February 2, 2012
By Nicholas Schwartz
There are few drivers in the NASCAR garage with as dedicated and tortured a fan base as Kevin Harvick. He’s perpetually considered as one of the handful of drivers who can win any given race, and has been a favorite to win the Sprint Cup for at least the past five years, depending on your allegiances.
And all of that attention is deserved. Harvick is not only one of the most talented drivers on the circuit; he is one of those special types of showmen who do everything with a sense of personality and charm. He was given the toughest job in the racing world in replacing Dale Earnhardt following his death at Daytona, and Harvick excelled, winning in the third star of his career at Atlanta by six one-thousandths of a second over Jeff Gordon—one of the closest margins of victory in NASCAR history. Following such a thrilling win, it seemed Harvick was destined to become the next big thing in NASCAR. Winning a title would only be a matter of time.
“Happy” Harvick is the type of guy you want to succeed—but despite his 18 race victories, Harvick is still chasing the one trophy that eludes him. He’s won the Rookie of the Year award, the Brickyard 400, the Daytona 500—even the Sprint All-Star Race—but Kevin Harvick doesn’t have a Sprint Cup. Yet.
With the Daytona 500 just 24 days away, Harvick’s name is sure to pop up in any list of contenders for this year’s cup, after finishing in the top five in the points standings in four of the last six seasons. If it wasn’t for a 32nd place finish at Talladega in the Chase, Harvick would have been neck-and-neck with Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards in the final few races.
He’s got all the tools. Harvick has won on short tracks, intermediate tracks and speedways, but it seems like, this late in his career, it’s all going to come down to whether or not the breaks go his way during the Chase. It’s a given that Harvick, along with all the other regular names such as Johnson, Stewart and Gordon—are going to qualify for the Chase. I’d bet a million dollars on it. What we cannot predict is who is going to cut a tire late in a race, who will be caught in “the big one” at Talladega in October, and who might run out of fuel with just a few laps left.
Over the course of his career, the breaks haven’t gone Harvick’s way when he needed them to. After finishing second to Jimmie Johnson in the first two races of the 2010 season, Harvick quipped in the post-race press conference that Johnson’s No. 48 team “had a golden horseshoe stuck up their a--.” In NASCAR more than most other sports, luck comes into play a good amount, and any champion will tell you that it takes a good deal of fortune to end up at the top of the standings come November.
Harvick will have to contend with a new breed off-track distraction this season, as his wife DeLana is almost four months pregnant with their first child. Many speculated that having children would effectively end Gordon’s drive for a fifth title, but he has since thrived, and I expect Harvick to do the same. It’s just under eight months until the first race of the Chase, but I’d expect Kevin Harvick to be near the top of the standings following Richmond. Beyond that, it all comes down to who gets the breaks.
If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please check out his web site at Sports By Schwartz. Nicholas is a Managing editor and sportswriter for The Duke Chronicle at Duke University.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.