Race Weekend Central

2014 NASCAR Driver Review: Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

2014 Ride: No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2014 Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
2014 Points Finish: First
2014 Stats: 36 starts, five wins, 14 top fives, 20 top 10s, eight poles, 2,137 laps led, two DNFs, 9.1 average start, 12.9 average finish
2014 Best Finish: First; (Phoenix I, Darlington, Charlotte II, Phoenix II, Homestead)

High Point: There’s nothing more rewarding in a strong season that had its share of down moments than coming into the final race of the season within reach of the championship. With less than 10 laps remaining, it looked like Harvick wouldn’t score his first career championship, but a flurry of late cautions allowed him to propel forward and win the race, clinching the championship.

Low Point: After winning at Phoenix in the second race of the season, Harvick followed up with finishes of 41st, 39th and 36th at Las Vegas, Bristol and Fontana, respectively. He went into Martinsville the following week and finished a respectable seventh before heading off to Texas Motor Speedway, a track that had been kind to him the previous two years. But it wasn’t meant to be as a blown engine just 28 laps in gave him his second DNF in four races and a 42nd-place finish.

Summary: It took 13 years and one promise later for Harvick to reach the summit of his sport in capturing his first Sprint Cup Series championship. Harvick, teamed with crew chief Rodney Childers, had a year to remember in 2014, reeling off an impressive five wins in their first season at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Harvick showed the rest of the Cup garage a sign of things to come early by claiming a dominating victory at Phoenix in March after leading 224 of 312 laps in securing his berth in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Harvick then would claim his first cup series victory at Darlington in April after a battle down the stretch with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson en route to claiming his first Southern 500.

Happy Harvick found victory lane once again at Charlotte in October after leading 162 laps, but it was two weeks later at Martinsville where he saw his championship dreams seemingly take a devastating hit after being spun by Matt Kenseth on lap 229 sending his No. 4 car to the garage for lengthy repairs, finishing 33rd and needing a win at Texas or Phoenix to keep his championship hopes alive.

After finishing second at Texas, Harvick then went to Phoenix and added to his March victory at the track with a more dominating effort in November, leading a race high 264 laps and setting him up for a chance to win his first Cup championship at Homestead. Which is exactly what he did after making a late-race pass on Denny Hamlin and then holding off Ryan Newman on a restart to claim the championship.

Harvick joined Bobby Labonte and Brad Keselowski as the only drivers to win both an Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup Series championship.

2015 Outlook: It’s hard not to consider Harvick the favorite to claim back-to-back championships next season. If the No. 4 team brings the same kind of the speed it did in 2014, the field may be in huge trouble. It is completely in the realm that Harvick could win another five or more races this season, plus he’ll have a full season with crew chief Rodney Childers under his belt. Harvick fans will have plenty to be happy about once again in 2015.

About the author

Justin starts his second year with the Frontstretch in 2014, responsible for Sprint Cup news in our e-newsletter twice a week. Also a Frontstretch Power Rankings contributor, he acts as “super sub” filling in for various columns throughout the season. He resides out in Missouri.

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