Harvick pleased with stretch of consistency
August 18, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Throughout the first half of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick's No. 4 team was defined by having some of the fastest cars every week -- and also some of the most inconsistent performances on pit road.
Whether it was a loose wheel that ruined his Coca-Cola 600 chances, a miscommunication on fuel at Sonoma or stops that dragged and dragged for a variety of reasons, Harvick's stretch of bad luck on the track was equaled only by his perils on pit road.
The recent month-long stretch since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned from its off week, though, has seen Harvick in the same super-fast cars -- but without the issues that had so plagued this team throughout the first 19 races.
The team's improvement was on display again Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400, where Harvick ran up front the entire day and logged his fifth second-place finish of the season. It was also his fourth consecutive runner-up at Michigan International Speedway, which ties a Sprint Cup Series record at a track (Dale Jarrett also did it at Rockingham in 1996 and 1997).
"For us, we've had some moments where we've been kind of sporadic, inconsistent, fast one week, fast the next week, make mistakes, have something go wrong," Harvick said in the media center. "The pit crew, they've done a good job in stepping up, and had a great month. Right now it's kind of like we get to start over. We've been able to fix a lot of things."
Fixing a lot of things isn't just about Harvick's pit crew, either. It also deals with the driver himself.
Throughout the hard times to start the season -- and times were indeed hard despite two wins in the first eight races -- Harvick had, on occasion, vociferously voiced his frustrations over the radio as crew chief Rodney Childers patiently played the role of the foil on those occasional outbursts.
The radio the past four weeks has been relatively quiet. Even when Harvick had to pit early at Watkins Glen for a crew member to remove two weighted bean bags that were inadvertently left in the car, he didn't blow up.
"I think I've tried to do a better job at handling situations," Harvick said. "I think we've all worked together a little bit longer, and going back to these tracks for a second time, know what we want in our cars. There's just a lot of things that are different as we came back from the break. We were able to have a lot of discussions, set some goals. It's hard to set goals when everything is brand new. … (So) it's been a little bit different for all of us to have fast cars every week and feel you're in contention to win just about every race.
"It took myself and Rodney a little while to get used to that, how to handle it, whether it be from tech inspection, the criticism, whatever it may be -- it's just been different. We just have a better handle on everything."
In the four events since the Sprint Cup Series returned to the track, Harvick has two runner-up finishes and four total top-10s. He's started every event inside the top 10 as well.
With three regular-season races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set, it's the type of measured consistency -- sprinkled with bursts of dominance -- that the No. 4 both needs and expects for NASCAR's 10-race postseason.
"The main focus for our team has been consistency heading into the Chase," Harvick said. "When you have a solid day, finish it off. Those are the things we've been able to do.
"Obviously you want to win, but all in all we had some different goals that are as important leading into the Chase. It's just about having all your ducks in a row when we get to Chicago (for the Chase opener). When something goes wrong, they're not going to let you start over."