NASCAR Cup Series

How Kevin Harvick's back-to-back wins change his season outlook

August 15

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

RICHMOND, Va. — Kevin Harvick has preached over the past week that he didn’t change his routine despite a 687-day, 65-race winless streak.

Which begs the question: Shouldn't you change your routine if you're winless for 687 days over 65 races?

"The confidence that keeps you doing what you’re doing is your routine and being comfortable with change," Harvick said. "You have to be able to try things and progress and evolve.

"During that process as you evolve, the routine is the same, and the thought process is the same. But the evolution of what you do will constantly be different, whether it’s how you prepare yourself physically, mentally."

Harvick has proven that his routine is the right one, as he won back-to-back races at Michigan and Richmond the past two weekends. With those two victories, he vaulted from out of the playoffs to likely starting the postseason in the top 10 in points.

But the change in results hasn’t been as dramatic as the two wins might suggest.

Harvick has seen his performance improve steadily throughout this season, and so has his long-time Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief, Rodney Childers.

"You could see it two months ago," Childers said. "Two months ago, it was like, ‘We ran better here, and this is better, and this was better, and this was better.’

"The two months before that, we would have those meetings, and it was like, ‘Well, this was worse, this was worse, this was worse, this was worse.’"

The 46-year-old Harvick is used to the roller-coaster ride of racing. He often mentions that nothing could challenge him as much as his entry into Cup, when he replaced Dale Earnhardt Sr. after his death in the 2001 Daytona 500. 

Harvick also has had longer winless streaks than this, as he went more than three years — 115 races — without a win from 2007 to 2010.

"How many did I lose in the last losing streak?" Harvick said. "How many was it? It was, like, 100 and something. ... It's just the way that it goes, right?

"You look back at anybody's career, and they go through losing streaks. We're just fortunate to end it. I think that's the best part, right?"

Kevin Harvick on winning two races in a row

Kevin Harvick on winning two races in eight days after a 65-race winless streak that lasted 687 days.

The only thing better than ending a losing streak might be creating a winning streak. Harvick is the first driver this year to win back-to-back races.

For him, the key might be that he finally gets to tap into his racing experience. With the Next Gen car and more time spent in the simulator to get an initial setup, Harvick relishes the chance to go to a track for a second time. He finished second at Richmond earlier this year, and his team built off that knowledge to win Sunday.

"I'm really happy that we're going back to a lot of these racetracks. I can actually open up a notebook and not fire off out of the pits and say, ‘Well, I wonder how far I should drive it in today? I wonder if it's going to hit the limit or be tight or loose?’" Harvick said.

"At least going back, the thought processes will be way different for us as far as setups and things like that."

When Harvick and Childers can pinpoint what Harvick wants, it makes them a dangerous team. They won nine races in 2020 before that winless streak began following the Bristol night race.

"We try to act like grown-ups and show up to work every morning and be productive about the conversations that Rodney was talking about. You've got to believe in the things that are around you," Harvick said. "You've got to believe in yourself.

"There's really no match for jumping in a race car and taking over for Dale Earnhardt. There's nothing like that was for the first six or eight weeks. You just can't match it. Never will. Never come close. There's nothing even close."

Back then, Harvick was a rambunctious, young driver looking for respect. Now he’s the veteran who believes he has earned respect. But he also had a notable tussle with NASCAR’s most popular driver, Chase Elliott, last year. Harvick tried to intimidate Elliott, and their tangles at Bristol and the Charlotte road course will be on highlight reels for years to come.

Kevin Harvick wins at Richmond

Kevin Harvick holds off a late surge from Christopher Bell to go back-to-back with a win Sunday at Richmond.

Still, Harvick swears he’s not a "get off my lawn" guy.

"It's kind of fun to see guys that are young enough to be your kids starting to drive the cars," he said. "[It] opens your eyes to the different perspectives of how people see things and just what's happening."

The perception of what Harvick can do in the final 12 races of the year has certainly changed the past two weeks — at least from the outside looking in.

Could he have envisioned winning back-to-back races before the green flag dropped at Michigan?

"There really is no vision," Harvick said. "For us, it’s always try to be as competitive as we can be. As you look at this particular two-week stretch, it holds true.

"We haven’t done anything different other than keep working, keep doing the things that we’ve been doing. Our cars have been fast for the last month-and-a-half to be competitive, and we’ve just not had bad luck."

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Thinking out loud

It was good that NASCAR made a change to try to keep the fires at Indy from happening, adding a covering that could keep a damaged exhaust pipe from heating body panels and the safety foam.

Whether that contributed to the Chase Briscoe fire at Richmond should be investigated.

As Joey Logano said, NASCAR needs to continue to examine the materials used and whether there are other nonflammable options. But at least NASCAR is not ignoring the issue.

Social spotlight

Stat of the day

Kevin Harvick has won 29 races since turning 40 years old. Only two drivers won more after turning 40: Lee Petty (42) and Bobby Allison (38).

They said it

"Our car started driving worse there toward the end, and we kept moving forward. So I’m just confused here." — Chase Elliott on his performance at Richmond

Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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