Season Review: Kevin Harvick

K.Harvick

Harvick celebrates one of his four Cup Series wins in 2011, this one at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick acquired the nickname “The Closer” this year thanks to a pair of dramatic victories that came with last-lap passes during the first half of the season.

But the Richard Childress Racing driver was unable to complete the “sale” during the second half of the schedule, settling for his second consecutive third-place finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Harvick ended the 2011 campaign 58 points behind champion Tony Stewart, tallying four wins and 15 other top-10 finishes in completing his 11th year at RCR.

“We want to race for a championship,” Harvick said in looking at the recently-completed season’s bottom line.  “With the performance we had through the year, it was a decent season.  But we need to make things better for next year as we move through the winter.”

Kevin HarvickTeam owner Richard Childress wasted little time in starting that process with the recent introduction of Harvick’s new crew chief, Shane Wilson – who’ll replace Gil Martin.

As for “The Closer’s” dramatic last-lap victories earlier in the year, the first came at Auto Club Speedway in March.  Harvick’s team chose track position over tires with the laps winding down, remaining on the speedway while others pitted during a late caution.  Harvick passed race leader Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to post his 15th career victory.  It was the only lap he led all day.

Harvick also won the following weekend at Martinsville Speedway.  Then along came the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend in Charlotte, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to end a three-year victory drought.  But on the final lap, Earnhardt ran out of fuel and Harvick drove past the thirsty Chevrolet for his third win of the year.

The victory elevated Harvick to second in the standings.  It triggered a run of four top 10s in six starts that carried him into the points lead after the season’s return visit to Daytona International Speedway in July.

Harvick remained in the top five for most of the summer and notched win No. 4 in the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway.  Harvick led 202 of the 400 laps, including the final 16 … beating runner-up Carl Edwards to the checkered flag and securing the No. 2 seed for the Chase – behind only Kyle Busch.

Kevin HarvickHarvick was no further than seven points out of the lead through the first half of the post-season, but his championship bid took a turn for the worse in race No. 6 at Talladega Superspeedway.  Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet was caught up in a six-car melee early in the second half of the Good Sam Club 500.

Repairs were made and Harvick did complete the race, though he was nine laps down to winner (and teammate) Clint Bowyer.  Harvick entered the final month of the season fifth in points, 26 behind Edwards, and got no closer than 21 points from the lead the rest of the way.

He’s quickly put that disappointment behind him, choosing instead to look ahead to the opening of Speedweeks 2012 now less than three months away.

Kevin Harvick“There’s nothing better than rolling into Daytona and seeing the enthusiasm of a new season,” Harvick said.  “That first race is something to look forward to.  It’s what keeps us going.  I enjoy that part of it and look forward to it every year.”

For Harvick, missed opportunities of 2011 have quickly morphed into the promise of 2012.

“There’s really only one thing I look forward to and that’s the day we win that Cup Series championship,” Harvick said, eyeing his 12th season behind the wheel of the No. 29 Chevrolet.  “That’s the big box left without the check-mark on it that Richard and our whole organization want to add as quickly as possible.”

RCR’s next Cup Series crown will be its seventh … but first since the Dale Earnhardt era in 1994.

More Season Reviews

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick

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