The Frontstretch: The Future Looks Cloudy for Happy Harvick by Bryan Davis Keith -- Tuesday April 27, 2010

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The Future Looks Cloudy for Happy Harvick

The Yellow Stripe · Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday April 27, 2010

 

Editor’s Note: Danny Peters is off this week. Look for him to return to The Yellow Stripe beginning next Tuesday.

For better or worse, no driver in 2010 has generated more headlines than Kevin Harvick across all three of NASCAR’s national touring series. He’s the leading winner in Camping World Trucks, second in Nationwide Series points, and second in the Cup standings following a breathtaking victory at Talladega.

Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress’ relationship has been a roller-coaster ride over the last two seasons, although both claim they’re trying to work out their differences and sign an extension beyond 2010.

Yet even in a field of drivers with uncertain futures that includes Sam Hornish, Jr. and Mike Bliss, it now appears as if Harvick may well be facing the most uncertainty of all with regard to where he’ll be driving in 2011. Once considered a mortal lock for a third seat at Stewart-Haas Racing, both for his Chevrolet ties and Shell/Pennzoil sponsorship, the key to that future has dissolved in a heartbeat. In just the last two weeks, Hendrick Motorsports’ signing of Kasey Kahne has combined with Shell bolting for Penske Racing and Kurt Busch to put him in a tough spot for 2011.

Now Harvick, a driver who almost seemed to take a sly pleasure in avoiding any and all media inquiries about his future home last season, has nowhere outside of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to go, and his sponsorship ace in the hole is gone. It’s not too good a situation for a driver who Sports Illustrated reported just last week had “burned all his bridges at Richard Childress Racing” prior to his latest resurgence.

That SI report apparently went a long way in getting under Harvick’s skin, who lashed out in the media center at Talladega on Friday, belittling writers with what he called his “common sense degree” while demanding of the sport’s journalists that, “if you’re going to quote a source, put their name [in the article]. If they’re too chicken to give you your name, don’t put their quote in.”

Sounds an awful lot like SI’s nameless source had Harvick and his current situation at RCR pegged. Though it didn’t take a major publication or an anonymous source to figure that one out; just look at Harvick’s actions. His utter refusal to even acknowledge the possibility of his staying at RCR, the only team he’s ever driven for in the Cup Series, while speculation ran rampant about his upcoming future at SHR, hardly screams dedication or loyalty to the only home he’s known. Notice that only now, with the sponsor dollars gone and the dream job at SHR perhaps gone as well, Harvick is publicly affirming that “rightfully so, [RCR’s] the opportunity that we have to try to work out first.”

His willingness to express displeasure with sponsor Shell’s business practices also brings a load of questions regarding his status at RCR. Following the announcement that Shell was leaving for Kurt Busch and Penske Racing, Harvick noted that he did not approve of the way Shell handled shopping out their sponsor dollars; according to SceneDaily.com, the potential for a deal with Penske Racing was revealed late in the process by Shell, apparently catching Harvick off-guard. Whether one considers that an acceptable business practice or not, it has to be asked… if all was well between Harvick and the RCR camp, why would Shell handle their negotiations with their current partner in the manner they did?

Besides, what does it say about Harvick to be badmouthing the same company that he will still be representing for 27 races in 2010? And what does it say to potential sponsors that RCR may be courting for the No. 29 car, or Harvick courting for wherever he ends up in 2011, to have a driver that the second they pull the plug suddenly has nothing nice to say?

None of these criticisms claim that Harvick has turned himself into something unmarketable, or has tarnished what has been an accomplished driving career thus far; his continually growing business at Kevin Harvick, Inc. speaks volumes as to what Happy is capable of. But Harvick’s reactions in recent weeks suggest a growing amount of frustration that the veteran’s made a bed that he’s now being forced to sleep in.

Taking subtle, but indisputable shots at sponsors. Chastising the media for reporting on his “burning bridges” (while Richard Childress Racing offered no rebuttal of their own as an organization), only to be quoted as saying, “I’m truly trying not get in the middle of it [with the press] like I have in the past.” And only publicly acknowledging the real possibility of returning to the No. 29 car after sponsor and ride at SHR have apparently dried up.

Win on Sunday or not, Happy Harvick seems to be anything but these days. And it’s not hard to understand why… for a driver who’s been in the same ride since 2001, with the same sponsor since 2007, to have neither lined up after Homestead this year has to be at least a little bit discomforting.

Or, judging from the chip currently on Harvick’s shoulder, very discomforting.

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Michael
04/27/2010 07:42 AM
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Simply repeating over and over that the SHR ride has dried up doesn’t make it so . Tony hiring Kevin Harvick doesn’t rely on Shell coming along . There are other sponsorship opportunitys that would jump at the chance to be part of that pairing . I would think Budweiser for instance . Not to mention one of the numerous companies Tony and Kevin have ties to , Tony from his many racing endevors , Kevin from his truck and Nationwide teams .
I don’t know that Harvick will wind up driving for Stewart next year , but if he doesn’t , there are still plenty of teams that would find a place for him .

