Thursday’s NASCAR championship contenders press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a little bit of déjà vu all over again for Kevin Harvick, who on Sunday will compete in his last race for Richard Childress Racing.
Harvick enters the final race of the season, Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, third in points, just as he did in 2010, when Denny Hamlin led and Jimmie Johnson was second. But the similarities pretty much end there. Today’s affair was light-hearted and loose, due in large part to Johnson possessing a healthy points lead over Matt Kenseth (-28) and Harvick (-34).
Three years ago, Johnson used the occasion to needle Hamlin about the pressure he was about to face, and it worked. Hamlin qualified poorly and made contact with Greg Biffle early in the race, while Johnson went on to finish second and win his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship.
“Last time I left this press conference, it was the three of us (Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick) and I’m like, ‘Wow, that was interesting, to say the least.’” Harvick said. “And, you know, Jimmie had fully ingrained himself into Denny’s head as we left on Thursday. And it proceeded to snowball as we went into Sunday.”
This time, though, the boys didn’t have at it much at all.
“I feel like I have a good relationship with both of these guys,” Harvick said of Johnson and Kenseth. “I feel like there’s a mutual respect for what everybody’s accomplished, just always can have a conversation with both of them. For me, the process has been fairly simple. … You’re not going to go out and psyche Jimmie Johnson out, or Matt, for that sake. There’s not any reason to waste your time.”
For Harvick to become the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion on Sunday, he would have to lead the most laps and win the Ford EcoBoost 400, have Johnson finish 30th or worse without leading a lap and Kenseth finish third or worse without leading a lap. To say the least, Harvick’s odds aren’t good.
Still, he’s far exceeded expectations in his final year with RCR, and is still in the hunt.
“It’s kind of like that quote from ‘Dumb & Dumber,’” Harvick said. “‘So you’re saying there’s a chance?’ That’s all you want. As a young kid coming up, you just want a chance. Coming into the championship, you just want a chance.”
And that’s exactly what he has. A chance.
With that in mind, Harvick said he plans to race hard, just like always.
“I think for us, we’ve had so many strange things happen throughout my career at the last minute, you at least have to play everything out,” Harvick said. “Just the type of team we are, we race up until the last lap. You just never know what’s going to happen. Realistically, the only things we can control are what we do. It’s definitely a really, really longshot. But we’ll control the things that are in our control and see how it all falls.”