The Frontstretch: Harvick Needs to Mind His P's and Q's by Tommy Thompson -- Tuesday August 28, 2007

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Harvick Needs to Mind His P's and Q's

Thompson in Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Tuesday August 28, 2007

 

There is little doubt that Richard Childress Racing has bounced back in the past few years, reestablishing itself as one of the premier racing organizations in the world of NASCAR Nextel Cup. After nearly two decades of success – most notably with the late Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet – the organization had seen a steady decline in their performance towards the end of the ’90s, even before the tragic death of the “Intimidator” in 2001. In the wake of Dale’s death, it was Kevin Harvick, his replacement, who’s accomplished the most for RCR on paper, winning two Busch Series titles while finishing in the Top 5 in points twice. It’s a list of accomplishments that gets you thinking Harvick was the missing piece responsible for getting a fledgling organization back on track. But, in reality, that’s hardly the case – and in the wake of recent performances, Harvick’s now facing an uncomfortable scenario of being the only weak link in a rapidly forming playoff chain over at RCR.

Despite what the stat sheet says, it is not necessarily Harvick who is leading the charge back to respectability for Richard Childress Racing. It takes more than one to make a team – crafty veteran Jeff Burton and sophomore driver Clint Bowyer have every bit to do with the team’s recent turnaround. That’s not to say Harvick hasn’t performed well during this resurgence, but his teammates have made it abundantly clear through their on-track performances to date that they are not conceding the alpha-driver designation to Harvick anytime soon – even if the brash Californian believes he’s the one in control.

Car owner Richard Childress and Harvick have done everything they can think of to fix their program – but it’s been a season of ups and downs.

In fact, though the Bakersfield native started the season off with a bang – winning February's Daytona 500 – the other two Childress drivers have kept pace with Harvick throughout the racing season. With two races remaining before the start of the ten race Chase to the Nextel Cup, the even-tempered Burton and the sophomore sensation Bowyer are actually ahead of Harvick in the point standings. Ranked seventh, Burton and the No. 31 Chevrolet team are highest of the three, harboring no worries in becoming one of the top twelve drivers eligible to compete for the 2007 title. Behind him, Bowyer runs ninth, with two Top 5 finishes and eleven Top 10s to his credit. Very much like Burton, the pilot of the No. 07 Jack Daniel’s car has been a model of consistency, likewise flying under the media radar but seemingly in little danger of falling out of the Race To The Chase – he holds a 223-point advantage over 13th place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with two races left.

However, the often volatile Harvick, having slipped from his perch atop the driver standings since the season-opening race at Daytona, has performed only well enough to keep himself in the lower half of the Top 10 throughout much of the season. And of the three Childress teams, it is Harvick’s that is in the most jeopardy of not becoming Chase eligible – he holds merely a 167-point cushion between his current 10th place position in points and thirteenth in the rankings.

If there were to be a driver that “choked” under the pressure of making NASCAR's version of a playoff format during the next two races, this six-year veteran of Cup racing seems to be the leading candidate to do so. At a time when teams want to start hitting on all cylinders, Harvick has simply faded away. In fact, in the last ten races, he has scored only two Top 5 finishes (Chicagoland and Infineon) while posting sub-Top 10 results five times. The driver’s lackluster performance during that time is certainly is not the kind of stellar performance that wins Championships – or, at least, puts teams in serious contention for one. That Harvick has faltered in recent weeks has got to be worrisome for everyone involved with the No. 29.

It’s true that a betting man would be ill-advised to bet against Harvick still becoming Chase eligible, as time remains on his side – there’s just two races remaining before the playoffs begin. However, with finishing positions of 16th, 15th, 36th, and 17th, respectfully, in the last four races, Harvick at best will be backing into the playoffs. And it is certainly conceivable, should his poor performances continue to decline, that he could see either Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Ryan Newman overtake him for Chase eligibility.

