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2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

2011 Ride: No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2011 Primary Sponsors: Budweiser (20 + 2 races), Jimmy John’s (6 races), Rheem (3 races)
2011 Owner: Richard Childress
2011 Crew Chief: Gil Martin
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 4 wins, 9 top fives, 19 top 10s, 1 DNF, third in points

High Point: The last race of the regular season, Harvick wins Richmond – in something of a Demolition Derby – and sets up the Chase as something to watch, as Cousin Carl traded off that lead much of the day and finished right behind Happy Harvick. With the way the race wound up, you had to believe that we were looking at the championship battle right there considering the way both men had run throughout the season. The Budweiser crew sailed into Chicago with high hopes and a justly deserved chip on their shoulders.

Low Point: The Daytona 500. After a stunning end-of-season run in 2010, it surely was on more than one person’s mind that Harvick’s No. 29 was something to watch in 2011. Until a mere 22 laps into the race, his engine went kablooey, which sent him to the back of the field and out of the running for a second trophy in the Great American Race. Not an auspicious way to start a new year.

Summary: Perhaps owning championship-caliber truck and Nationwide teams is more distraction than it’s worth.

While driving RCR’s crown jewel, Harvick spent much of the 2011 season in the mix. With four victories, we weren’t watching mere mediocrity. That No. 29 always seemed to be just within reach of snagging another win, week after week – a familiar sight in 2010 as well. Still, the team never really looked like it was going to pull off the inevitable. Champions are expected to come from the RCR stable. Childress knows that. Harvick knows that. The sponsors know that.

But struggles outside the Cup garage apparently caused a good deal of havoc. In September, Harvick sold off controlling interest of his truck team to Eddie Sharp and followed that shortly with an announcement his Nationwide cars were going to RCR.

Had it all caused too much distraction for the driver who clearly has the talent and drive to snare a Cup for his own trophy case? Perhaps.

Nonetheless, he did end his 10-year KHI ownership endeavor with a trophy for the Camping World Truck Series owners’ championship and a sterling fourth and sixth in the Nationwide owner points. Not too shabby after all.

Team Ranking: First. By far and away. Clint Bowyer in the No. 33 had to fight tooth and nail for his 13th points position. Paul Menard, despite his Indy victory could not climb into the Chase, while Jeff Burton‘s No. 31 was simply a non-story until the final few races of the year.

Off-Track News: 2011 kicked off with a unique welcome to Harvick from Budweiser… he got roasted. A special show aired on SPEED spent 60 minutes raking our favorite practical joker over the coals. His wife DeLana definitely got some great jibes in there, while Smoke was none too shabby in the chuckles department, either.

In July, the Kevin Harvick Foundation provided 50 tickets to members of the Boys and Girls Clubs to attend the Eastern League All-star baseball game in Manchester, N.H. Kevin and DeLana, as part of the event, also participated in a Home Run Derby to help fund a broader charitable initiative with their sponsor Rheem, helping improve the lives of children. That same week, Rheem also provided to the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester tickets to the Nationwide Series race at Loudon.

The Kevin Harvick Foundation also holds an annual charity golf tournament, granting Chase Your Dreams scholarships to underprivileged children so they might be able to pursue activities outside of school they may not be able to afford – anything from dance, drama, or maybe sign language lessons.

2012 Outlook: Harvick is signed up with the No. 29 next year, as are all his sponsors. Gil Martin, however, is being named the director of competition at Richard Childress Racing. Shane Wilson will top the pit box for 2012, coming over from the No. 33.

We should look forward to another year with Harvick running near the front of the field and fighting for those wins. We’ll see him in the Chase. Will he win that first Cup? That is the question, indeed. Without the additional weight of running the Truck and Nationwide teams, it’s possible Kevin just might find the extra focus needed to power past the likes of Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: A-
2007 Grade: B
2008 Grade: A-
2009 Grade: D+
2010 Grade: A-
2011 Grade: A

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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