Kevin Harvick on his hot start: ‘Now it feels like a game’
After dominating victories earlier this season, Kevin Harvick rallied to win, deflating his competition Saturday night at Kansas Speedway and serving notice that his team seeks more wins.
Sixth on a restart with nine laps to go, Harvick charged to pass Martin Truex Jr. before they took the white flag and pulled away for the victory.
“Now it feels like a game,” Harvick said after his 42nd career Cup victory. “It really does, because of the fact that you want to see how many races you can win. You want to see how many laps you can lead.
“We know that we’re riding a momentum wave that is hard to come by, and you need to capitalize on it as many times as you can because it may never come again. I’ve never had it in my career, and I’ve been doing this for 18 years.’’
Harvick has been a regular to Victory Lane this season, winning five of the first 12 races. The last driver to do that was Jeff Gordon in 1997.
Harvick’s five wins are the most in a season since he had as many victories in 2014 — when he won the championship. He’s never won more than five races in a season.
“I think when you look at a night like tonight, it really shows the experience of the team because I feel like this is the kind of cars that we had in 2014 but we had a lot of parts failures,’’ Harvick said. “We were all new. We made a lot of mistakes and just didn’t really know how to deal with it like we do now, and it’s ‑‑ but yeah, it’s addicting. Now it’s a game.’’
Except to the rest of the field, which saw him win three in a row earlier this year and now two consecutive races.
Even more difficult for teams is how much Harvick said his team struggled this weekend.
“The coolest thing that came out of the weekend is just the grit of the race team,’’ Harvick said. “You look at everything that we battled through in practice and not really getting all the laps that we would like to in practice and struggling to get the car where we wanted it to be in the race, but we just kept grinding on it.’’
The result was a pole Friday and the victory — one that seemed as if it wouldn’t happen.
Harvick had pitted with some of the leaders with less than 20 laps left. He worked his way to sixth and just missed being collected in a seven-car crash that brought out the red flag 13 laps from the finish.
On the final restart, Truex pulled away and led by nearly one second before Harvick, with fresher tires, closed.
“Tried all I could to hold off Kevin,’’ Truex said after the race. “He got through traffic too quick and he was too fast. I thought with five to go, we were going to be in good shape. We were running some really fast lap times and actually pulling away, and then actually the switch flipped and I got tight and started shaking the right front tire, and I knew I was in trouble. He started coming quick after that.
“They’ve got a great balanced race car and they’re doing all the right things. I feel like we’re just a step behind that. But we’ll keep digging hard and fighting, and we’ve got a good bunch, too, and we’ll figure some things out.’’
But until they do — or anyone else does — Harvick’s victory total could grow significantly.
“I love days like today because the message that it sends is we aren’t going to quit, we didn’t quit, and we won,’’ Harvick said. “That sends the message, the guys on the team, the guys in the shop, and it sent a message to our competitors.’’