Kevin Harvick: ‘There’s not a lot of guessing anymore’ after first laps in new Ford

Kevin Harvick is feeling as confident as ever heading into the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season.

After taking his first laps in the new No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion during an organizational test session at Phoenix Raceway, Harvick is ready to tackle a variety of new challenges.

“The things that keep me motivated about our sports are things that you can reach and grab and motivate yourself with,” said Harvick. “The thought and process that goes into a new format and thinking about how it’s going to play out. Having a new manufacturer for me is the most exciting because there’s going to be a lot of problems to solve. There’s going to be a lot of things that are different.”

“Working through those things and working through them with my team and the organization is something that I thrive on,” he added. “I love the challenges that are presented.”

Harvick also believes his team is in good place before heading to Daytona.

“The main thing is we have a starting point now,” Harvick said. “There’s not a lot of guessing anymore. You know what’s going on and where you’re at. Going around a race track is what we needed to be doing so we knew where to work from here.”

Due to the enhanced race format and points system for the 2017 season, the 2014 Cup champion knows it’s going to be extra important to hit the ground running and keep momentum going throughout the year.

“With the new points system, you have to show up every week and really keep that playoff mentality on a week-to-week basis,” said Harvick. “You have to gather points and you have to be greedy in order to get those points because they’ll matter when you get to the end.”

“Obviously, winning a race is what it’s all about,” he added. “You want to win them early, but winning them early doesn’t mean you can go into trying things and getting your fleet ready for the playoffs. If someone is gaining points while you’re not, you’re going to get behind quick.”

Surprisingly, Harvick didn’t note any huge differences between the new Ford bodies and the Chevrolets from a drivability perspective, but there was a slight change that stuck out.

“I think the engine is a little bit different with the way that it sounds,” Harvick said. “That’s probably the biggest difference. The drivability of it is not that big of a difference.”

As the beginning of the season rapidly approaches, Harvick says his team will be more than ready to come out of the gate strong, noting just how much work it took just to get the car ready for the Phoenix test.

“There’s been a lot of work to get our car to this point, getting our team to this point and getting our company to this point,” Harvick. “To take that next step and get that car on the race track is an accomplishment for the whole company.”

“We’ll work through everything we need to work through from a performance and balance standpoint,” he added.

Despite all the changes, Harvick had the perfect way to describe how the challenges are still similar.

“It is rocket science nowadays, but it’s the same rocket science.”