Though the RCR equipment has, by and large, been dependable for all three teams, Harvick has been a recipient of more than his share of bad luck in the way of accidents that were not of his making. It was just such an incident that started this August slump to begin with – some ill-fated contact with Tony Stewart in the closing laps at Indianapolis sent Harvick reeling to 7th by the race’s conclusion, a run that’s actually the No. 29’s best finish to date this month. Since then, the team’s shown limited signs of life, failing to lead a single lap over the duration of the last four events.

That’s not to say luck’s the only problem for Harvick. Going into California this Sunday and Richmond the following week, the 31-year-old can and should focus on controlling what is possible…and that is his emotions. The high-strung veteran should become more cognizant to the reality that he cannot shoot himself in the foot with any of the mischief that has checkered the recent past of his career.

Known to have a short fuse and a penchant for becoming physical with drivers in the past, Harvick sometimes shows an uncontrollable urge to right wrongs, real or imagined, against him with his bumper or fists. This would certainly be ill-advised at this juncture of the season – but he’s had no problem doing it anyway. In particular, his dissatisfaction with Juan Pablo Montoya – which became unmistakable at Watkins Glen earlier this month with a schoolyard pushing and shoving match – appears to be clouding his on-track judgment. Those antics may have seemed entertaining to some, but not everyone is laughing; the possible ramifications for further questionable behavior in the way of penalties levied by NASCAR could be devastating to any hopes of a championship run for the No. 29. That the reigning Busch Series Champion cannot seem to let bygones be bygones seems evident in his sustained verbal lambasting of Montoya since their altercation over two weeks ago.

Due to Harvick’s roller coaster of emotional inconsistency, many give substantial credit for the overall improvement in performance at RCR to Jeff Burton, who is by nature a thoughtful and introspective professional that gives both peace of mind and stability to the program. Burton’s propensity to keep everyone on the same page proved an immense benefit in mentoring the relatively inexperienced Bowyer, and, to a lesser extent, the more experienced Harvick. Burton's value shows itself time and time again, most recently playing the role of model citizen at the Glen. It was there that the native Virginian, despite destroying his car in the same incident that was so upsetting to Harvick, extricated himself from his own wrecked race car and intervened in his teammate’s escalating confrontation with Montoya – all before Harvick went and committed a foolish act. Without Burton’s calming, veteran presence, who knows how things would have turned out.

However, Burton was not able to prevent Harvick from spinning another longtime nemesis, Robby Gordon, on the last lap of Saturday night's race at Bristol. Though there is no proof that the incident was intentional, given Harvick and Gordon's rocky history and Kevin Harvick's frustration with his poor-handling Chevrolet, it would be easy for one to assume that there may have been some forethought on Harvick's part involving the contact that sent Gordon reeling out of control. Livid after the race, Gordon became a man looking for the right time to pay someone back – not exactly the type of scenario a potenetial Chaser needs. Guilty or not, this is no time for Harvick to be skirting along the fringes of acceptable behavior in the world of NASCAR.

Should Gordon make a bid for Harvick’s back bumper, the chances for the No. 29 to make the playoffs go from reasonable to problematic. And what a shame it would be to get eliminated from a chance to compete for the Nextel Cup due to an impulsive act that in no way reflected on Harvick’s driving ability, or his team’s capability to prepare Chaseworthy race cars, for that matter. But the bottom line remains that as of now, Kevin Harvick desperately needs every point that he can earn from here to Richmond.

More importantly, he needs to stop giving them away.

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James M
08/28/2007 11:23 PM
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I could care less about Kevin Harvick. But I’ve been a Jeff Burton fan since ’95 and it was nice to see him get some love. Imagine Harvick this season if Burton WASN’T around? Scary thought, isn’t it?

