(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

NASCAR Mailbox: Is Kevin Harvick the Best He Has Ever Been as a Driver?

After this weekend’s races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the talk of if they should repave or not has come up once again.

It seems like every single year, the discussion of if Atlanta should be repaved comes up because it is one of the oldest surfaces in the sport, and to be fair, the NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday (June 7) was not the greatest. While Gander RV & Outdoors Truck and the NASCAR Xfinity series put on great shows on the surface, Cup seemed a little lackluster. This leads many to wonder whether or not a repave is necessary.

It also leads to question what we need to see in order for a track to need a repave? Is the racing the only thing that affects the repave, or can it be multiple factors?

Kevin Harvick has come back from the COVID-19 break stronger than he has been in most of his years in Cup. Already having two wins to his name, he is solidifying himself as a championship contender once again. This has been a theme since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing back in 2014. At the age of 44, he is arguably stronger than he has ever been at the top level.

Is Harvick the best he’s ever been? What has been the reason for his success at his age? Is this a “second prime” of his, or has he just found the right group of team members to go along with Rodney Childers and himself?

Q: When do you think is the right time to repave a racetrack? Is Atlanta ready for one, or is it good as is? Steve T., Charleston, SC

A: There really is no “right” time to pave a racetrack, especially if it still produces great action such as Atlanta has. However, there are other factors that go into repaves as we have seen recently in the sport.

The best example of this would be Texas Motor Speedway. If you ask the majority of people within the sport, including drivers, they probably would have told you back in 2016 that Texas was one of the more fun tracks to run. The racing still was pretty decent, and you could run everywhere on the track and be fast, low or high groove. The only issue the surface had, though, were the weepers.

2016 was a bad year of weather for the track, as both races that season in Cup were affected by rain. As a result, the weepers were acting up and caused delays longer than many expected. Following the rain-shortened November 2016 race, they discovered that it was time to repave the track. Weepers became so poor that the track needed a new surface. Not only did it get a new surface, but a new configuration. Many can agree that it has not been much of a success.

Was that the “right” time to change things up at Texas? Probably, but only because of a problem outside of the racing. If the racing is good, there is no need to repave. Take Auto Club Speedway for example, that track has produced good racing for several years now, and it has one of the oldest surfaces in the sport. It also had a weeper issue back in 2008, but it seemed like a one-time thing. And because it is in California, the weather hasn’t greatly affect the weepers since.

I know the topic of a repave at Atlanta has come up several times the last few years. Is it time to do it? Sadly, I would say yes. While it produces great racing in Xfinity and Trucks, Cup has been down the last several seasons. Sunday afternoon’s race won by Harvick just was not what we need to see out of a race. That is more of a package problem than a track problem, but it is probably time to start thinking about a true repave.

Drivers love the track, but when we see lackluster results like we have in Cup, you have to do something. NASCAR has given us this package for the intermediates, and sadly, now it is time to adjust to current times and what will produce. It fits recently-paved tracks like Kansas Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and even Texas at times.

If Atlanta happens to be repaved, it will probably be sad for a lot of drivers, teams and even fans. Now is the right time if there was one to change things up, so it will more than likely be worth it. There is never a true right time to bring in a new surface, but I do feel that Atlanta is in that situation. Do not be surprised if anything happens with the track before next season.

Q: Is Kevin Harvick the best he has ever been right now? Cody P., Syracuse, NY

A: This question has come up for years since Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing. The answer, though, is yes. Now with 51 career wins, he is creeping up the all-time list, and he is doing it in a big way, sitting 12th.

While Harvick is already a future Hall of Famer, he still has a lot left in him. Ever since he has joined forces with Rodney Childers and SHR, he has been the top guy almost every year. Winning the championship in 2014 was something that solidified his legacy in Cup, but since then he has only gotten better. Even at his age, he is proving that he is a top two-to-three driver in the sport right now.

The only year Harvick has really had a “down” year was 2017, the first year SHR ran under the Ford banner. He only won once at Sonoma Raceway, and that was probably the worst season he has had with the team. It was not all bad though, as he still made the Championship 4.

When you put a top crew chief with a top driver, results are obviously going to come. Childers and Harvick have had that chemistry for a while now. The funny thing is, I don’t see either of them slowing down anytime soon. It does not matter what you throw at them, they are always fast. Their worst days are the back half of the top 10, which is scary good.

Can he get better? As crazy as it sounds, he can. Harvick has driven in Cup since 2001, and his whole career has been defined on taking over for the legend, Dale Earnhardt. Once he left Richard Childress Racing, it was almost like he could establish a new life for himself, and that is exactly what he has done.

Harvick will go down as one of the all-time greats when he hangs up the helmet, whenever that may be (he’s currently signed through the 2023 season). Right now, he is a dominant force every week no matter what track or package we have. As the competition catches up this season, he will too. That will equal even better performances. Harvick is determined to win a second Cup championship, and even if it may be too early, he has to be the favorite to win it all this season, 10 races in.

Watching how he does will be fun to see. We know he can win any race on any given weekend, and that trend will continue. Harvick will get better and better as the season goes on, and do not be surprised if he pulls off another eight-win season. He is on a roll right now, and when that happens, the competition is in trouble.

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Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.

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One comment

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    Harvick will ultimately end up in the top 10 on the all time wins list. If he had been at Hendrick rather than RCR to start his career, and then went to SHR who knows where he could’ve ended up. 70-8g wins maybe??? We will never know, but Richard Childress put him in a good car very early in his career but the organization just fell off.