Hot Harvick Rides to Richmond
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 25, 2014 | 8:45 A.M. EST
Kevin Harvick hopes to follow his win at Darlington with another trip to Gatorade Victory Lane on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick is looking to become the Sprint Cup Series' first three-time winner of 2014 in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver went to Victory Lane the second week of the year at Phoenix International Raceway and followed that with a win two weeks ago in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Despite sitting 23rd in the point standings, Harvick has locked up a spot in the post-season Chase with his two victories thanks to the new NASCAR championship format. So with his playoff plans already in place, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers can concentrate on racking up more victories over the next 18 regular-season races.
The odds of Harvick being in the mix for win No. 3 this weekend at Richmond are very good. He's always run well at the .750-mile track and is the defending race winner. That 2013 victory didn’t come easy for Harvick, who had to come from the seventh spot on the race’s final restart to get to the checkered flag first.
"Last year was one of those races that we probably shouldn’t have won," Harvick recalled. "That was a really unique restart. We had a good car and lined up for the restart on the inside with four fresh tires. Tires meant everything at the end. 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."
Harvick’s Richmond track record backs up those expectations. He has three career Sprint Cup wins there and nine NASCAR victories overall. The short-track standout credits his early career experiences for helping him run well at Richmond as a NASCAR driver.
"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. "You’ve got to work on running well on the bottom of the racetrack, trying to find grip for the front tires to turn and then finding grip on the exit of the corner. It’s a track that really fits my driving style."
But don’t mistake Harvick’s self-assurance these days with being overly confident or taking anything for granted. Even though he’s won twice and teammate Kurt Busch has also scored a victory, Harvick knows there’s a long road ahead for the burgeoning SHR organization.
Expanding from three cars to four this year, and adding a pair of new drivers in Harvick and Busch as well as three new crew chiefs (Childers, Daniel Knost and Chad Johnston) means there will still be plenty of obstacles ahead. While the team has experienced early success, Harvick is prepared for more ups and downs as the year progresses.
Still, he’s confident that the tools and personnel are in place to minimize the challenges and maximize performance.
"As we go through time, there are still a lot of growing pains we have to work through as far as structure and things at Stewart-Haas Racing in general," Harvick said, "as you look at the four teams, how they flow, who does what and how things work. There are a lot of things that still need to be worked on but even on a good team, if you're sitting on your hands, you're getting ready to get passed because this is a competitive garage. There are lots of competitive people that push things to the point where they get themselves into Victory Lane."
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of Saturday's Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond International Raceway starting at 6 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.