Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – FORT WORTH, TX – Obviously proud of the fact he’s won half of the races in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season – three of six – Kevin Harvick acknowledged Friday morning at Texas Motor Speedway that just being at the Fort Worth track buoyed his already-good mojo.
Yes, he’s had an incredible run to open the season, but it was actually his win last November in the Texas playoff race that Harvick considers the start of his current success.
“It all started or a lot of it started right here in the fall last year winning here for the first time and being able to get to victory lane and do the things that we did at the end of the year,’’ said Harvick, Friday morning in advance of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (2 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“It is fun to be able to ride that momentum. You never know when it is going to shift the other way. The whole company is doing a great job. Clint (Bowyer) winning last week and Aric (Almirola) and Kurt (Busch) doing well.
“It has been a great start to the season for Stewart-Haas Racing and we have been fortunate to win a few of those races and hopefully we can do the same this weekend.”
Harvick’s 1.580-second victory over eventual 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. at Texas was his first victory in 30 tries at the high-banked 1.5-mile oval. But it was also the first of four trophies he’s hoisted in the eight races since. It checked a box for Harvick – who had six straight top-10 finishes at Texas before that win, including back-to-back runner-up showings in 2014-15.
The win was both personal triumph and a competitive statement – but one that Harvick hasn’t put an exclamation point on yet.
“It is a really big market for us personally as a race team because we have Mobil and Busch who spend so much time and money promoting this particular market and bringing a bunch of people to the race track and to not get to victory lane was almost a little embarrassing because we hadn’t done it,’’ said Harvick, who spent Friday morning alongside Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage looking at the facility’s impressive new “Busch Restart Bar” trackside suite-of-suites.
“To check that off the list and have Mobil 1 on the car at that race here in Texas was a really big deal.”
And as it turned out, the beginning of some incredible momentum.
Harvick’s season’s lot of trophies has duly impressed his team co-owner, three-time Monster Energy Series champion Tony Stewart, who acknowledged with caution, that the fast start is good. But a fast finish and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship trophy remains the goal.
“It’s pretty cool. You want your drivers to start like that,’’ Stewart said.
“It’s definitely the way you want to start the year, but at the same time I reminded the shop, it’s an awesome start but we’ve got to finish it that way. …It’s extremely hard to ride a wave of momentum like this all year.”
Hard, but not impossible. Harvick absolutely believes his No. 4 Ford is the car to beat for the 2018 title and he’s certainly shown that to be the case this year. It’s fast, the crew – led by crew chief Rodney Childers – is top-notch and the whole SHR organization is establishing itself as the class of the field.
Add in Clint Bowyer’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway two weeks ago and SHR has won four of the opening seven races. All four of the team’s drivers – including new addition Aric Almirola and former Cup champ Kurt Busch are ranked among the top-11 in points coming into Sunday’s race.
“We have, in my opinion, the most stable team in the garage,’’ Harvick said. “When you have the most stable team in the garage from a financial standpoint and manufacturer standpoint, that attracts good people.
“In the end, it is all about good people. We have a very committed manufacturer and owner group and we are the drivers lucky enough to be in a position of where Stewart-Haas racing is right now. We have a very solid foundation which is something to hang your hat on.”
And should Harvick win on Sunday, he’ll have a new [Texas Motor Speedway winner’s] hat to do so.