Impact Analysis: Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing

by Whitney Bates on April 18, 2008 @ 08:38:38 PDT

 


Eight races into the season, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil car, is fifth overall in the Cup points standings. He trails teammate and points leader Jeff Burton by 103 points. Harvick's fifth-place position in the overall standings is due to his early season successes and consistency in each race. In 2008, Harvick has an average start of 13.8, an average finish of 9.6, with two top-five finishes and four top-10s.

Harvick's success comes as no surprise. The 32-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., started racing go-karts when he was 5 years old. His nearly 30 years of racing experience make him a formidable competitor every week, whether it's the Sprint Cup Series or Nationwide Series.

Harvick's NASCAR resume

Harvick has raced in the Sprint Cup Series since 2001. He began the season as a favorite to win the Busch Series championship and would go on to write his name in the NASCAR record books. He finished the season as a Cup superstar, taking Rookie of the Year honors behind the strength of two wins. Harvick went on to win the Busch Series championship after he registered five wins and 20 top-five finishes. When all was said and done, Harvick became the first driver in NASCAR history to run full time in both the Winston Cup and Busch Series - totaling 70 races. It was also the first season that the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Award was won by the same driver who won the Busch Series championship.

Harvick's Cup career consists of 11 wins, 51 top-fives, 105 top-10s and five poles; he has led nearly 3000 laps in 258 career starts. Since the inception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup prior to the 2004 season, Harvick has made it twice, each time coming in the last two seasons.

His Nationwide Series resume is perhaps more impressive. Harvick started racing in the series in 1999. Since then, he has won two series championships as well as picked up 32 wins, 102 top-fives and 146 top-10s in 199 starts. However, the co-owner and driver of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 33 car has struggled behind the wheel, failing to register a win in its first season.

Throughout his racing career, Harvick has taken the checkered flag at all four track types on the Sprint Cup circuit: superspeedways, intermediate tracks, short tracks and road courses. However, his best results are at intermediate tracks. On these tracks, Harvick has scored two poles, seven wins, 29 top-fives and 64 top-10 finishes in his career. He does, however, have his lowest average finish on this track type (16.2).

Always in a position to succeed

As a driver for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), Harvick has excellent resources and a great team. His crew chief, Todd Berrier, has been with him for the last four Sprint Cup seasons. Berrier started with Harvick in 1999 and helped Harvick win the Busch Series Rookie of the Year Award. He was in the pits the following season when Harvick won the Busch Series crown in 2001. After a brief departure, Berrier reunited with Harvick in 2003 and has remained with him ever since.

At the 2008 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, all three RCR teammates made it a 1-2-3 finish, with Burton finishing first, Harvick second and Clint Bowyer third. It was the first sweep in RCR history. Harvick can count on the momentum of his teammates and their successes to help him throughout the season. The ability to share information is important in this sport, which is why single-car teams find it difficult to compete.

Having a solid manufacturer doesn't hurt either. Harvick drives a Chevrolet, and Chevy has won the past five Sprint Cup Manufacturer's Championships. Chevrolet has two of the largest racing teams driving their cars, including RCR and Hendrick Motorsports. They currently lead the 2008 Manufacturer Standings by four points over Ford.

One of Harvick's greatest talents as a driver is to overcome obstacles. He seemingly finds a way to avoid DNFs and finish in the top five or top 10. In Harvick's second race in the Car of Tomorrow during the 2007 race at Martinsville Speedway, the safety foam interior caught fire, leaving smoke in his car and causing him to finish 41st. However, NASCAR made modifications to the foam interior based on Harvick's experience, and he went on to post a 10th-place finish in the COT's next race at Phoenix International Raceway two weeks later.

In this year's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix, Harvick started 17th but advanced to as high as fourth place, battling a tight-handling car. With seven laps remaining, Harvick ran out of gas but was able to make it to the pits and get more fuel. He lost a top-five finish due to the fuel issue, but Harvick made it back out of the pits to avoid a DNF. Consistency to finish races and to strive for top-five and top-10 finishes is the reason Harvick will continue to be a successful racer.

Fantasy outlook

Harvick's 2008 season should get even better. In his career, Harvick has won twice at Chicagoland Speedway and has multiple top-five finishes at the following tracks: Bristol (eight), Chicago (four), Richmond International Raceway (four), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (three), Talladega Superspeedway (three), Phoenix (three) and Daytona International Raceway (three). With all of these tracks still left on the schedule, its likely Harvick will remain in the top 10 and make the Chase for the third consecutive year.

Fantasy players can expect to find Harvick contending for the Cup championship, where he has finished in the top 10 in the Cup Series four times in his seven years of racing. In addition to competing in the Chase for the Cup, fantasy players should consider him one of their top picks at any track, especially intermediates.

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About Whitney Bates

Bates has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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