Harvick admits he was in need of a fresh start to rejuvenate his racing career – that is why he realized it was time to leave RCR. Competing for the legendary team owner was no longer fun and it showed on the race track. He made the announcement in 2012 that 2013 would be his final season with Childress but promised to give a total effort.
“Last year was just a grind,” Harvick admitted. “It was just very tense, just an awkward situation to be in from a driver’s standpoint. Everybody knew everybody was going in a different direction the year after. You had to try to keep the focus on the racing and not on the business side and the hurt feelings and all the things and all the emotions that came with the position that we were in. Luckily, I had a group of guys that just wanted to race and didn’t really care about the politics and didn’t get involved in the politics and we were able to make it through there and have a good year. Everything ended fine and here we are today.”
And that united him with his on-track foe but off-track friend Stewart, a two-time Brickyard 400 winner and three-time Sprint Cup champion.
“I think when you look at Tony (Stewart), the biggest thing that comes to my mind is just the fact that he doesn’t really know anything else. Racing consumes his life whether it is in NASCAR, sprint cars or just watching a race on TV. He doesn’t have any kids or a wife or anything like this. These races teams are pretty much just family and he spends a lot of the time with the guys around him on the different teams. He’s just a racer and he’s got that drive and determination to not only do what he did before, but to be better when he came back. It’s just a matter of seeing it on the race track and I think for him, he’s just a hardcore racer and that’s all he really knows how to do.”
Harvick has won both of NASCAR’s two big races at Daytona and Indianapolis. His motivation is to finally win a Sprint Cup championship and he came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t accomplish that goal if he stayed at RCR.
“I don’t think it was that I could never win a championship there,” Harvick admitted. “It’s just that we hadn’t won a championship there and had been 10 or 12 years and we hadn’t won a championship so it was just kind of like, what do we need to do to try to figure that out. I hadn’t ever not been able to accomplish that in any division that I ever raced in during my racing career and it’s something that I wanted to figure out personally and just a lot of things happened.
“I felt like with Tony and Gene and the commitment that they had made to have already won a championship with their team and have the alliance with the Hendrick bunch and Hendrick engines was something that I felt was intriguing to go try and try to win a championship. I feel like we recruited Rodney Childers hard to come over and I feel like we had a lot of conversations to see how we were going to mesh as people and I think that’s gone really well. He’s big on having relationships and understanding people and being able to communicate with them.
“It wasn’t that I couldn’t, it was more that I hadn’t.”
Harvick has lots of impressive trophies in his career including the Harley J. Earl Trophy for wining the Daytona 500 in 2007 and “The Brick” for winning the 2003 Brickyard 400.
This year he hopes to add an even bigger trophy to his collection.
“It’s all I think about. It’s the one trophy in racing that I feel like has eluded my trophy case,” Harvick said of the Sprint Cup. “I’d like to see it put in there sooner rather than later. That drive and determination is very motivating, there’s always going to be pressure, you’re always going to put the pressure on yourself to go out and win races and do better and always try to finish better and want to do better than you did last week. That pressure is always going to be there, but that motivation is kind of silly that it’s motivated around a piece of metal like that.”
“Everybody’s goal in this room is to race for a championship. Tony and Kurt are fortunate to have done that already. I’ve been there and finished 21st in the points too. There’s two sides to that, you can be really happy with finishing third and finish 20th the next year and be really happy the year after and finish third in the points again.
“Our goal is to win a championship.”
And the first step in that process comes in the 56th Daytona 500 as Harvick attempts to win the famed race for the second time in his career.