-winning No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion on one of the most disappointing moments of his career, actually in my opinion will help keep the Rodney Childers led crew stronger as the season hits its stride.
Harvick has always been very outspoken — almost cold hearted — when it comes to his pit crew since he landed at Stewart-Haas Racing. To be fair, his crew has made several gaffes over the last three seasons which have dramatically decreased his win total, but I always cringe when I hear the critical comments from Harvick in regards to his crew.
I mean those are the guys you battle with day in and day out. You always want to keep rapport strong.
In the middle of last year, Harvick swapped pit crews with Danica Patrick’s No. 10 team and Harvick’s words after leading 214 laps in the Southern 500 only to finish second to Martin Truex Jr. finally forced SHR’s hand.
“I’m over being a cheerleader,” Harvick said that night. “Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn’t really been working. You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.”
Since the crew swap, Harvick hasn’t been nearly as critical of his team, but if you’re going to call out the pit crew when they make a mistake, you must fall on the sword yourself when you make an error. And Harvick did just that Sunday.
In doing so he gained even more respect from me than I already had for him, and I’m sure he did the same where it really matters as well — with his pit crew.