TROPHY CLUB, Texas -- Kevin Harvick visited with elementary school students Thursday, and one of the youngsters had a simple question.
"How many times do you lose?"
Talk about a punch to the gut, but Harvick didn't lose stride.
"We lose a lot."
He went on to explain that with 40 drivers on the track each race, a driver will lose more than a driver will win.
What Harvick failed to explain was that he has lost plenty of races he could have won. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, he has nine wins -- and 31 other finishes in which he placed in the top five. In 19 of them, he finished second.
That doesn't even account for a day such as the one he had Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where he led 72 laps, had one of the top cars but not the best, got caught on the outside on the final restart and finished 17th.
Kyle Busch won that race, the third time since 2015 in which Busch won a race where Harvick had led at least 50 laps.
Harvick's 3-year-old son, Keelan, can't figure out why his father runs so well but doesn't win.
"He's like, 'Daddy, why would you let Kyle Busch win? That doesn't seem right,' " Harvick said. "Before I left this week, he said, 'Don't let Kyle Busch win again.' "
Does Harvick understand what's going on?
"I understand completely," Harvick said.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion enjoyed the questions from the students, who were among those who read the most books as part of a reading program sponsored by Texas Motor Speedway. The visit seemed to allow Harvick to possibly forget about any sour times on the race track.
Of course, it's all relative. A driver wants to lead laps and be in position to win, and Harvick has done that since joining SHR in 2014. He wouldn't go into details on some of the things that his team has had to overcome this year while he still leads the points by four over Jimmie Johnson and five over Busch. Harvick captured the victory last month at Phoenix, and one win in the first six races and being competitive at the rest appears to be good enough for Harvick.
Four of his second-place finishes in the past 42 races have been won by Johnson, including the race three weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway.
"Since he's sat in that No. 4 [SHR] car, he's been at the top of everybody's conscious thought and radar. ... We've all been essentially chasing the No. 4 in a lot of situations," Johnson said.
Several have chased Harvick, who has led 23 percent of all laps -- 5,206 of 22,781 -- since he joined SHR. So that could make those second-place finishes hard to stomach.
"We've won a race in the first six," Harvick said about this season. "You're not going to put all those things together on a weekly basis to have them all fall your way.
"It's almost like it's self-policing. Even if you have a great year, you're going to win six or seven races at the most just because circumstances don't play out like that."
Harvick's boss understands. Tony Stewart isn't just a racer, but he has had his own struggles the past few years.
"The great thing is he is in those positions even if it doesn't go right," Stewart said. "I know how my years have been the last couple of years. I would trade and take that disappointment every week. I like how he handles it more than anything.
"It's easy to get frustrated when you know you had a dominant car and then something happens and then it gets taken away at the end of it. I really appreciate the way that he's handled it, and especially the way he keeps his team pumped up."
Stewart said Harvick continuously reminds his crew how good a position they are in to be in those situations. One of the reasons he does that: Harvick doesn't know what anyone could have done to change the outcome in some of the races this year.
"There are just so many things that go on that you guys don't know about that -- we aren't going to tell you -- and you guys don't need to know that have happened at the end of some of these races," Harvick said.
"California? We just got beat. I was protecting against the 11 car [of Denny Hamlin] and got beat on the bottom by the 48 [of Jimmie Johnson]. The week before, we beat the 19 [of Carl Edwards] on 80-lap tires. There's really nothing that you do any different."
At Martinsville, Harvick said teams battled a tire that didn't react consistently, depending on the set that was put on the car.
"We put a set of tires at the end and couldn't turn it in a 40-acre field," Harvick said. "It was crazy."
But Harvick didn't think he had the best car. His team was experimenting with some things so that it could return for the Chase race in October with a stronger piece.
That's Harvick, already looking toward challenging for another championship. He is the only driver to have made both the championship rounds in the first two seasons of the elimination-style Chase.
Granted, Harvick isn't the best loser, and it appears that runs in the family. He said Keelan hasn't totally grasped that some days won't be your day. It's something Harvick is trying to teach him, something that he has great experience with in racing.
"He hasn't quite figured out the losing part yet," Harvick said. "As parents, you wind up playing games and there have definitely been the occasion where he has lost and he immediately starts crying and he says he's supposed to win.
"We try to teach him that you don't win all the time."
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