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Harvick still taking in title feeling

It has been almost three weeks since Kevin Harvick won his first Sprint Cup Series championship.

He has been celebrating ever since.

And Friday night will come the official coronation at the Sprint Cup Series Awards at the Wynn Las Vegas.

“It’s like you go from this huge, competitive mode, and all of a sudden you get right out of the car, you do an interview, they hand you the trophy and then you’re off to do interviews and photos,” said Harvick, who won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch the title. “And it’s been hard to sit down and really kind of take a deep breath and take it all in.

“I’m a guy sitting in a position that I dreamed about – being a race car driver and at the time winning a Winston Cup championship that is now called the Sprint Cup championship, and being able to fulfill your lifelong dream, and reality is something that a lot of people can’t really say that they’ve ever done.”

Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and members of their No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team will be honored Friday night. The other 15 members of this season’s Chase also will be recognized.

For Harvick, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., collecting the biggest prize of his racing career in Las Vegas probably is extra significant.

“I think as you look at the town, you can race anything in Bakersfield, and Bakersfield is one of the most supportive racing towns anywhere in the country now that I’ve been all over the country to race,” Harvick said.

“You can honestly say that that is a racing community. It was definitely a fortunate place to grow up on the West Coast that was able to springboard my career into the racing world.”

The title came in his first season at SHR and first with Childers – Harvick had spent virtually his entire NASCAR career at Richard Childress Racing and Childers moved from Michael Waltrip Racing.

It also came in the first season of NASCAR’s latest format change to its Chase, which expanded the championship field from 12 to 16 drivers and added three elimination rounds to the 10-race playoff.

The path to the title had many potential obstacles, but for Harvick and his team overcame each.

“You know, it was definitely high intensity, high stress as we went through the new format,” Harvick said. “And I think for the fans, it created some really, really good racing with everybody just kind of throwing caution to the wind to try to win races and make things happen for your team to keep advancing through the rounds.

“I think the racing world has enjoyed it, and that’s what it’s all about in the end.”

Harvick has never been shy to express his opinion and he relishes the opportunity a series championship gives him to contribute even more of a voice to help shape NASCAR’s future.

“It’s always better to lead than follow,” he said, “so, if there’s a possibility of being that leader and being the one that everybody looks to you, you want to try to seize those moments and do the best you can to take control and do it better than it has been done in the past.”

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