Marty Smith’s Sunday Money: Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers Break Winless Streak and Build Momentum

by Marty Smith
sunday_money

When Kevin Harvick went to Victory Lane at Michigan Sunday, it ended a 65-race winless streak for the 2014 Cup champion — the second-longest such streak of what is most certainly a first-ballot hall of fame career. Afterward, Harvick said something very directly to those who doubted him, crew chief Rodney Childers and the Stewart Haas organization: If you doubt us, you don’t know us.

We presume he wasn’t talking to Sunday Money. Because we sorta called this potential just last week. Sorta. (check out the fifth slide below)

As we alluded to, the No. 4 team is one of those groups that sniffs blood in the water and attacks. 

Harvick has that rare, uncoachable gene that can compartmentalize results and prioritize pressure. He leans on NASCAR’s darkest hour as the barometer against which everything else is measured. This is the same guy who was thrust into the impossible when Dale Earnhardt died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500: get in Earnhardt’s Chevy and race the damn thing. With his team. For his fans. 

Nothing Harvick will ever experience again will compare to that pressure. No expectation will ever be higher. No media sessions will ever be as intense. When Harvick sat in front of a global assemblage in a white pop-up tent outside Rockingham Speedway in February 2001, the entire world was watching. He was 25 years old.

That’s the measuring stick. And that, along with the inevitable broad scope perspective of fatherhood make winless streaks laughable. That’s not to say his fire doesn’t burn to end such streaks. As it pertains to competitive nature, few have ever burned hotter.

He and Childers can turn one win into a bunch of wins. They’ve been together for nearly a decade, a historically formidable pair that has produced 36 of Harvick’s 59 career wins.

By comparison, Harvick’s boss, Hall of Fame driver Tony Stewart, had some of his most competitive years with Harvick’s other boss, Greg Zipadelli, on the pit box. Smoke and Zippy won 33 races and two championships together. 

Point is, Harvick and Childers understand how to capitalize on momentum. And they’re figuring out the NextGen car. Anytime a new racecar or big swing rule change is injected into the Cup Series, one or two organizations that typically compete fall behind. It takes time to feel out and adjust and massage the new machine to the driver’s liking. Meanwhile, other organizations hit on it immediately and rack up wins and Top-5s, as Hendrick Motorsports and Trackhouse Racing, for example, have done in 2022. 

The No. 4 team was methodical during the first five months of the 2022 season. Now they’re winners again.
“For me, obviously, you would much rather win,” Harvick said postrace at Michigan. “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. 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.”

That’s a scary thing for his competitors. Blood in the water.

MAILBAG!

Ross Hoffner (@RHoff00): What’s the all-time best lip fur in NASCAR?
The GOAT garage nasal broom is obviously Big E’s Wyatt Earp model, but they competition has been hairy over the years. *Jeff Gordon’s pencil stache is the stuff of legend, and has been imitated but never duplicated. *Dale Jarrett’s stache/mullet combo was happy hour up front, rave in the back.  *The Ice Man Terry Labonte had it workin’ for decades. *Mike Helton’s lipholstry was straight out of central casting for every western movie ever. And it scared the hell out of everybody. *The King Richard Petty would be unrecognizable without his chisel lip — and The King’s mid-70s handlebar action, coupled with the PlymouthSuperbird, should hang in the Louvre beside the Mona Lisa. 

Barrel Boy (@Barrelboy1025): How do we buy this hat?!

Coming very soon to shop.outsider.com, in two different colorways. It’ll look splendid with your outfit, Barrel Boy. 

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