Woody: How About That Kevin Harvick?
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
What a difference year makes.
This time last season Kevin “Happy” Harvick wasn’t living up to his nickname. In fact, it probably would have been hard to find an unhappier camper in all of NASCAR than the spirited young hot-shoe from Bakersfield.
He wasn’t winning, and when Harvick’s not winning he’s not happy.
Rumors swirled around his future – or lack thereof –with Richard Childress Racing. Harvick refused to discuss the matter, and his silence spoke volumes. The smart money was on a Harvick/RCR split.
Fast-forward to now: Harvick won the Bud Shootout, captured Talladega with one of the most thrilling finishes in history, is perched atop the championship standings and has just signed a new contract with RCR.
From a season of gloom and discontent to a contract-secure title contender – it’s been a dizzying climb.
The first time I met Kevin was under a tent in Rockingham, N.C., in 2001 in the chaotic aftermath of the death of Dale Earnhardt. I attended an Earnhardt memorial service in Charlotte the day before, then traveled to Rockingham for the next race.
Childress called a press conference to introduce Earnhardt’s replacement – a kid from California named Kevin Harvick.
I came away impressed by Harvick and how he handled himself in that terrible maelstrom of tragedy, shock and loss. Thrust into the glare of international media, he was confident but not cocky, explaining that he could never “replace” Earnhardt but was only moving into his vacated seat.
I thought he struck the perfect tone for the occasion.
Harvick started 36th in his Cup debut that weekend and finished a solid 14th. Everybody was impressed. But not nearly as impressed as they were a couple of weeks later when – in just his third start – Harvick won at Atlanta.
From that point on he continued to establish himself as one of the brightest young stars in the NASCAR galaxy.
Understand, I don’t always agree with everything that Kevin says or does. For example I thought he was overly harsh in his assessment of Carl Edwards when he imposed himself in the Edwards/Brad Keselowski spat.
Then again, Harvick is known for speaking his mind so I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked when someone asks a touchy question and receives an unvarnished answer. If you don’t want to know what he thinks, don’t ask him.
In this day of PR-controlled racing robots, hearing a driver speak candidly about a controversy is refreshing.
RCR has endured some trying times during the decade since Earnhardt’s death, and it is understandable that a driver with Harvick’s ambition and determination would experience some frustration.
But now it appears that those hard times are behind him, with blue skies ahead.
Harvick’s happy again.
– Larry Woody can be reached at email@example.com Comments