He may be 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings, but no one is in better shape than Kevin Harvick.
In the new, win-and-you’re-in format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Harvick is the only driver with two victories this season, one of them in the most recent race, the Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C.
But Harvick, in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, and crew chief Rodney Childers are looking for consistency when the season resumes Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia.
In Harvick’s two wins this year, he dominated. At Phoenix, he led 224 of the 312 laps, and at Darlington, he led 238 of the 374 laps. But mechanical issues have contributed to four finishes of 36th or worse.
That’s why Childers isn’t satisfied, even though the No. 4 Chevrolet team is all but assured of a spot in the Chase.
“Anybody that knows me, if we’re not the fastest car in practice, I’m not happy,” Childers said. “And if we don’t sit on the pole, I’m not happy. And if we don’t win the race, I’m not happy.
“We’ve just got to keep working to make our team better, and I think the way we’ve got to make our team better is to keep bringing good cars and keep trying to win races.”
Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip has been impressed with Harvick’s start to the season.
“They’re almost in a league of their own,” Waltrip said. “Any team will tell you how fast that No. 4 car is, whether in a race or a test. Although they’ve had mechanical issues, they’ve shown incredible speed. Harvick and Rodney Childers are the perfect couple right now. I think Harvick is on a mission to prove he made the right move by leaving Richard Childress Racing, and his team is focused and committed.”
Harvick, 38, has as good a chance as anyone to win his third race of the season on Saturday. He has won two of the last five races at Richmond, including last spring’s event.
“I grew up racing on a lot of really flat racetracks, and Richmond is one of those tracks where the tires wear out a lot and it’s very line-sensitive,” said Harvick, who took part in a Goodyear tire test last week at Kansas Speedway and won last fall’s race at the track. “It’s just a track that really fits my driving style.
“I always feel, going back to Richmond, that we should run well all night and have a chance to win the race. So, my expectations aren’t anything less than that.”
In last year’s spring race, it appeared Juan Pablo Montoya was on his way to earning his first win on an oval until a caution came with four laps remaining. Harvick decided to pit for fresh tires with Montoya and the other leaders, while three others elected to stay out.
When the race went green for the final restart, Harvick was able to plow through traffic, driving from seventh to Victory Lane ahead of Clint Bowyer for his third career win at Richmond.
“There were a lot of guys gambling. Tires were everything at the end. The biggest thing I learned was that if it comes down to that situation again, I’m coming to pit road to put four tires on it.”