NASCAR

Harvick's jump to SHR long in works

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing after 13 seasons.
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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LOUDON, N.H.

Kevin Harvick’s departure from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing came as no surprise.

After the news leaked last November, it was simply a matter of when the Budweiser portion on the deal would be revealed — and the car number — to make it official.

Although Harvick didn’t understand the timing of the announcement, on Friday, Stewart-Haas team owner Tony Stewart acknowledged that plans had been in the works for the last two years but only came to fruition recently.

“It was a lot of work to get to that,” Stewart said. “It’s not a decision that was made overnight. There were a lot of processes in between that made it a long journey, but we are here.”

Sources say that Budweiser signed off with SHR in the last month — after opting not to introduce a fourth different driver in seven seasons. Although Bud has backed dozens of drivers, including Darrell Waltrip in his 1985 championship season in the No. 11, Bill Elliott (also with Junior Johnson) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for nine years in the No. 8 Chevy.

Certainly, the reasons surrounding Stewart’s recruitment of Harvick are simple — Harvick has won 21 races and finished in the top 10 in the point standings eight of 12 years since he was promoted to the Cup series following the death of Dale Earnhardt.

Stewart is familiar with Harvick and his drive.

“Because of our working relationship when I drove the (Kevin Harvick Inc.) Nationwide car, I know how competitive he is,” Stewart said. “I know how much he pushes the guys. I know how he pushes myself as a driver and I know how we communicated, and that’s a big factor.”

After 13 seasons with RCR, Harvick just needed a change of scenery. While six-time Cup champion owner Richard Childress has provided the driver with competitive cars and crew changes at every whim, it still wasn’t enough.

“The Stewart-Haas piece was intriguing just for the fact that you have Tony as a teammate who’s a big part of what we did at KHI to get it started,” Harvick said. “We have a friendship that goes beyond the race track, and I think obviously (co-owner) Gene Haas makes it intriguing with the guarantees that he made to make the deal happen to put the car on the track.

“When you have a family and you start seeing those guarantees of sponsorship for the car, it makes you think about things. I think not only those pieces, but the Hendrick (technical relationship) tie with the engines and the support, understanding that I think the potential is really high with all those resources and relationships and things that go with it.”

Although SHR and Harvick declined to name a crew chief for the No. 4 team, Rodney Childers has been mentioned as the lead candidate.

Certainly, Harvick’s departure will leave a void at RCR. Although team owner Childress said he “came to grips with it” when Harvick told him last fall, it’s difficult not only to find a driver who meshes with the existing teammates — Jeff Burton and Paul Menard, and Austin Dillon in the future — as well a driver who pushes the other drivers to elevate their game.

“It’s just part of the business,” Childress said. “We’ve always moved on in the past. We’ll come back with three race teams next year — maybe four — and try to win races. We’ll see.

Kurt Busch has pushed all of us this year with our own engines and chassis and engineering and stuff. But you can look around and figure out the drivers that we have talked to or are talking to.”

Childress wouldn’t elaborate if Busch was an option for the No. 29 team given his relationship with Furniture Row Racing. Busch, Ryan Newman and A.J. Allmendinger all have been rumored as potential candidates for the ride.

“We’re going to run three teams,” Childress added. “We have three teams with sponsorship on them. We’re actually looking at a fourth team right now, if it comes together like our plans are — that would be Austin’s team. We’ve got two or three options. We’re looking at running him full time, but we’re not all the way there. We’ve got a few races to sell, but other than that, we’re moving down the road.”

SPACERGATE

Before NASCAR decided not penalize any of the 31 Sprint Cup or Nationwide teams for having modified roof-flap spacers at Daytona, sanctioning-body representatives met with Jack Roush and others from Roush Industries on Tuesday night to arrive at a solution.

IT ADDS UP

Where did your favorite driver finish in the 2013 final standings?

Roush was instrumental in the original development of roof flaps 20 years ago and has been the supplier of the assembly kits over that period. However, there has been little modification to the kits despite NASCAR’s evolution through two new cars — the Car of Tomorrow and the Generation 6 model that debuted for competition in February with considerably larger roof flaps.

Moving forward, Roush plans to work with NASCAR not only to improve the kits but to continue innovations to prevent cars from going airborne.

“There’s some work that needs to be done on the kit — some work that needs to be done on definition and the parts that were in dispute for mounting the axel and the bushings,” Roush said.

“NASCAR says, for the time being, that you need to put the bushings in the way they were in the kit and need to put the 7/16ths Grade ‘A’ bolt that’s supposed to hold the axel to the tray as it was received. The rest of the hardware — realizing that the teams have had to solve some problems — will be analyzed with more definition to follow.

“There really wasn’t anything bad the teams were doing. There was nothing unsafe. The license they wrote was a small license and NASCAR decided to put it aside and let’s continue to work together as an industry and make it better for all concerned.”

Roush expects an initial “modification” to the current kit over the next few weeks, followed by a more thorough review with designs of new hardware from engineers featuring “possible material revisions other than steel and aluminum being used” to lighten the pieces. But NASCAR will have the final word on that.

SOCIALIZING

Following the new beer sponsor sentiment, spotter Bob Jeffrey isn’t going the way of his driver Tony Stewart.

WHAT WAS THAT?

What are some of the wildest moments of the season? CHECK THEM OUT

AS @EyeInTheSky14, Jeffrey tweeted, "Im Schlitz. RT @ChrisWolfie14: @EyeInTheSky14 does the inclusion of Bud to SHR affect your PBR purchasing? :)

NUMBERS GAME

10 — drivers who broke the old track qualifying record of 135.232 mph. Brad Keselowski posted the fast lap of 135.922mph.

2 — poles for Keselowski at New Hampshire — and his first pole of the season. Keselowski has three career Cup poles.

78 — races since Keselowski’s last pole — at Charlotte in May 2011.

SAY WHAT?

Tony Stewart, asked whether he would change from Schlitz — his beverage of choice — to SHR’s new sponsor, Budweiser, replied, “Yeah, I’m finally upgrading to the good stuff. Feel like the Jeffersons — now I’ve moved up. Yeah, it’s the end of my Schlitz era. I can’t say that it’s terribly disappointing. Now I get to drink the good stuff, every day guilt-free.”

Tagged: Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger

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