Harvick's Reasons to be Happy
Topics: Kevin Harvick
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.
Kevin "Happy" Harvick, set to turn just 31 this year after the end of the racing season, is already making a major impression on stock car racing.
After 5 winless years in the Craftsman Truck Series, he got a ride with Richard Childress Racing, winning the Busch Series Rookie of the Year in 2000. Instead of continuing to learn from racing legend Dale Earnhardt, he would fill the seat he vacated after his death at Daytona in 2001.
If you make an exception for the 2001 Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick is the first driver in NASCAR history to run the full Winston Cup and Busch Series schedules in the same year. He didn't just run them, but won in them, taking home the Busch Series championship, and Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, finishing 9th in points. His Cup success included 2 wins, the first coming in just his third Winston Cup start, a record at the time.
The next few years were rough, with few wins and some personality conflicts between Harvick and other drivers. One bright spot was winning the 2003 Brickyard 400. In 2005 he and crew chief Todd Berrier were involved in a rules-infraction incident when the car was found to have a fuel tank that was made to hold less than the full load of fuel-a very blatant instance of cheating.
2005, cheating incident aside, was the beginning of the turnaround for both Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing. Kevin Harvick Inc., a team that started in the back of the Childress garages after hours in late 2001, had matured into a winning operation fielding drivers such as Ron Hornaday in trucks and two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart in the Busch Series. Tony Stewart won the 2005 Busch season opener in Daytona. For 2006 KHI has fielded its first full-season Busch team, the #77 car with Burney Lamar at the wheel.
This season has seen Harvick ascend to the top ranks of NASCAR, as he enters the Chase for the Nextel Cup in third place, and carries an almost insurmountable 600+ point lead into the last 10 races of the Busch Series season. If he were to win both championships in 2006 he would become the first driver in NASCAR history to do so in the same year. Even if he does not, he has padded his Busch win total to 23, climbing to fourth in all-time wins. Mark Martin leads with 45.
Kevin's climb to the top coincides with better performance from all 3 RCR Cup teams, which includes Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.
Of course, success is no guarantee of continued success. Other drivers have found their way to the top ranks of NASCAR, only to return to anonymity a few years later. The true measure of Harvick's career will be in just how long he can maintain his current high level of success.
©2006 Bill Crittenden
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|