Kevin Harvick: Thankful For 2014


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For Kevin Harvick 2014 has been a long time in the making. Thirteen seasons of ups and downs have finally paid off with a Sprint Cup Series Championship. Harvick has now done it all. He has 28 Sprint Cup Series wins including the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, All-Star Race, Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500. He is a K&N Pro-Series Champion, IROC Champion, a two-time Xfinity Series Champion and now a Sprint Cup Series champion. Let’s take a look at how he got where he is today.

Harvick made his first Sprint Cup series start in 2001 at Rockingham after  taking over for the late Dale Earnhardt. The car number was changed from 3 to 29 and the paint scheme was inverted but Harvick still had some big shoes to fill. In just his third race Harvick won at Atlanta in a thrilling finish with Jeff Gordon. That win was not as much about Kevin but part of the healing process for a team who lost a good friend. Chicagoland in July was another story. Harvick won the inaugural race and showed everyone he wasn’t just a flash in the pan trying to make a name in Dale Earnhardt’s equipment. He had talent and was here to stay.

Harvick and the No. 29 team went on to finish ninth in points notching sixteen top tens and two wins. He also took the Xfinity Series No. 2 AcDelco team to a championship. A great start for a young Harvick who was put in a difficult position and exceeded expectations. The future was bright at RCR.

However, the #29 Goodwrench Service Plus team had a rough four years ahead of them. Harvick would only win three more times from 2002 to 2005. The highlight of those four years was winning the 2003 Brickyard 400. Finishes were not great and qualifying efforts were mediocre at best. Harvick would find himself fighting his way through the field week in and week out trying to take home a solid finish.

And speaking of fighting. Harvick isn’t one to back down. During a 2002 Xfinity Series race at Bristol, Harvick was wrecked by Greg Biffle in the closing laps. An irritated Harvick sat on top his pit box and waited for the race to conclude. Once Biffle exited his car, Harvick jumped over and grabbed Biffle by the collar to show his disapproval for the on-track incident. NASCAR fined Harvick and put him on probation. Roughly a month later Harvick was parked in the truck series race at Martinsville after retaliating against Coy Gibbs and wrecking him intentionally. The next day NASCAR parked him for the Sprint Cup race sending a clear message on how the young driver should carry himself.

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In 2003 Harvick was once again in the spotlight after confronting Ricky Rudd following the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond. After being wrecked in the closing stages, Harvick pulled his car aside of Rudd’s on pit road. The crews then got involved while Harvick throwed his HANS device at Rudd and proceeded to walked across Rudd’s hood yelling obscenities. Harvick was once again fined and put on probation.

When 2006 came along Harvick and team began to turn the corner. He decided to run full time in the Xifinity Series and claimed his second Xfinity Series title. In the Sprint Cup Series the team still struggled to attain a consistent starting position but was always in contention at the end of the race. Harvick won five times including a sweep of the races at Phoenix. The team notched 15 top-fives and 20 top-tens en route to a fourth place finish in points.

This left momentum high headed into 2007 and the year started off with a bang. Harvick won the Daytona 500 in a photo finish with Mark Martin. Unfortunately, the season quickly went downhill. Harvick nearly won the next weekend in Fontana but suffered a flat tire in the closing laps. He won the All-Star race in May but that would be his last trip to victory lane through the 2009 season. Harvick and team fell back into their old ways and in 2009 Harvick recorded a career worst 19th place finish in the Sprint Cup Series standings. The car was strong at the restrictor plate tracks but lacked speed everywhere else on the circuit.

Finally, in 2010 Harvick began to hit his stride. The team was still excellent at the restrictor plate tracks recording wins at Talladega and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Harvick’s third win came at Michigan and was huge for the team after struggling for so many years at the intermediate tracks. Once the chase started, Harvick was rock solid only posting one finish outside the top ten. However, solid top-tens wasn’t enough and Harvick finished third to Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in the final points standings.

Budweiser came on board in 2011 and Kevin was poised to win his first championship. The No. 29 team had a great sponsor, an engine program that came together and produced results in 2010, and a man behind the wheel that was hungry for a championship. However, as with all great things they don’t come easy. The season got off to a rough start when Harvick blew an engine in the opening laps of the Daytona 500. He rebounded and recorded four wins throughout the 2011 season including a thrilling Coca-Cola 600 capitalizing when Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out of gas on the final lap. The wins in 2011 gained him the nickname “The Closer” since he didn’t lead many laps but was always in contention during the closing laps. But Harvick struggled down the stretch posting finishes in the 20s during the chase and finished third in points for the second year in a row.

Following a string of mediocre finishes in 2011 and 2012 Harvick was ready for a change. In the fall of 2012 at Phoenix, Kevin announced that he would be leaving RCR and would be driving for Stewart-Haas in 2014. There was speculation on how well the team would work together throughout Harvick’s lame duck season. What everyone didn’t know was both Harvick and the team at RCR was up to the challenge. He went on to win that weekend in Phoenix and came out swinging in 2013 winning both the Sprint Unlimited and a Budweiser Duel.

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Throughout 2013 Harvick won four points races which included a dominating performance at Kansas in the fall making the No. 29 Budweiser team a real threat for the championship. Just when all the momentum was on his side things got ugly. In the fall truck race at Martinsville Harvick got into an altercation with Ty Dillion and stated that he made the decision to leave RCR due to Ty and his brother Austin “had everything fed to them with a spoon.” This obviously didn’t make the situation of Harvick leaving RCR any easier. Harvick finished out the year with a win at Phoenix and yet another third place in the points standings.

With all the history at RCR behind him, Kevin Harvick was ready for a new start in 2014. Teaming up with his friend Tony Stewart, Kevin was finally where he wanted to be. The Hendrick engines were top notch and the team never quit during all the mechanical issues they encountered early in the season. The cars were fast and the No. 4 car was up front every week. However, something would always happen and Harvick couldn’t seal the deal. A crash, flat tire, or a mechanical issue. It didn’t matter. He recorded solid qualifying runs and had eight poles throughout the season but consistent finishes were elusive. He won at Phoenix and Darlington early in the year and after that the well ran dry.

Then the chase started. He continued to lead laps and knocked out an important win at Charlotte to advance to the Eliminator round. After a horrible finish at Martinsville it was win or go home when the team arrived in Phoenix. One again, Harvick delivered in dominating fashion. The car was hooked up from the start and no one could catch him. At Homestead Harvick was finally able to cash in. Rodney Childers made a great call to take four tires in the closing laps and Harvick drove off to a win and his first championship.

Thirteen years after Harvick made his first cup start it has come full circle. Since taking over on that February day in Rockingham at age 25, Harvick has grown into one of the best NASCAR drivers that has driven a race car. The future couldn’t look any better. So while Harvick and family are having their Thanksgiving feast (maybe a Boomin’ Onion, a few Jimmy John’s sandwhiches, and some cold Budweisers) there will be many things that he will be thankful for. Tony Stewart, Rodney Childers and the rest of the Stewart-Haas team will certainly make the list but at the top is the 2014 Sprint Cup Series Championship.

Aaron Hale is a Staff Writer for on the FanSided Network. Follow us on Twitter @Beyond_The_Flag and “Like” us on Facebook.