Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick is the only returning member of the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend but that shouldn’t be a surprise.
The team at Stewart-Haas Racing he and crew chief Rodney Childers put together was never intended to be a one-hit wonder.
For the second consecutive season, Harvick has led the most laps in the Cup series and set a personal career-best in that category in the process. From the start of the season to entering Sunday’s season finale, Harvick’s team has once again been the most consistent in the Cup series.
Building a championship-caliber team
And as Childers explained, that was the goal when the two first began planning their NASCAR journey together.
“When I sat at his house and we met and talked about doing this, that’s what we both said – we wanted to be in a position where we could race for a championship, and not only for one year, but do it for multiple years and keep things going,” Childers said this week.
“I think just having that attitude from the beginning has been one of the best things for our race team. It’s not just me and him that want it, it’s the entire team, and it’s I think what separates our team from a lot of others.
“You’ve got to have 100 percent of the people wanting it as much as you do, and we’ve been very fortunate to have that so far. It’s a lot of fun going to the race track these days.”
That’s not exactly an easy task for any race team that spends the better part of 38 to 40 weeks a year together traveling across the country.
It’s not just another week, it’s championship week, and there’s a lot on the line
But there is certainly something to be said for having a good attitude or perspective. In fact, Childers believes that is a contributing factor to the success he and Harvick have enjoyed since they’ve been paired together.
“The biggest thing is just (Harvick’s) relationship with the race team, and I think having (son) Keelan and switching to a different race team and being around different people definitely changed a lot of things,” Childers said. “I think just personally he’s been a happier person.
“A lot of that all comes down to running well, but even the times when we’re struggling and not running well, he does a great job of communicating and being positive and knowing that he’s got a good race team and that we can make the car better as the week goes on and get a good result out of it.”
Overcoming adversity not a problem for the No. 4
Harvick himself said he especially recognizes the confidence that comes with knowing your race team can find its way out of virtually any problem.
“There’s just so many things that happen throughout these races. I have the confidence in my team and the things that we’ve done this year that I believe that our car will be competitive. But as we’ve proven throughout the Chase, even though your car is competitive, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong in our sport, whether it’s mistakes from me or parts failures or whatever goes on,” he said.
“In the end we’re going to try to control the things that we can control. I think our guys have kind of lived in this type of situation where everybody expects the car to go out and perform well, and I think you have to be very careful of how you react to those things and how you balance those things and how you talk about those things.
“You’re confident in what you have, but you can’t be confident in the results just for the fact that you just never know what can reach out and grab you.”
Harvick has seen his share of issues in this season’s Chase races, but so far, he and his team have been able to overcome them and in the process end up right back where he was one year ago.
That experience does mean something.
“It’s not just another week, it’s championship week, and there’s a lot on the line, and I feel like managing those emotions and logistics from everybody at Stewart-Haas who’s had experience winning a championship and everybody in our office that got to go through that last year, there can be a lot of distractions,” Harvick said.
“So, managing your time and doing the things that you need to do are definitely a positive in keeping the right frame of mind and staying focused on the things that you need to stay focused on.
“For me, that’s pretty simple this week – drive the car and try to get the most out of it.”