MIAMI — Kevin Harvick may be the lone wolf against a Joe Gibbs Racing armada when it comes to the battle for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, but he’s not afraid of that role.
In fact, he’s relishing the opportunity to go out and beat the JGR trio on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick will take part in his fifth Championship 4 in the six-year history of the winner-take-all format during the Ford EcoBoost 400, despite a year which saw Stewart-Haas Racing struggle to wrap its arms around the new Cup Series aerodynamic package for much of the season.
However, Harvick peaked when it counts and won two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his spot in the final battle.
He’s the only SHR and only Ford representative in the Cup Series title tilt, while JGR has three of its Toyota drivers — Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. — in the mix.
Harvick is hoping to achieve the ultimate mission with a second Cup Series title, and he made it clear during Championship 4 Media Day Thursday at the Miami Beach Edition Hotel that there’s only one goal throughout the Stewart-Haas Racing camp — to bring another Cup Series championship home.
“Championships are what we race for. You put a lot of effort into the season and week after week of trying to be competitive and I think the more championships you win, the more it solidifies everything that you do on a week-to-week basis,” Harvick said. “They’re hard to win. It’s hard to get here. I know that we have been able to do that five times now, but the playoffs are difficult now. It’s difficult to go through all those eliminations and different race tracks and have everything work out like we have.
“As far as us being one team against them (JGR), I think for us it’s very simple. There’s no worries in making the sponsor mad or making another team member mad or anything, because there is no scenario other than how do we get Stewart‑Haas Racing another championship,” he continued. “All four teams have bought into that and want to do the exact same thing because of the fact that it’s good for Stewart‑Haas Racing. Our guys have worked their butts off over the last four weeks, in trying to do everything that they can to continue to learn about the cars.
“I think we‘re still learning. As you saw at Texas, it was definitely a situation where we put a lot of pieces together and it wound up being a good day,” Harvick noted. “But it’s still a little bit of a guess as to where you’re at. It’s a science as to how you get to that point of where you think things are going to be, but it’s definitely been nice to not have to deal with any politics internally. It’s just, what do you need, let’s do it and everybody’s worked really hard.
“There’s nothing to navigate for us and we’ll just see how it all shakes out.”
Despite the optics of the numbers being simple, Harvick noted he’s not sure yet whether there will be strength in numbers on Sunday, or whether that might actually be a hindrance for JGR.
“That’s yet to be determined,” Harvick said when asked if being SHR’s lone bullet in the gun would be an advantage for him. “At Texas, it was definitely a situation where we put a lot of pieces together and it wound up being a good day. … We do know this, though, and that is that we have a lot less things to talk about internally because we’ve had a whole organization pushing for one car over the last few weeks to come here.
“It’s a different scenario for us, in my mind.”
Truex, one of Harvick’s main title rivals and the 2017 Cup Series champion, disagrees with Harvick’s assessment and said he feels having teammates in the fight will help this weekend.
“Strength in numbers,” Truex said. “(It’s a) seventy-five percent chance the Cup comes back to JGR, something all the employees there deserve — which is huge. Selfishly, I want it to be my team and really I think that’s where all three of us are.”
But despite the team dynamic, all four vowed Thursday to race one another with respect, the respect that each one feels the other three have earned.
Truex did that in 2017 and it paid off with the ultimate prize.
“I know in ’17, Kyle was behind me and was a little bit faster,” Truex said. “Probably could have run into me if he wanted to at some point. He didn’t. He was just trying to put the pressure on for me to mess up, but he didn’t run into me. He probably could have.
“If Kyle Busch is leading and I’m second, I’m going to do everything I can do to pass him, but I’m not going to run into him,” he continued. “I think you race guys the way you want them to race you. We’ve got lot of experience racing with each other and we understand each other and where each guy would go, I think. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
Harvick will certainly have his say on Sunday, despite being one warrior against a Gibbs army.
And he’s not worried about it at all.
“We’ll focus on our race,” he said. “If that’s enough, we’ll win a championship. If it’s not, then it is what it is.”