Usually when drivers are using terms like balance at Daytona International Speedway, they are talking about something to do with the car.
Not Kevin Harvick, one of the fastest men on track to date at NASCAR Sprint Cup Speedweeks.
For Harvick, that term is tied to his son, Keelan – he of the magic shoe.
Harvick and his wife, DeLana, became first-time parents about seven months ago. At Daytona, Harvick is finding that parenthood has added dividends.
“I’ve told several people this,” Harvick says. “It’s added a new balance to my life where I can still come to the racetrack and I feel like I’m more relaxed and more focused, which is good for me. I don’t get as wound up on things when they happen, whether it’s in the car, outside the car.
“When you’ve had a bad day, you’re frustrated, you’re right to the point where you can say something stupid, you go back to the motorhome, you see that smiling face, it lets you get your mind off of things. It’s added a great balance to my life. I think it’s made me better.”
At Daytona, Harvick clearly has things under control. While he’s leaving the team at season’s end, he is shucking any reference to lame-duck status by going out and letting his performance speak for itself. So far, that has worked out exceptionally well – Harvick won the Sprint Unlimited and won his Budweiser Duel, the only two Cup races run so far this week.
As he has talked about Keelan’s impact on his life throughout Speedweeks, Harvick worked to explain just what that balance is – and how it is felt.
He says that he didn’t really understand that until he had a child.
“For me, I become so emotional and so attached to what happens on the racetrack, if it’s going good, if it’s going bad,” he said. “Now you have this way of coming home and letting all those things go for two or three days, then you come back to the track and you hadn’t thought about it all week and you’re really focused at being at the racetrack.
“The same kind of thing has gone for what you do off of the racetrack. We kind of have to plan things out and trips become really more productive because they’re more well-planned out. You have to be a little bit choosier about where you go.”
Crew chief Gil Martin, who has worked with Harvick off and on since 2010, says that he can see the difference as well.
It hasn’t affected Harvick’s ability to remain focused on the job at hand.
Rather, it seems to have given him a respite from it, a chance to see another part of life.
“At the racetrack, his focus is still there,” Martin says. “As he leaves the racetrack, with having his son to go back to, you don’t have to go in and look for some excitement outside of the track, it’s already there waiting on him. I think with that being in his life now, it’s going to do nothing but help him and direct his focus on Sunday. I’m looking forward to watching what happens.”
As it turns out, Keelan is somewhat of a secret weapon as well.
Prior to the Unlimited, Harvick slipped Keelan into the car as it sat on the grid.
And then he won – with a little extra charm on board.
“(He) actually steered the car before the race started, too,” Harvick says. “Standing in the seat. Left his shoe in there.