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Talk of Harvick's future distracts from Phoenix win

November 12, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Even after snapping his 44-race Sprint Cup winless streak on Sunday, Kevin Harvick knew the media wasn't particularly interested in how he'd rallied from a 19th-place starting position or weathered a 15-minute red-flag delay before the final restart.

The focus was on 2014 and Harvick's apparent deal to jump from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing.

"Regardless of what happens in 2014, we have the end of this year, and we've got all of next year," said Harvick, all but confirming the rumor first reported by ESPN on Friday. "We want to win races and we want to be competitive, and that is what we're here to do.

"Regardless of what happens on the business side of things, Richard Childress and myself will always be friends. We may agree to disagree, but we still have a lot of racing left to do, and we owe it to our sponsors and our company to go out and do exactly what we did [Sunday]."

That was to lead the final 15 laps of the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Childress, the owner who gave Harvick his Cup ride in 2001 after the death of Dale Earnhardt, remained mum about 2014 but seemed to indicate the split was imminent.

"Kevin said it all," Childress said. "We're going to go to Homestead to try to win. We look to everybody in '13 to go win a championship and whatever happens, happens. It's a business decision. This is a business sport."

Harvick has had his share of success with RCR, winning five races on his way to finishing fourth in the 2006 standings and winning four times last season, when he matched his best Chase performance with a third-place showing. He secured Nationwide Series titles in 2001 and 2006.

But 2012 has been a different story.

"It has been a struggle for the year," Harvick said. "[And] it has been an interesting weekend to say the least. But I know that these guys all want to win. I know Richard wants to win, regardless of what happens in 2014."

Harvick said the swirl of rumors regarding his future had little to do with his ability to drive his race.

"There can be distractions, whatever can be happening around the race track, off the track," he said. "But when you get in that garage, everybody is doing their jobs. I get in the car, [Childress] is up on [top of] the trailer. I mean, we're all just racers in the end. We want to race cars, and it comes with a lot of media. It comes with a lot of things outside of the race track.

"When we actually get into our element, we all do our jobs, regardless. We don't want to go out and embarrass ourselves and not run good. We want to be exactly where we are -- right here, talking to [the media] and in Victory Lane -- doing all the things that make us happy."

Harvick, 36, admitted 2012 has been a frustrating season. He has only four top-five finishes and had run no better than ninth in any Chase race before Sunday.

His chances of winning for the first time since Sept. 10, 2011, at Richmond appeared slim the way Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin had dominated, combining to lead 283 of the first 304 laps.

"[Crew chief] Gil [Martin] did a great job of keeping up in the track position game and made our car better all day," Harvick said. "The further we got towards the front, the better the car handled.

"At the end, we had a couple of restarts. Kyle chose the bottom, and we were able to drive around the top side of him, then get control of the race, really."

* Video: Final Laps | Victory Lane | Press Pass

If Harvick knew anything, it was that nothing would come easily for him. With the white flag already in sight, he was unable to get to the start-finish line quickly enough to prevent a caution from sending the race into overtime. The Jeff Gordon-Clint Bowyer incident also necessitated a red-flag stoppage of nearly 15 minutes.

"Obviously, we didn't want to see the red flag," Harvick said. "Best I've heard it, we were about five feet [from taking the white flag]. I saw the caution light come on, and I saw the flag before we had gotten to the start-finish line. At that point, you think, 'Man, it's 2012. What's going to go wrong? Where are we going to run out of gas?'

"Once I got those thoughts out of my head, I just wanted to get a good restart and be able to get into Turn 1 and not have any mistakes. I knew if we could get through there without any mistakes that we could at least have a fighting chance of taking control of the bottom off the race track in Turns 3 and 4."

Childress credited Harvick's team for not packing it in, this week or this season.

"You know, everybody has worked hard all year long," he said. "There's no question we got a little behind on some of this skew and all this stuff that [other teams] were doing. It put us behind, and we didn't get the year we wanted. But to come out with a win, it was big, and I couldn't be prouder of this whole team."

Martin and Harvick paid special tribute to teammate Paul Menard and his crew, who came away with a ninth-place finish despite a car seriously damaged during the green-white-checkered finish.

"This victory is a big team deal, [working with] Paul and [crew chief] Slugger [Labbe]," Martin said. "We've started working together so hard in the last month."

Harvick noted that it paid off in a big way at Phoenix.

"Halfway through practice, we decided to stop and put in everything out of the 27 car," he said. "That's really the way it's supposed to work. We put in and adjusted it to my driving style. That was great to see."

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