As Kevin Harvick crossed the start/finish line to secure the victory in Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, a cry of jubilation was heard over the No. 4 car’s radio.
“Hell yeah boys! Great job, I love that. Awesome!”
That raw emotion came from Harvick, who broke a 65-race winless streak to score the win.
The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford believes the victory was a testament to the team’s tireless effort to find a solution to its struggles.
“It means a lot. As we went through the first part of the season and really not having everything where we wanted to be and we just really just kept our heads down and just kept communicating and working and working through what we thought our weak points were,” Harvick said. “And really over the last five or six weeks the cars have run a lot better, and a lot of that goes to just Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and everybody just kind of just thinking about what we need to do different and trying things. And, really, it’s gone smoothly over the last several weeks in the simulator, at the racetrack, and the way that things have raced.”
So today we didn’t have anything work against us. That’s the biggest thing that happened today,” Harvick continued. “Pocono and Loudon kind of in the same position and just didn’t have the end of it go right, and today it went our way. We were in position to capitalize on it.”
It had been nearly two years since Harvick’s last victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in September 2020.
Despite the winless streak, Harvick and the team remained calm through the adversity, knowing they’d find a way.
“For me, obviously, you would much rather win,” Harvick said. “The end of last year it’s kind of like this year. We weren’t where we wanted to be. They kind of took control and did the things they wanted to do for the cars, and by the end of the year we were in contention to win races. It didn’t work out to get to victory lane.
“And this year started the same way,” Harvick continued. “They keep their head down and grind away and just started dotting Is and crossing Ts, and next thing you know it comes together. I’ve been through longer winless streaks. It’s fun to go through it with the same group of guys. When you finally pop out of it and you’re, like, ‘man, all that work feels pretty good now.'”
Childers echoed Harvick’s statement, pointing to the people within the organization that kept pushing forward.
“When you go from winning 10 or 11 races a year, to doing that, it’s definitely a mental struggle,” Childers said. “And, like he said, it just comes down to the people that are around you and what certain people say every day and the way our team meetings go in the mornings and just that dedication.”
A part of the dedication for the No. 4 team stems from the confidence their driver has behind the wheel.
Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, wasn’t shy to admit his expectations amidst the team’s recent struggles.
“I expect to win. Maybe I’m over-confident. I don’t know,” Harvick said. “I expect to win until the door closes. That’s just the expectation that I have. It’s been the way that I’ve gone on the racetrack, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to turn that off until the door is closed, and you just don’t open it back up. I’m just not wired that way.”
Harvick’s confidence and mindset since his first Cup Series start in 2001, has substantially grown.
The 46-year-old mentioned how challenges at the beginning of his career, have helped mold his outlook on dealing with pressure.
“This is all easy to deal with. It’s really not that hard,” Harvick said. “You compartmentalize this, and you set it aside. We try to act like grown-ups and show up to work every morning and be productive about the conversations that Rodney was talking about, and just you’ve got to believe in the things that are around you. You’ve got to believe in yourself.”
Harvick’s introduction into Cup Series racing came abruptly, after the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001 thrusted the then 25-year-old into the No. 3 team, re-branded to the No. 29 for Richard Childress Racing.
“There’s really no match for jumping in a race car and taking over for Dale Earnhardt,” Harvick continued. “There’s nothing like that was for the first six or eight weeks. You just can’t match it. Never will. Never come close. There’s nothing even close. I mean, there’s never going to be a media session that big again. There’s never going to be a conversation that big again. There’s never going to be a bigger moment in my career. I’ve had all those. It’s just the rest of this stuff is pretty easy to deal with compared to those moments.
“Those moments you just can’t match. I think that everything after that is — that was the training ground. That was the start of the process.”
The process for Harvick and the No. 4 team, has the group moving toward the playoffs, with three weeks remaining in the regular season.Follow @DHoffmanMedia22