Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole has struggled this year, but the veteran driver has done his best to extract the most out of his No. 4 Ford Mustang each and every week.
Harvick’s seven top-tens is more than his three SHR teammates combined. While they are mired deep in the standings, he’s managed to keep himself inside the top-ten in regular season points.
But that’s nothing new for the 2014 Cup Series champion, who has ended every year since joining SHR with a higher average finish than his teammates.
Despite the organization’s overall lack of speed, there have been a few positive moments. Earlier this year, Harvick seemed poised to win at Phoenix until a caution disrupted his progress. He was also making progress at Nashville before a flat tire ruined his chances. However, he managed to avoid any accidents at Darlington and achieved his highest finish of the year, coming in second place.
Harvick has adopted a unique perspective for this ultimate season, striving to find equilibrium between a competitive mindset and simply savoring his final year on the track.
“I haven’t had any problems with it,” he stated while speaking to the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS).
“We have had a well-structured plan in place for a considerable amount of time, with the aim of ensuring that we are aware of what needs to be done and positioning ourselves to be competitive. We have successfully executed this plan almost every week, except for the races in Chicago and North Wilkesboro. It is important to persevere and work hard, as it is inherent to the nature of this endeavor. However, with this specific car, there will be weeks where our performance may not be at its best. Nevertheless, overall, we have been able to maintain competitiveness.”
“We have had a few opportunities to win races, but unfortunately, everything hasn’t aligned perfectly for us to reach victory lane. In terms of competition, things have been going well, and we were prepared for the additional workload that comes with this unique season. There are certain places where we can reflect on our past achievements and appreciate what we have accomplished over the years. That’s the exciting aspect of this year – we can relax a bit, reminisce, and acknowledge that it has been a successful racetrack for us.”
Regarding NHMS specifically, he further stated: “We have been fortunate to achieve some success here, and this is one of those places where we can confidently acknowledge that, yes, this racetrack has been great for us and we have experienced success. It’s enjoyable because there’s no need to conceal anything anymore. We don’t have to hide our thoughts or opinions due to the upcoming changes next year. In the past, I didn’t want others to know too much about what I was thinking or my strengths and weaknesses, as it could put me in a vulnerable position. So, the less I said, the less they knew. However, that doesn’t really matter this year, and it’s been enjoyable to relax and freely express our thoughts.”
Looking to the playoffs
With under two months remaining in the regular season, there are only a few positions left for the playoffs. Eleven drivers have secured their spots, and Harvick is among the few who are still competing for the remaining spots. However, despite the Cup Series heading towards the playoffs, he believes that the intensity on the track has not altered.
“I no longer perceive any significant changes,” he stated. “I believe there is a certain level of desperation, as evidenced by some of the situations in Atlanta – staying out, hoping for rain… and in Chicago, attempting to position oneself through pit cycles and similar strategies. So, there are certainly some risky moves. They occasionally yield positive results, so one never knows, right? The dynamics are certainly distinct with this car, as it demands intense focus every week during restarts and the maneuvers required to overtake. For us, however, things remain unchanged since 2015 when we made the decision to approach each race as if it were a playoff week. If we were to alter our approach, we would be in significant trouble. It’s a unique way of racing.”
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
If there aren’t any unexpected winners in the upcoming races, it’s highly probable that Harvick will secure a spot in the playoffs based solely on his points. He currently has a comfortable lead of over 100 points above the elimination threshold. However, it goes without saying that the experienced driver would greatly appreciate another win before retiring.
When questioned about the chances of winning, he confidently stated that he believes it is still possible. He mentioned a previous race in Nashville where their car was exceptionally fast and they were able to catch up to the leaders by a margin of four seconds. However, they encountered a flat tire, similar to what happened in Phoenix and a few other locations, which prevented them from achieving success. Despite these setbacks, he emphasized the importance of perseverance and staying determined. He expressed hope that they would encounter some favorable circumstances, just like they did last year, by keeping the cars in good condition and positioning themselves well in races.
Harvick has 60 wins in his career, winning twice during the 2022 season. This weekend’s race will be Harvick’s 40th Cup Series start at NHMS, winning at the ‘Magic Mile’ on four different occasions (2006, 2016, 2018, and 2019). He’ll start 13th in Monday’s race.
Race Winner Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Busch Beer / National Forest Foundation
Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images