Robert Isaacs
08/29/2007 05:42 AM
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Do you blame Robby Gordon for being ticked off at Kevin Harvick. He is running his tail off trying to get top 10 and top 15 positions with a single car team against the juggernaut teams and this jerk spins him out. The only reason he did it is that he knew he could get away with it because Robby is on double secret probation from NASCAR. I hope Smoke or someone else puts Harvick in the wall at both races left before the Chase and he misses it.

RI

Colin Baird
08/29/2007 05:50 AM
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Kevin Harvick is a true winner and a true racer. He has no desire to be anyone’s poster boy. He rolls with the punches and lands on his feet, but he can not be held responsible for what his care does. You can change the number, you can change the paint job, you can even change the sponsor, but the bottom line is, that is still Dale Earnhardt’s car, and it only knows how to race one way.

chris
08/29/2007 08:21 AM
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go robby! git em :)

29ER
08/29/2007 08:38 AM
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LETS LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE REGUARDING #29.HIS MATURITY AS A CUP DRIVER WAS SOME WHAT FORCED BY THE MOST TRAGIC DEFINING MOMMEMT IN CUP HISTORY.THAT BEING SAID WE AS SPECTATORS SHOULD REALIZE THE IMMENSE PRESSURE TO NOT ONLY PERFORM TO YOUR PERSONAL EXPECTATIONS BUT TO THOSE OF THE MOST DEMANDING FAN BASE IN MOTOR SPORTS TO DATE.AT THIS JUNCTURE IN THE #29’S CAREER WE SHOULD CONSIDER HIM AN OVER ACHIEVER; HOT HEADED NONE THE LESS BUT STILL AN OVER ACHIEVER BY THE STANDARDS OF THOSE AT THE AGE OF 31

Matt
08/29/2007 09:11 AM
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Harvick has matured into a true professional. Who was doing the shoving at the Glen? Take a look at the film, it wasn’t Harvick. He IS responsible for the RCR turnaround, Burton himself has admitted as much. This occured by Kevin publicly criticizing RCR’s engine and chassis programs, which was a wake up call to Childress. Burton has helped, no doubt, but give credit where credit is due. If Richard didn’t listen Harvick would have been gone. Richard listened, and Harvick remained loyal. Was he immature, brash, and out of line when he was younger, you bet. But Harvick has changed. He has opened up his own successful race shop fielding truck and Busch rides that have found victory lane on numerous occassions. This article is ignorant of the facts and misinformed.

patti1123tx
08/29/2007 10:09 AM
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A lot of double-speak in your article. You’re feigning concern about Harvick making the Chase, but it’s obvious you don’t like him.

Lou
08/29/2007 11:42 AM
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I thought Harvick got into Robby for payback. Robby has a similiar mentality and if the chance comes he will return the favor.

Robert
08/29/2007 11:46 AM
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Kevin is an elephant mouth on top of a hummingbird butt. He said he was going to whip Kurt Busch’s ass and never did anything. He said he was going to whip Ricky Rudd’s ass…then came to his senses and thanked God his pit crew got there before Ricky did. That old man would have wore him out. Now he says he’s going to whip Juan’s ass. As in the Kurt episode, he contiues to run his mouth about Montoya for several weeks while everyone walks around saying, “Sheesh, give it a break Kevin. Everybody knows you’re just yap yapping away, too chicken to do anything you say you’re going to do.
If Harvick could drive a car in the cup series as good as he runs that mouth, he’d have 5 or 6 Championships instead of just 5 or 6 wins.

Rich
08/29/2007 01:10 PM
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Kevin Harvick makes me wish Jimmy Spencer was still driving. I’d love to see Harvick try to intimidate him. Jimmy would give him Kurt Busch hook.

