Author: Scott Fowler
Date: Nov. 14, 2014
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Busy time for Kevin Harvick? You could say that. He’s one of the favorites to win his first Sprint Cup championship. He helped start a fight in Texas this month that people are still talking about. He’s the father of a very active 2-year-old son. On Friday night, he qualified fifth for Sunday’s Ford 400.
And, in case all that wasn’t enough, Harvick and his wife just moved from the Kernersville area into a house in Charlotte. They have been unpacking boxes all week.
Harvick, though, seems to have a handle on all of it. At 38, with a touch of gray at his temples, he is the oldest of the four drivers still in contention in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
His nickname of “Happy” has often seemed ironic, for Harvick has long been a contentious sort. But fatherhood has softened him some – although anyone who saw the replays from Texas Motor Speedway knows that not all the rough edges were sanded off.
“I’m as happy as I’ve ever been,” Harvick said.
“I think Kevin has always been happy,” said DeLana Harvick, his wife. “But people misunderstand that because they’ve seen the brash, abrasive person.”
Harvick has had a heck of a month. Last week, facing elimination from the Chase, Harvick pulled off a dominating victory at Phoenix, leapfrogged four other drivers and made it to Sunday’s season finale with his title hopes alive. He has led more laps this season than any driver in the final four.
But a week before that he made headlines for a different reason. Watching a post-race verbal altercation between drivers Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon from close range, Harvick inserted himself into the action when Keselowski started to walk away.
Harvick shoved Keselowski back toward Gordon, which incited a melee on pit road. Harvick was angry that Keselowski was about to “walk off and mumble your way off into no man’s land,” as Harvick put it. He wanted Gordon to have the chance to tell Keselowski off.
Harvick didn’t intend to start the brawl, though, he said, and has thought a lot since then about how he would someday explain the shove to his 2-year-old son, Keelan.
“The difficult part for me is to go home and realize that one day you are going to have to answer those questions to your son,” Harvick said.
“I think that’s a really big example of Kevin the dad struggling with Kevin the competitor,” DeLana Harvick said.
Keelan Harvick comes to about half of his father’s races. The Harvicks’ motorcoach holds a lot of his toys, including a plastic batting tee placed in the shade outside. He likes to watch his dad race in person – he attended qualifying Friday – and likes to pretend to wipe his dad’s No. 4 car down.
DeLana Harvick said she and Kevin hope their son doesn’t follow in his father’s footsteps as a driver, however.
“We would certainly like for him not to be involved in racing,” DeLana Harvick said, “but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. ... It’s just difficult. It’s hard. There are 43 guys out here, and there are a lot more talented drivers than there are positions. We would hope for golf. Really anything – other than racing and football.”
The elder Harvick, however, has made a great living in racing. He has finished third in the Chase three of the past four years, but like the others in the final four he has never won a championship. In all of his other season finales, however, he has come into Homestead trailing by a big margin and “hoping for a miracle,” as he put it.
“So for me personally, this is obviously our best opportunity,” Harvick said.
This is Harvick’s first full season driving for Stewart-Haas Racing – he left Richard Childress Racing to do so. He has received a lot of advice from three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart this week on what to do. The move to Charlotte had a lot to do with getting closer to the SHR shop, which is in Kannapolis.
Harvick has hooked up this year with crew chief Rodney Childers for the first time. Childers thought he would be working with the brash version of Harvick he had competed against for years but soon figured out there was more to the driver than that.
“I had people say stuff to me after what happened at Texas like, ‘Oh, we’re not pulling for y’all anymore because of what he did,’ ” Childers said this week. “People have no idea how he really is. (They are) not even close to the truth of what Kevin Harvick really is. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around and cares about all of us and cares about his family and cares about Keelan and the way he’s going to be raised.”
Harvick isn’t kind and gentle all the time. Far from it. He tried to get into Joey Logano’s head throughout Wednesday night’s championship news conference by needling him repeatedly.
“Mind games,” Logano said dismissively. “That’s just Kevin.”
Logano and Harvick are widely considered the favorites Sunday, based on how strong their cars have been all year. Logano is 24, and you would think he will have a lot more chances.
Harvick began driving in the Cup series when he took over for Dale Earnhardt in 2001, just days after Earnhardt died in a last-lap wreck at the Daytona 500. Harvick said he’s only in the “middle” of his career, but he also knows these championship opportunities don’t come around often.
“This is all he has ever wanted and all he has raced for, to be a Sprint Cup champion,” DeLana Harvick said. “So I think this one will probably hurt a little bit more if he doesn’t win it Sunday. He wants it so bad.”
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