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Woody: How About That Kevin Harvick?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 25 2010

Kevin Harvick was all smiles at a press conference announcing he has decided to remain with Richard Childress. (Photo by Justin Heiman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

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 lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 25 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Steve says:

    I became a Kevin Harvick fan prior to that awful day in Daytona. Not only did I love his driving style, I believed the story that my hero, Dale Earnhardt, had told Richard that he was going to hire Kevin if Richard didn’t. I bought my first piece of Harvick gear in Bristol prior to Kevin winning the Busch race in 2000. At that time, there was no huge trailer stuffed with the usual diecasts, jackets, caps, etc. As far as I know, the gear was limited to a plain brown cap with a 2 on the front and Kevin’s name and RCR on the side. Even tho I have suffered through some down times, especially last year, I’ve never thought about switching drivers. The bottom line is that Kevin NEVER gives up…very much like Dale. His off track deeds speak volumes, too. Not many fans know about Kevin’s involvement with helping out Sammy Ard and his family. This, too is much like Dale used to do. Generosity and anonymity have always appealed to me. I couldn’t be happier for Kevin and RCR and I certain that a cup series championship is down the road

  • Bill Wright says:

    I became a Kevin Harvick fan prior to that awful day in Daytona. Not only did I love his driving style, I believed the story that my hero, Dale Earnhardt, had told Richard that he was going to hire Kevin if Richard didn’t. I bought my first piece of Harvick gear in Bristol prior to Kevin winning the Busch race in 2000. At that time, there was no huge trailer stuffed with the usual diecasts, jackets, caps, etc. As far as I know, the gear was limited to a plain brown cap with a 2 on the front and Kevin’s name and RCR on the side. Even tho I have suffered through some down times, especially last year, I’ve never thought about switching drivers. The bottom line is that Kevin NEVER gives up…very much like Dale. His off track deeds speak volumes, too. Not many fans know about Kevin’s involvement with helping out Sammy Ard and his family. This, too is much like Dale used to do. Generosity and anonymity have always appealed to me. I couldn’t be happier for Kevin and RCR and I certain that a cup series championship is down the road

  • Terrell Davis says:

    Maelstorm? Fancy word. Made all us old southern boys hunt the dictionary. But, then, you did cover Vanderbilt Sports. Must of rubbed off on you. Good story…even if I did have to look up the definition of a word or two.

  • Ole Harv says:

    As a youth football coach I have parents who come up to me all the time and ask, “So, how is my son doing?” I always answer, “Do you want the truth or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?” They almost never go for the first option and they never ask me a second time.

    You will always know where you stand with Kevin Harvick and he will answer you with the truth in the way that he sees it. That said Kevin is also very competitive and knows which drivers will have their on-track performance affected by verbal taunts. Carl happens to be one of those drivers. Carl prefers to do his intimidation by threatening to punch you in the face or by slamming his car into you during a cool down lap or nearly launching you into the stands via intentional spin out on one of the fastest tracks in the circuit.

    Looks like the subtle mental intimidation might be working.