Charlotte Now a Harvick Favorite
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 23, 2014 | 2:01 P.M. EST
Kevin Harvick, shown here celebrating last year's Coca-Cola 600 victory, is seeking to become a three-time winner of NASCAR's longest race with his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick’s struggles at Charlotte Motor Speedway are a thing of the past and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is shooting for his third career Coca-Cola 600 win on Sunday.
From 2002 through 2010, Harvick could finish no higher than 11th in the longest race of the Sprint Cup Series season. But that's changed and now Harvick has won two of the last three Memorial Day Weekend marathons.
"It’s definitely not one of the racetracks I don’t like coming to anymore, for sure," Harvick joked. "Charlotte has been a good track for me the past few years."
One of the challenges Harvick had to overcome was his mindset whenever Charlotte rolled around on the schedule. He credits a different mental attitude as a big reason why he’s been much more successful lately on the 1.5-mile oval than earlier in his Sprint Cup career.
"I tried to stop having a bad attitude coming into this particular weekend and just trying to get through it," said Harvick, who led 28 laps in last year’s victory. "I figured out what I needed to get better at this particular track. I watched the guys who've had success here; and I studied steering, throttle, brakes and different techniques used by the guys that were winning the races - and tried to adapt to that.
"Changing my attitude has helped the most and now, Charlotte has become like any of the other racetracks where you enjoy showing up."
Now in his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has a chance to join an elite group of drivers if he can find his way to Victory Lane again Sunday night. Since it debuted in 1960, only eight drivers have won the grueling race three times.
"That would be phenomenal," said Harvick, who will start 11th in Sunday's race. "The Coke 600 is one of our biggest races. I’ve been fortunate to win it twice. You see that list of winners and the quality of drivers who’ve won this race, and it’s still a pretty short list. So you want to keep multiplying the times that your name is put on that list of drivers and to win it for a third time would be pretty awesome."
Harvick’s 2014 season has also been pretty awesome. He’s won twice in his first 11 races with SHR and has been in contention for at least a couple more victories along the way. Although there have been some challenges and finishes well below 30th along the way, Harvick is more than pleased with the overall performance of the No. 4 team and his relationship with crew chief Rodney Childers.
"It’s a different feeling as you go from week to week knowing your expectation is to win the race," Harvick said. "You’re not going to win all the races. You’re going to have things happen and you’re going to be off some weekends. But the expectation when we go to the racetrack (now) is that we’re going there to win the race. We’re going to practice like that and try to qualify on the pole. We know we have cars capable of that."