ThatsRacin

Kevin Harvick NASCAR team driven by rare mix of talent, speed

Kevin Harvick has more than 500 starts over 14-plus seasons, but nine of his 15 career poles, six of 29 wins and only series title have come since he began working with crew chief Rodney Childers, left, at Stewart-Haas Racing at the start of last season.
Kevin Harvick has more than 500 starts over 14-plus seasons, but nine of his 15 career poles, six of 29 wins and only series title have come since he began working with crew chief Rodney Childers, left, at Stewart-Haas Racing at the start of last season. GETTY

Kevin Harvick has never been short on talent.

Talent combined with consistently fast cars, however, is a luxury few NASCAR drivers get to experience in their careers.

Harvick is living in that moment now.

“While Harvick is a great driver, what makes the No. 4 team so tough to beat is that the car is so fast every week,” NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip said. “When they unload on Fridays, they’re usually a couple of tenths of a second faster than everyone.

“That’s a luxury because you can overcome a lot with a very fast car. They’re setting the mark.”

Harvick enters Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway having finished first or second in his last six Sprint Cup Series races, including a victory last weekend at Las Vegas.

No driver has accomplished such a dominating streak since a much younger Jeff Gordon did so in 1996.

And while Harvick has made more than 500 starts over 14-plus seasons in his Cup career, nine of his 15 career poles, six of his 29 wins and his only series championship have come since he began working with crew chief Rodney Childers at Stewart-Haas Racing at the beginning of last season.

That is no accident.

In fact, Harvick said, much of it was by design.

“Everybody was assembled to come to the race team to race with us,” he said. “Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) gave us the ability to go out and buy race cars and trucks and trailers and pit boxes, and everything was just kind of custom built I guess you could say to what Rodney wanted to put into the team.

“All of those guys have the same goal, and they knew what they were getting into. It wasn’t like people were placed on the team because they didn’t have somewhere else in the company or ran out of guys to interview.

“Everybody wants to be here for the exact same reason that we are experiencing right now.”

Harvick and Childers’ run is remarkable but certainly not unprecedented.

Their success has drawn numerous comparisons with Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team consisting of driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Together they have won six Cup titles – including a NASCAR-record five in a row – and nearly 70 races since the 2002 season.

“We’ve seen this kind of domination before that we’re seeing with Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team. We witnessed it from the No. 48 team for several years when they were unbeatable,” Waltrip said.

“Smart crew chief, fast car and great driver. It’s the same scenario with the No. 4 car now and the same mojo.”

Only time will tell whether Childers and Harvick will amass the same success as Johnson and Knaus.

Harvick spent 13 seasons working at another organization and with several other crew chiefs. Knaus is the only full-time crew chief Johnson has worked with during his Cup career.

Yet both Childers and Harvick seem to have a keen understanding of the potential and the timing of their pairing.

“In all honesty, my relationship with Kevin is just as good as my relationship with my wife (Katrina),” Childers said. “We’ve been together 14 years and we’ve never really gotten in a fight one time.

“Maybe it’s just hard to get in a fight with me, I’m not sure. I think Kevin and I are just on the same; we talk the same language; we do the same things.”

Harvick makes a very similar comparison in his description of his relationship with Childers.

“I can tell you that Rodney and I get along like we are long lost brothers. We have a very similar background of how we grew up,” Harvick said.

“His demeanor is a little bit different than mine. Obviously, we are different ends of the spectrum as far as he is about as laid-back as you could possibly be and still be awake. I can get pretty wound up.

“I think that balance is good for both of us, to push each other and kind of find that middle road.”

So far, that path has led to unprecedented success.

And it shows no signs of veering off-course.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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