The almost total lack of understanding anything outside of stick and ball sports eliminates SI as a source for anything involving auto racing . And the only source they would have for anything NASCAR related is Bowles . I’m not sure that would qualify as much of a source .

noel_w
04/27/2010 08:31 AM
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Well said Michael.

Harvick’s frustration with RCR is understandable. In the wake of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death there was a period the company was adrift. Now as the tenth season without Dale is being run, the excuse cannot be made that RCR is trying to replace the pieces. RCR is certainly running well now, but the last 2-3 seasons have been anything but glorious for RCR.
When Kevin said that it was good Shell was leaving while they are winning, it was more than likely not the slap that most people choose to assume. Kevin and Richard both know that it is easier to find a replacement sponsor for a front running car than for one that finishes in the mid 20’s. Had Shell announced their departure a year ago, the 29 team would have been in a MUCH more precarious position.
Kevin is partially right about the “source”. It is too easy for a journalist to make up any rumor they wish and attribute it to a confidential informant. A rumor assosciated with an unnamed source should always be taken with a grain of salt.
Finaly, just last week or the week before this very website quoted Richard Childress as being nearly positive that Kevin would be in the 29 car for 2011. That is a named source that shows quite possibly not EVERY bridge has been burned. Oh yeah, he’s the company owner too.

Paul
04/27/2010 10:33 AM
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Have to agree with Michael. When Tony says the ride at SHR has dried up then, I will belive it. Kevin Harvick has every right to be upset with the media once again they have shown that the story is all they want weather it is true or not! Noel made a good point Childers didn’t seem to think Harvick has burned all those bridges they keep talking about

Managing Editor
04/27/2010 11:02 AM
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Michael,

Just to throw out a one-time defense of my employer … SI has far more connections than you might think. When Earnhardt left DEI, the first person to sit down with him for an exclusive interview was Lars Anderson. Tim has freelanced for SceneDaily and several other high-level magazines, and Brant James/Bruce Martin are IndyCar gurus with direct connections to Danica. And yeah, Michael, I guess I’m not a source … all those stories I broke the last two years came out of thin air :O).

So don’t throw out a blanket assumption SI sucks; the racing site is growing more and more every day and we’re changing fans’ stereotypes of the company in the process. We’ll see over time if Tim is right; but we never, never make up things out of thin air. So Kevin should be mad at the leak, not the media for revealing what the leak said.

Ellen
04/27/2010 11:38 AM
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I wonder if the SI “source” was the same person who also told SI that Harvick had stolen Shell & was leaving at the end of 2009? Or did he say Harvick had stolen Jack Daniels. Or maybe both, as both were speculated to be going with him after Homestead 2009. We all saw how true that was, and how accurate the source was.

Another point – just because Harvick said it would be a “fair statement” that he’s staying with Chevy doesn’t mean that it’s etched in stone, either. Didn’t we all learn early that life isn’t necessarily “fair”? So, while it may be a fair thing to say, it doesn’t necessarily mean its true.

I don’t think Harvick is dumb enough to throw away one opportunity without having another one somewhere – we just don’t know where, yet. But there are at least 56 reasons (plus 3 non-points paying reasons) to believe he won’t be left out in the cold.

David
04/27/2010 12:00 PM
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This article is silly to me. That’s an awful lot of doom and gloom for a driver who sits second in the standings and continues to get the most out of a second tier ride. Don’t kid yourself, while RCR is improved this year they are still a step behind HMS. I have a difficult time believing that a driver like Harvick will have a hard time finding a sponsor or a team will be willing to take on his talents.

As for SI, while I agree that is has improved its coverage forgive me if I question Tim and his source. Didn’t he write last year that Shell’s contract was up in 2009 and that Harvick was asking out of his contract and taking it to SHR? Oops.

Anyone can leak information…its a writers job to determine whether the source is accurate or has an ax to grind. Hopefully Tim isn’t going to the same well as he did last year…

no Spin
04/27/2010 07:54 PM
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Find some one that thinks he is a good guy, is a big job in Bakersfield and late model racing, the word Happy, was a## h###

lee
04/27/2010 10:42 PM
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then identify the source, ok??? till then i believe that rc and harvick are negotiating a contract extension for kevin to stay. failing that, tony has said that he has no idea where kasey will land so there is a 50-50 shot that harvick may end up there.

chris
04/28/2010 10:32 PM
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Kinda early to be making silly season statements isn’t it?

So Shell decides they are going to bail, announce early, and Harvick is supposed to be enamored with them?

Their logo still crossed the finish line first last week, so Harvick did his job.

So who is going to sponsor Kahne next year? What about David Ragan?

Just a little early to be making statements based on a nameless source. I would disagree that this individual has anything “pegged”. I haven’t heard Richard Childress announce that Harvick won’t be back next year. When he does, then write the story.