Sports

Harvick still has gas in his tank as he adapts to Next Gen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kevin Harvick, by way of all measurable statistics, is a fading big name looking to stay tempo in a NASCAR that now turns out extra fitted to more youthful drivers.

He’s 46 years outdated, finally, and in his twenty second complete NASCAR season. Harvick went winless all of closing 12 months — he in reality hasn’t received since past due within the 2020 season — and his 9-year-old son has his personal thriving racing occupation.

A gradual begin to the season hasn’t helped.

It’s been NASCAR’s more youthful drivers who’ve been quickest to evolve to the brand new Next Gen automotive, with Harvick a few of the veterans nonetheless looking to determine it out. He and Stewart-Haas Racing in the end hit on one thing closing week at Richmond to attain their highest end in the course of the first seven races; Harvick ran 2d to Denny Hamlin.

The Hamlin win snapped a 12-race streak courting to closing season of race winners elderly 30 or more youthful, and the 1-2 end with Harvick confirmed that NASCAR’s veterans nonetheless have masses within the tank. As he heads to Martinsville Speedway for a Saturday night time race on the Virginina quick observe, Harvick warned to not depend out the No. 4 crew: Harvick is dedicated to SHR, NASCAR and profitable a 2d Cup Series championship.

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“I like where I race. I like Stewart-Haas Racing. I like the atmosphere. I like the people,” Harvick said. “That’s really the biggest reason that I like to do it, especially this year. You’re with a group of people where you’re constantly problem solving. You’re trying to fix it faster than everybody else and come to something that is better than everybody else so you can win races.

“I like the core group of guys that I started here with. That’s why they all came here, and I guess I would feel like I’m abandoning them if I didn’t go a couple more years. For me, I still enjoy that challenge. I enjoy where this series is, and learning about the new car is not a bad thing to do as you go forward into the future and do something different.”

Harvick is in his ninth season driving the No. 4 Ford for SHR, the team that led him to his only Cup title in their 2014 debut season. He’s an annual title contender, though, and went door-to-door with Hamlin all of 2020 in what was shaping up to be an epic title battle.

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Although Harvick won nine races that season, he was eliminated from the title-deciding race the week before the championship. Last season was off across the board for SHR, and even though he was winless, Harvick still finished fifth in the final Cup standings.

This year hasn’t been awful, but Harvick simply wasn’t as competitive as typically expected through the first six races of the season in NASCAR’s new car. But Harvick said he and crew chief Rodney Childers expected early growing pains and worked hard during the offseason to troubleshoot in advance.

“We’ve put in a lot of time this year; the simulator, we’ve been to two tests so far,” Harvick said. “We knew coming into this year that we had some habits we were going to have to break, thought processes that you were going to have to break, to really understand this car, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that with all the adversity we’ve gone through so far this year.

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“Martinsville will just be more of that same process, and that’s going to be our aggressive process until we get to victory lane.”

At 0.526 miles, Martinsville is the shortest observe at the agenda and its tight corners and restricted 12 levels of banking lends to a bodily race. It’s additionally NASCAR’s oldest speedway and entrenched within the recreation’s historical past.

However, it is such a lot of a problem that Harvick stated: “I definitely would tell you it’s not a racetrack that I would say, ‘This is where I want to go.’ It’s just not been a place where I’ve had streaks of success.”

Indeed, he’s won at Martinvsille in all three of NASCAR’s national series. But his 2011 victory is his only Cup win in 41 starts at the Virginia short track. From what he’s seen of the Next Gen so far, Harvick expects a good deal of bumping and banging Saturday night.

He knows the Next Gen car can withstand the contact and, had he gotten close enough to Hamlin on Sunday at Richmond, Harvick admitted he’d have tried to move Hamlin for the win.

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“You just have to be mentally prepared to know that there is going to be contact as you go through that race,” Harvick stated. “You just have to try to stay as calm as possible.”

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