There he was, sitting on pit road with that happy-go-lucky grin of his. Happy Harvick – the points leader heading up to the Chase, who was then unceremoniously dumped down the ladder due to a lack of visits to victory lane this year. Now he’s only 38 away from leading the points again. Really? Huh. How about that.
What are we saying? Perhaps it might not be Denny Hamlin and his nearly forgotten bum knee that is about to turn the Hendrick dynasty on its ear. Despite the 2009 season being one of the most dismal over at Richard Childress Racing that I can remember and Kevin Harvick’s constant cries of dismay and finger pointing, here we are one year later and it appears he might be about to add another Cup to the RCR display case. Harvick appeared delirious with his not-quite first place finish at Sunday’s (Oct. 31) Talladega race.
I’m thinking he can taste that sweet, sweet victory. The one at Homestead. Things are going just the way he wants.
Is it what NASCAR Nation wants?
Harvick made a dazzling stage entrance back in 2001 as he took over the seat of the deceased Dale Earnhardt Sr. Discarding the No. 3 for his now well-known No. 29, Harvick drove the Goodwrench Chevrolet to victory lane a mere three races after the day that claimed his predecessor’s life. Living large, he added another win at Chicago in his rookie season and finished an impressive ninth in the overall points. Not only that, but if any driver desired to make a bigger splash when launching his Sprint Cup career, I don’t know it’s possible to top the emotional twist that Harvick inherited.
However, like many an RCR driver, he has not always been known just for taking his team to the top. Many classic moments for the Californian include clenched fists, a confident smirk and some really good one-liners that tend to leave one party or the other fuming. There have been flames, firesuits, dents, suspensions and bitter endings. And mixed up with all this ire sits a healthy amount of winning.
With 14 wins logged over 10 years under his belt, Harvick is currently enjoying a career-high average finish of 9.0 — certainly a stat capable of supporting a Sprint Cup championship. This season’s three victories and overall positive performance seem to indicate the No. 29 has finally found the stride to take this team back to where it lived for much of the time in the ’80s and early ’90s.
But, he’s never been NASCAR’s darling. Fans are as happy to boo as cheer when he gets a tad too aggressive. Will they really stand up and applaud should the near impossible happen?
I know I will.
It’s like the scent of a storm before the clouds appear on the horizon. A fresh wind will blow through the garage, one as familiar as a close relative and yet long missed. The trophy will once again return to Richard Childress, a sentimental favorite among owners. There will be proof that it is possible to overthrow the reigning incumbent with sheer determination. The glow of hope will re-energize teams who lack the kind of sponsors that can fund an entire season.
The sport will return to the fans.
The face of NASCAR will smile, with a slightly crooked grin. Imperfection might be sighted just off turn 4 when the champion may climb from his car to discuss the latest on-track debacle. Ad-men will scramble to produce differing promos with a strange face and voice leading the way.
What of the future? Anything would be possible. Faith in the unpredictability of stock car racing would be restored. Like a missing chink in a dam, Kevin Harvick sneaking in and departing with the pre-ordained title just might manage to shake enough bricks loose to spark a bit of interest in our otherwise aging and increasingly static sport.
Should Harvick continue on his charge to the fore, pass the battling No. 48 and No. 11 and manage to stun the viewing public, we just might have the best off-season enjoyed in quite some time as we look forward to the surprises 2011 has in store.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be treating the possibility of the No. 29 taking the Cup home at the end of the month as such an impossibility. After all, the team lingered at the top of the points standings for the majority of 2010. However, after four long years of watching a single team stomp all over the remainder of the field, it takes a little more than a leap of faith to predict a different outcome to the same set of variables. With only three races remaining on the schedule, it just might be safe to contemplate the end of NASCAR as we know it.
Oh, I certainly hope so. I’m sure Kevin Harvick feels the same.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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