RCR split could mean many options for Harvick
Am I surprised to hear that Kevin Harvick asked to be released from Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year? Absolutely not. You can tell that over the last couple years there has been a very large amount of frustration there. To be fair, I believe the frustration to be on both parties parts.
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Other than the win at the 2007 All-Star Race and this year's Budweiser Shootout, both of which are considered exhibition races, Harvick has only visited Victory Lane in Cup competition once in the last two and a half years. Granted, that one trip to Victory Lane was following the Daytona 500, but that's still not enough for this high-profile team.
Honestly, this could prove to be a good change for both parties. There's no question that Richard Childress Racing is struggling across the board. There are a lot of frustrated individuals in that camp right now.
Nobody pours their heart and soul and is more hands on with an organization than Richard. I know because I used to work there. Obviously, Harvick has not forgotten how to drive a race car. But again, the bottom line is the performance just isn't there.
There's certain tracks on the schedule that you always know you will be battling Kevin for the win — most notably Chicagoland (two wins in eight starts, 8.7 average finish), Bristol (one win and nine top fives in 17 starts, 10.8 average finish), Phoenix (two wins, six top 10s in 13 starts) and Richmond (one win, 10 top 10s and 726 laps led in 17 starts). But if you go back to those tracks this year, he and the No. 29 team struggled badly — 30th at Bristol, 30th at Phoenix, 34th at Richmond and 19th last weekend at Chicagoland.
In the past we have seen the peaks and valleys with Richard Childress Racing. It's almost like the organization runs good and then they get complacent whether it's with their engines, chassis or aero. There's probably a very good chance it is a little bit of all that. We've seen it happen in the Nationwide Series with RCR. Two or three years ago they were the car to beat every week, but they just didn't get any better and the net result was they got behind.
Other teams and organizations never stop moving forward. Let's look at the three-time defending champions, the No. 48 team. If they win this week, crew chief Chad Knaus knows they can't go to the next race with the same thing. That's what you have to do to keep from getting behind in our sport.
We've documented Harvick's and Childress' struggles many times, but I don't think they are off a whole lot. Just a small difference these days means the difference between being in the top five in a race or outside the top 20. It's just a very small amount.
Harvick hasn't forgotten how to race a stock car — there's a reason he has 11 Sprint Cup wins and has qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup three times in his career. Childress hasn't forgotten how to be an owner — there's a reason he's a candidate for the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class and his teams have won six Cup championships and 11 NASCAR titles. There's just a lot of frustration over there.
So what's next for Harvick?
Now, if Harvick gets his release from RCR, which is not at all certain, where could he go?
Rumors and garage gossip have Kevin going to Stewart-Haas Racing for a third car. You have to consider Happy Harvick a strong candidate if they expand because we know that he and Tony Stewart have a great relationship. Stewart has said publicly that he is ready to do a third team and the only thing lacking is funding from a sponsor. Trust me, Tony's smart enough not to start a third team simply on a wing and a prayer.
These same rumors also have Kevin going to Joe Gibbs Racing for a fourth car for them.
There are also rumblings about Kevin replacing Martin Truex Jr. at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing but I think the issue there will be sponsorship.
I also tend to believe that if things don't start changing for the better with that No. 12 car that Roger Penske will be looking to make a change there. With the way the No. 2 has been running and with how the No. 77 has run periodically, you just have to believe that something is on the horizon with the No. 12 car.
One question I keep getting from fans is if Kevin will follow Stewart's footsteps and become a driver/owner. Kevin and his wife DeLana have built an incredibly successful program in the Nationwide and Truck series with Kevin Harvick Incorporated. Are they ready to dive off into the deep end into Cup racing? I sure don't know about that. It is a very steep climb up the rungs of that ladder from the Truck and Nationwide to that Cup level.
One important thing to remember, where Kevin can go and where Kevin can go and be competitive are two different things.