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Kevin Harvick 2013 preview

January 16, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com

kevin-harvick

Harvick poised to leave Richard Childress Racing with a season to remember

With a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye, Kevin Harvick declared that he fully expects 2013 to be “the best year of my career.’’

With an impending, if not yet officially confirmed, move to Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2014 season, Harvick coyly told reporters during NASCAR Champions Week in Las Vegas that he’s convinced his final year with Richard Childress Racing has all the makings of a proper farewell.

Kevin Harvick

No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet

2012 rank

8th

Team

Richard Childress Racing

Crew chief

Gil Martin

Biggest change for 2013 is...

After being reunited with Kevin Harvick late in the 2012 season, Gil Martin gets a full year to lead his team and try to better their career-best third-place showing in the Sprint Cup championship.

Watch out for...

Tagged with the “lame duck” status, Harvick must convince his team and crew that he is still committed to 2013 and not already looking ahead to a new start elsewhere in 2014.

Will win the title if...

Harvick has the confidence that his team is behind him. Chevrolet certainly has the ability to accelerate the development of NASCAR’s Gen-6 car, and if Harvick can come out of the gate strong, it will go a long way toward setting the tone for a championship run.

2012 was...

Watch the video below for Kevin Harvick’s 2012 season in review.

“We will focus on 2013 and do what we need to do to make this race team as good as possible,’’ Harvick said, careful not to divulge any further details about his future plans. “A lot of effort has gone into the new car and for us, we’re racing as hard as we can and doing everything we can do to win races and championships.”

Harvick’s reunion with crew chief Gil Martin late in the 2012 season certainly points toward a resurgence after an inconsistent and often frustrating start to last year.

Harvick and Martin recorded consecutive third-place finishes in the 2010-11 Sprint Cup seasons, and had a shot at the championship in the final race of 2010. But they parted prior to 2012, when Harvick teamed with Shane Wilson, searching for what he hoped would be the difference-maker in a title run. It became clear to Harvick, in what he considers a hard-learned lesson, that the “grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said.

Yet issues weren’t limited to the crew chief’s position. Harvick joked that he didn’t have enough time to explain all the improvements that needed to be made for 2013. One key element is a full season under the guidance of Dr. Eric Warren as RCR’s competition director. Harvick had stressed the importance of filling that position and was eager to see the difference it could make company-wide.

“Richard and those guys are working hard on putting back structure and pieces in places and trying to get everything where it needs to be,’’ Harvick said. “It's a big machine.’’

 There was an almost immediate improvement once Harvick was reunited with Martin prior to the Chase, which bodes well for the upcoming campaign. Harvick recorded five top-10 finishes in the last 12 races, including his only victory of the year at Phoenix. He led as many laps (126) in those 12 races as he had in the previous 24. With Martin leading the team, Harvick finished worse than 12th only four times, and closed out the year with three consecutive top-10s.

NASCAR’s introduction of the new Generation-6 car this year could even the playing field considerably. Or it could give one manufacturer an advantage, depending on who figures it out the fastest. Either way, both Harvick and Childress are committed to ending their 13-year relationship on a good note.

"I'm looking forward to finishing out this season on a strong note with RCR, and continuing to build our program going into the 2013 season with the ultimate goal of winning a championship," Harvick said.

See the full schedule of our top 12 Sprint Cup Series drivers and read more below:

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11. Martin Truex Jr.

10. Jeff Gordon

9. Tony Stewart

8. Kevin Harvick

7. Matt Kenseth

6. Denny Hamlin

5. Greg Biffle

4. Kasey Kahne

3. Jimmie Johnson

2. Clint Bowyer

1. Brad Keselowski