2016 Season in Review: Kevin Harvick
CREW CHIEF: Rodney Childers
TEAM: Stewart-Haas Racing
LAPS LED: 1,384 – third-most in his career, but far below 2015 (2,294 laps) and 2014 (2,137 laps)
TOP 5s: 17 (second-best of career after 23 in 2015)
TOP 10s: 27 (second-best of career after 28 in 2015)
POLES: 2 (Charlotte II and Homestead)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Harvick had another stellar year. In his three seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing, he’s amassed 12 wins, one championship and one runner-up finish in the Chase (also finished eighth in 2016). … Even though Tony Stewart was the co-owner of the team, there’s no question that Harvick continued as the star of the four-driver team (Harvick, Stewart, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick) for the third consecutive season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Harvick missed the final round of the Chase for the first time since the new format was introduced in 2014. His eighth-place finish was his lowest showing since finishing eighth in 2012 while with Richard Childress Racing. … Costly errors on pit road hampered Harvick at times, contributing to why he wasn’t able to reach the final round. … The costliest episode for Harvick in the Chase was at Martinsville. He came into that race tied for the lead in the points after the second round finale at Talladega, but finished 20th at Martinsville, dropping him to sixth in the standings. Even though he finished sixth at Texas and fourth at Phoenix, it wasn’t enough to get him over the hump and he missed qualifying for the Championship 4 finale at Homestead (ironically, he won the pole there and finished third).
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: Honestly, we don’t know what to expect in 2017, as Stewart-Haas Racing switches from Chevrolet power to Ford engines. Harvick has only driven a Chevy since he came to the Sprint Cup Series in 2001. The team will go it alone in developing the motors and bodies instead of linking with other Ford teams such as Team Penske or Roush Fenway Racing. SHR will also start an Xfinity Series team. When teams switch manufacturers, there’s oftentimes a deep learning curve. While SHR has some of the best minds in the sport, don’t be surprised if Harvick, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick and newcomer Clint Bowyer (replaces the retired Tony Stewart) all get off to slow starts.