Crew chief analysis: Harvick is 'freaky fast'
March 02, 2014, Brad Parrott, special for NASCAR.com, NASCAR.com
Editor's note: Brad Parrott, a 19-time winner in NASCAR national series competition, has joined NASCAR.com as a guest writer for the 2014 season. Here is his first-person fast analysis after Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix International Raceway:
Everybody saw the slogan on the back end of Harvick's car for 224 of the 312 laps Sunday at Phoenix. In winning in dominant style, Harvick and his team showed that the offseason move they made to Stewart-Haas Racing really paid off.
There are crew members on that team, for some of them that's probably their first Sprint Cup win as a team member. Some came over with crew chief Rodney Childers; some came from within. Either way, it's really exciting for that group to jell this early and win a Sprint Cup Series race.
Rodney Childers comes from an old-school background, and he's definitely a people person who's put the right personnel in place around Kevin. Harvick, I'd say, is probably one of the hardest drivers to work for because he's very demanding. He wants to lead every lap and be up front every race. Rodney Childers is just as hungry and should make a great fit.
At this level, it's hard to win anytime, but it's especially difficult to win this early on in the season. It just shows the commitment Stewart-Haas has to making his team competitive but also to winning.
No one could really touch Kevin Harvick today, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. coming off his Daytona 500 win last week really showed he's going to be a contender to the end. So far, we've had a 2.5-mile track and a mile track, and he ran great at both places. Steve Letarte, with this being his last year as a crew chief, has one goal and that's to get Dale Jr. his first of what may be many championships.
Behind him, the Penske cars qualifying 1-2 and finishing 3-4 really shows the improvement and work over the winter that those guys have put in. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano feed off each other and know how to make each other better over the season.
Keselowski was without his regular crew chief Paul Wolfe, but Greg Erwin did a great job on the pit box as a replacement. There wasn't anything that Paul Wolfe could've done differently than Greg did to beat either Harvick or Dale Jr. today. We know Paul is happy to become a father after the birth of Caden Paul Wolfe this weekend. I think Paul will also be really happy with the third-place finish that they gave him.
Thanks to how pit strategy shook out, a good run by Ryan Newman in seventh place in one of his first runs for Richard Childress Racing. I'm sure Luke Lambert is very happy with the results he got today. With Newman stepping into the shoes of being the most experienced driver that Childress has, I'm sure you'll see him at the top of their list. Ryan has something to prove after his exit from Stewart-Haas last year.
Surprisingly, Joe Gibbs Racing never really had a car that could get into the top five Sunday. Kyle Busch was the best of that group, and we saw occasional flashes from Matt Kenseth, but nothing Sunday that showed he was the second-place driver in the series last year. I'm sure they'll go home and do their homework on the flat tracks and come back very strong, but it just wasn't the weekend that they'd hoped for.
Looking ahead, the championship is going to be a battle every year. With the new format for qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. don't have to worry about wins any more. You don't have to wonder about if you're championship-caliber because they're already pretty much in. For their crew chiefs, now they can play with setups; for drivers, there's not nearly as much pressure there now.
Not only was Harvick's win freaky fast, it also was a play off the race name. Definitely a profit for Tony Stewart to hire Kevin Harvick. He's going to make a profit off it for sure.