Joe
08/29/2007 02:21 PM
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Tommy,

Your about as boring as the former Govenor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson. You probably have pictures of Matt Kenseth, Casey Mears and Jamie Mcmurry on your bedroom wall. If you were a true journalist you would do some research and present to your discussion how Harvick has struggled over the years at his home state track California Speedway and how another rough finish could make things interesting for him going into the final week before the chase. Time to get back to school before opening your yap and lambasting Harvick. What did he do put you in the wall one night at Marin Speedway? In all of sports it’s about winning the “Big One” and Harvick has done that this year, what many drivers can only dream of. Harvick a former wrestler in High School could through down most and has the fierceness and mentality to do so to many… What should he have done at Watkins Glen sat in his car and be like “Oh Well “theres always next week.”

After you get done buying Robbie and Juan a drink in Moorseville tonight, go home and do some true research instead of reaching on personal feelings and vendetta’s. Try to interview Kevin this weekend I bet you don’t have the … to do so?

Heath Holmes
08/29/2007 03:35 PM
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Harvick’s mouth is runs alot faster than his ability. In just the past few weeks Harvick has put a bumper to several drivers sending them into spins but, Harvick publicly ridicules Montoya. Unless something is wrong with my TV picture, Harvick is tall but not real stout. He needs somebody to knock him right in the mouth. I was never a big fan but, I wasn’t a hater of Harvick either until now. He needs his tail whipped! Robby won’t back down and shouldn’t. Robby was running in 13th when Harvick spun him and dropped Gordon to 20th and a near 21 points. In Montreal everyone looked down on the Gordon & Ambrose incident but guess who started the big pile up…Harvick! He thinks he’s an Intimidator. He’s not the best RCR driver. He needs Jimmy Spencer to clock him once.

Harvick grow up!

Chris
08/29/2007 05:09 PM
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I don’t think it is Harvick that needs to watch his P’s and Q’s. The man is obviously frustrated.

He’s had two finishes of 34 and 36 thanks to JPM.

Then the Stewart “brushing” incident.

In Martinsville the COT catches on fire. Thats 4 races where he had a potential Top 5 finish.

If these were situations where Harvick was the one who caused the problem, I would agree.

However, all of these circumstances occurred when he was simply trying to race.

David Taloy
08/29/2007 05:34 PM
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Ricky Rudd said it best,
“he’s got that little yap yap mouth”

Craig
08/29/2007 06:24 PM
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Bobby Hamilton said it well also, “Harvick’s not even a scab on Dale Earnhardt’s ***.”

DERRICK
08/29/2007 07:03 PM
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neither is Ricky Rudd and Bobby Hamilton with all due respect (R.I.P.)!

Brian France sucks
08/29/2007 08:05 PM
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Matt and Colin, you boys are smoking the good stuff with Shane Hmiel. A true professional? Does the definition of a true professional include whining to the media, acting like a spoiled brat, wrecking others to advance one’s cause, and generally letting one’s emotions always get the better of them? I think not. If Harvick raced back in the 70’s the Alabama Gang would’ve made sure he lost a few teeth. If NA$CAR wasn’t so concerned about their wholesome image to sponsors (GREED) he would’ve gotten his ass whooped a long time ago. No more fighting to settle things after the race, so we’re left with the punt and run crybabies like Harvick, Wonderboy, and the rest. If you want the true definition of a professional, look no further than Jeff Burton. Harvick can wheel a car, but he’s a punk.

John
08/30/2007 07:45 AM
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Kevin is a chicken not a fighter! He won’t mess with anyone without “back-up” or that person being the sissy that he is. It is all “grandstanding”. Just watch and see if he EVER confronts face to face a Tony Stewart or Robby Gordon, or anyone of their mind set. He will get a whipin’ he will never forget!

29ER
08/30/2007 08:37 AM
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Can #29 a west-coast speed racer/business genius/devoted husband get some credit for producing a great track record(pun intended)in N.A.S.C.A.R. It seems to me someone of his athletic pedigree coupled with his savvy as a C.E.O. ain’t enough, Oh didn’t he win two of the highest grossing races this season so far? Not bad for 3rd rate,whinny,wimpy,YANKEE!

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