Joliet: Kevin Harvick - NASCAR spotlight

Harvick looking to bounce back as NASCAR Winston Cup Series reaches midpoint of the season. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2002) - NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick has been extremely quiet since his well-chronicled early-season ...

Harvick looking to bounce back as NASCAR Winston Cup Series reaches midpoint of the season.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2002) - NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick has been extremely quiet since his well-chronicled early-season missteps with other drivers and NASCAR officials.

The problem, however, is that Harvick, last year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year and NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division champion, also has been equally quiet in terms of performance during the first half of the season.

Harvick (No. 29 Goodwrench Service Chevrolet), mired in 30th in the NASCAR Winston Cup points, exhibited signs of breaking out of the slump last week at Daytona and arrives at a welcome stop this week -

Chicagoland Speedway, where he is the defending champion of the Tropicana 400.

Harvick collected his first career NASCAR Winston Cup pole at last week's Pepsi 400 and also finished 11th, his best performance since finishing 10th at Bristol in late March.

Now Harvick arrives at a track where he was extremely dominant last season, leading 113 laps en route to his second career NASCAR Winston Cup victory. The win also was his last, a span of 34 races for the talented 26-year-old who finished ninth in the championship last season.

"The last couple of months I had to just sit back and not say anything about anything and just avoided everything that was going on, and just to concentrate on our race teams and our people and really making sure everybody understood where everybody was coming from," Harvick said."(Owner) Richard (Childress) and myself and all the guys have just kind of been sitting back and laughing about everything that's been written and going on, and we're just really taking it and putting it in our back pocket and moving forward.... We're going to climb the mountain and get back to the top of it."

The season's outset initially appeared as if Harvick had picked up where he left off a year ago as he ran well in the Gatorade 125 qualifier - finishing fourth - and qualified on the outside pole for the Daytona 500. He finished 36th due to an accident and struggled in the next three events before it seemed as if he was turning it around. He finished third at Darlington and followed with a 10th at Bristol to move to 20th in the points, but has been unable to crack the top 10 since.

During that time, Harvick had a confrontation with Greg Biffle following the NASCAR Busch Series race at Bristol in March and was placed on a short-term probation. In mid-April, he had an on-track incident with Coy Gibbs in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville and was"parked" for the remainder of the event. The penalty was later extended to include the following day's NASCAR Winston Cup event. He also received a $35,000 fine and his probation was extended through the remainder of the calendar year.

Harvick has been exemplary ever since and has learned a lesson or two in the process.

"There's a lot of fair-weather people that were around us, around our group and all of a sudden things go bad and it's just amazing how people don't come around anymore," Harvick said."I think myself, even Richard, have learned a lot from the situation. It hasn't been a career year in the stat books on the race track, but it's a career year for us personally. To know who we need around us and who we don't need around us. And that's important in this sport."

An additional headache Harvick had to deal with were various reports that he and Childress were not getting along and his contract may not be renewed with the team.

"We're getting ready to extend our deal with Richard," Harvick said."Never once have Richard and I been angry with each other. Everything is really stable and really solid, and we're all in this together."

Harvick said that the team did not do anything different in the off-season, but there are various factors that could have contributed to the difficult first half. Richard Childress Racing expanded from a two-car to three-car operation with the addition of Robby Gordon; information translating over from the team's Busch Series car has not been as succinct when he was driving both last season; and the damage to some key cars from accidents are some factors that come to Harvick's mind, but he is not laying blame anywhere in particular.

"There's a lot of different scenarios you can point at. Whether it is right or wrong, nobody knows," Harvick said." We got behind. Those guys aren't used to being behind at RCR and they're used to being somewhere at least close to the front and we're sitting back 30th in the points. They take that pretty personally. They've all stepped up.... It's a sign of good things to come and we're looking forward to it."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon
Teams Richard Childress Racing