Harvick Ready for a Change of Pace
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 13, 2013 | 10:00 A.M. EST
“It’s just something to where you just want a change of pace to do something and that is really what it all boiled down to; one of the pieces that it boiled down to." (Photo: Getty Images)
Yet even body ink can be removed. So no matter how much we want things to remain the same, they rarely do. Change abounds.
The announcement of Kevin Harvick’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing on Friday has been known since November, but the disclosure of his new number - 4 - for next season is a reminder of how different things will be after this season. And not just for those with No. 29 tattoos.
Harvick’s move sends Ryan Newman out of Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Newman’s availability could cost another driver their ride and so on.
But look beyond who goes where and consider what Harvick did. He’s always driven for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Harvick took over Dale Earnhardt’s ride just days after the seven-time champion’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, becoming the organization’s bedrock. As time wore, so did Harvick, who said he needed to be rejuvenated.
Think back to about this time last year when Matt Kenseth shocked many by announcing he would leave Roush Fenway Racing at the end of that season. Kenseth had driven full-time for Roush in Cup since 2000. Sponsorship issues and the chance to drive for another top-tier team made the move sensible.
Kenseth moved to Joe Gibbs Racing when he was 40 years old. Harvick will be 38 when next season begins.
Even though 71-year-old Morgan Shepherd will start Sunday’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and 54-year-old Mark Martin runs most of the races, drivers know as they climb above their mid-30s that their chances of winning a championship can become more difficult. Only one champion since 2001 has been older than 35 years old. Tony Stewart was 40 when he won the 2011 crown.
That came three season after he surprised many by leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to be partner with Gene Haas’ team and be a part owner in their new organization. Since leaving Gibbs, Stewart has won 15 races and a title.
Kenseth has been rewarded with a season that could be unlike any other for the 2003 champion. He’s already won four races, one off his career total in 2002 and is viewed as one of the leading contenders for the title. Don’t think other drivers haven’t noticed how much he’s smiled this year. Once satirized in a commercial for being robotic, Kenseth’s Victory Lane celebrations drip with emotion-soaked words.
Now it’s Harvick’s turn. Even in a year where he’s also a title contender - no one has scored more points than he has in the last eight races - Harvick said Friday it was just time for him to make a change.
“It’s just like when you show up to the same desk for 12 or 13 years you are like, “Man, I need a new desk or you need to change the pictures on the wall,‘ ‘‘ Harvick said. “It’s just something to where you just want a change of pace to do something and that is really what it all boiled down to; one of the pieces that it boiled down to.”
It also doesn’t hurt that he goes to an organization that has won a title two years ago with Stewart. Richard Childress Racing last won a Cup title in 1994 when Earnhardt claimed his seventh and final crown.
Kenseth admits that the older one gets the more aware they are of their chances to win a title.
“I’ve always been the guy that, man, when you’re foruntate to win a race, you don’t know if you’re ever going to win one again,’’ Kenseth said. “Certainly as you get older and you’re around longer and you have some years that are down years, I think you enjoy the wins more.
“As you get older, in general, you realize that nothing is forever, more so than you do when you’re in your early 20s or mid 20s.’’