ThatsRacin

For ‘Normal Kevin Harvick,’ contending for title part of the deal. But not all of it.

Who are the Championship drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ 2018 season comes to a close Sunday with the Ford EcoBoost 400. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all in title contention.
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ 2018 season comes to a close Sunday with the Ford EcoBoost 400. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all in title contention.

“Uh ...”

Wait. That doesn’t sound like normal Kevin Harvick.

Normal Kevin Harvick is cool, confident, suave even. He’s composed, articulate, thoughtful with every word and with every move he makes on the race track. Normal Kevin Harvick belongs at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, competing for NASCAR’s Cup Series championship, because that’s what Normal Kevin Harvick does.

Win races, compete for championships. Rinse, repeat.

And so here he is ... but that pause? That rare moment of not knowing the perfect words?

That ain’t normal.

This season, Harvick has been as dominant as any driver in NASCAR’s top division. He has eight race victories, tied with Kyle Busch for the most of anyone, and by statistics alone this has been his best professional season yet — even sans a championship.

But perhaps most impressive about Harvick’s new normal this year is ... exactly that — how stinkin’ normal everything has been.

Some of that normalcy, Harvick said this week, comes from his kids. Not shying away from the carpool lane at school or big-timing his son when he wants to go watch a high school basketball game. Even in the swirling, chaotic tornado that is NASCAR’s championship weekend, Harvick hypothesized that if his son Keelan saw all the cameras and reporters around Dad, he’d still make a beeline for the M&M’s bowl.

Normal indeed. Encouraged even.

Harvick’s personal life is one thing, but he has also developed a sense of normalcy on the track that correlates to his dominance. It’s not like he’s blown every other driver away every single weekend — far from it. Rather, normal has come to mean perseverance. Adaptability. Improvising and excelling all at once.

And that brings us back to “Uh....”

Harvick has just been asked what he was doing — where he was, who he was with, yadda yadda — two weeks ago when NASCAR assessed him a potentially season-ending penalty. A spoiler issue meant NASCAR was practically erasing his victory at Texas ... the win that had, he thought, clinched him a spot in Sunday’s championship race. Instead, he lost his championship berth, his crew chief, and any substantial lead he had in the standings.

Harvick’s response to where he was, or what he was doing when he learned the news?

“Uh ... I don’t even remember at this point,” he told the Observer.

Figures. But then, this:

“You know, here’s the deal,” Harvick said. “I tell people this all the time — for us, whether it’s a big story or a little story, a win or a loss, on Monday we do the exact same things, and it’s boring, and it’s not any drama.

“But when they sent me the penalty, I was like, ‘All right, well what do we have to do now then?’ And they said we’re 3 points ahead, and I said, ‘OK, we’ll go win Phoenix and it’ll be over with.’”

Now, that sounds much more like Normal Kevin Harvick.

Even at Phoenix last weekend, when Harvick got a flat tire at one point and went a lap down, there was no barking over the in-car radio or slamming on the steering wheel. Just understanding, and moving forward.

“In that particular moment, the only thing that you could do is put the tire on, go back out on the racetrack, start over again,” he said. “That’s what we did.”

Harvick did note that it’s been a work in process getting himself to this point, where flexibility and rolling with the punches have become his status quo. When he was younger, there was anger. Frustration. Outbursts, even.

Now a father of two, he can’t get away with that same nonsense. What if 6-year-old Keelan saw?

“Do you know how embarrassed I would be to walk in the front door and answer that question?” Harvick joked. “’Hey Dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ Well, probably wasn’t the right thing to do (laughs).

“A lot of that comes with having kids. You better be able to compartmentalize something because of the fact that you’re going to have a lot of stuff going on that you didn’t have going on before.”

Two weeks ago, that was a potential season-ending penalty. Last week, a potential season-ending flat. And this Sunday at Homestead, alongside his other three championship contenders in Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Busch?

Heck, it could be anything.

But the inevitable is that it will be something. And when that moment arises?

“For me, there’s always some incentive in proving to people that you can do something that isn’t what they think you should do,” Harvick said. “Last week it was, ‘This penalty is going to slow them down.’ Like I told you last week, when they take 10 (points) away, we find 20.

“When they back you against the wall, make it better than it was before.”

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