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Harris: Childress-Harvick Pairing Up In The Air

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010
The last time Kevin Harvick crossed a finish line in first place was in 2007 at the Daytona 500. The victory came by inches over Mark Martin. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

The last time Kevin Harvick crossed a finish line in first place was 2007 at the Daytona 500. The victory came by inches over Mark Martin. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Editor’s note: The annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway is being held this week. RacinToday has a trio of writers on the Tour and will be reporting daily with opinions, features, news and notes.

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

Concord, N.C. – For a while last season, Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress were acting like an old married couple who no longer had to stay together for the sake of the children.

Harvick was considered a star of the future when Childress was forced to cut his developmental work short and move him up to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series in the wake of the sudden and tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in February of 2001.

Over the years, the driver and owner have had their ups and downs, but nothing like the middle of last season when the entire Richard Childress Racing team was struggling and the outspoken Harvick made it clear he was unhappy and had decided to leave RCR when his contract is up at the end of 2010.

It could be a very uncomfortable situation, a lame duck driver on a rebuilding team. But both Harvick and Childress said Tuesday, during the second day of the NASCAR Media Tour sponsored by Charlotte Motor Speedway, that they are determined to make it work – whatever the outcome.

“That door is always open with all of us, on his end and ours too, I think,’’ Childress said. “When the times comes, we’ll talk.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Kevin Harvick and everything he’s done for RCR. If the opportunity (comes), when the time is right to sit down (and talk), we will. But, right now, we’re focused on going out and taking that (No. 29) team and making a run for the championship.’’

Childress admitted that things got a little acrimonious between the two for a while in 2009.

“I think (things) did (get testy) more in the middle of the year, maybe,’’ RC noted. “But I think toward the end of the year things were rolling along pretty good. It’s a lot easier when you’re running and you’re competitive. Around Atlanta, the last seven or eight races, we all got back on the same page and knew what we had to accomplish.’’

The whole RCR team was determined to turn things around and get back to the competitive level they were at in 2008, whatever the cost. Over the winter, Childress made big dollar investments in new equipment and engineering and also made a significant leadership change, hiring Scott Miller as director of competition.

“All of the drivers see the things we’re doing to be a better organization,’’ Childress said.

The big rumor is that Harvick will join Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman in a third car at Stewart Haas Racing next season, but the driver would not address that. He did say Tuesday he also has not closed the door on the possibility of staying with RCR.

“The bottom line is, Richard Childress has given me a great opportunity to be a part of this sport and the last thing you want to do is throw mud in somebody’s face and be disrespectful ,’’ Harvick said. “My main goal this year, no matter how it turns out, I don’t want to be disrespectful to anybody. If it ends, I want it to end peacefully. If it stays, I want it to stay peaceful.’’

Meanwhile, there’s a season to be run and Harvick is feeling pretty optimistic heading toward the Feb. 14 Daytona 500.

“I feel as good about everything that’s going on as I have,’’ he said. “The contract thing, it is what it is. I’m not going to dwell on that. My goal is to have fun and we’re going to race a lot, Nationwide, truck, Cup. I just want to have fun with racing and life and doing everything in the middle and make it into a good year.

“If it’s like last year, it won’t be any fun. The only thing that made it fun last year was trucks and Nationwide. The Cup side was miserable and we just don’t need another miserable year.’’

Asked if his status as Cup’s No. 1 free agent will be a distraction for his team, Harvick insisted that it will make no difference to his guys.

“They’ve already been dealing with it,’’ he explained. “They won’t let down. I’ve got 100 percent confidence in those guys. They’ve been through the meat of it (last) year. They’re going stand behind me 100 percent.

“They’re a very experienced bunch of people. The team has been together for a very long time. We’ll remain focused on what we need to remain focused on and not let the sideshow take over from what we need to do. If we’re off, we’re going to work together to fix it. If we’re on, we’re going to stay together and have fun with it. That’s how we’ve got to deal with it.’’

From body language and the above comments, it seems like Harvick and Childress could still make a go of it. Whatever the outcome, though, a happy and motivated Harvick is good for the sport.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010
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