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Harvick's good luck charm an unconventional one

February 23, 2013, Zack Albert,

Harvick's baby has sat in the driver's seat of the No. 29 before each of his Daytona wins

Kevin Harvick has lived somewhat of a charmed life in this year's Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway -- nary a scratch on his race cars and convincing victories in both top-tier preliminaries. Maybe a good luck charm has something to do with it.

Harvick and his wife, DeLana, cooed after placing their bundle of joy, 7-month-old Keelan, in the driver's seat of his car before last Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited exhibition. If the youngest Harvick goes on to achieve NASCAR stardom, what happened next may go down in racing lore -- he sat upright and reached for the wheel.

Sure, babies reach for everything -- pacifiers, toys, adult fingers -- but let's not let that get in the way of what might become racing mythology. What remains a matter of fact is that Kevin Harvick promptly won the Unlimited. Five days later, the same ritual played out: Keelan in the car for pre-race ceremonies and another win for his dad, this time in the Budweiser Duel qualifying races.

Will baby make three in another way come Sunday's main event, the Daytona 500?

"It's added a great balance to my life. I think it's made me better."

--Kevin Harvick, on being a father

"They told us to start saving a radiator full of drool if that's all it took," Harvick said with a grin, "so we'll work on that."

Harvick assumes the role of a pre-race favorite for the Great American Race (1 p.m. ET, FOX) at Daytona International Speedway, where the season-opening event will also mark the official debut of NASCAR's Gen-6 Sprint Cup car, a model that Harvick seems to have a handle on in the early going.

Harvick brought Richard Childress Racing a Daytona 500 victory in 2007, edging Mark Martin in a classic finish. This time around, a Harvick win might seem like a going-away present to Childress as both parties have acknowledged there will be a parting of ways after this season.

In Sunday's 500, Harvick intends to take the "lame" part out of the "lame duck" label.

"We both agreed to put all the effort in," Harvick said. "From an RCR standpoint, they're putting all the effort they can into it. I'm going to put all I can into it. (Crew chief) Gil (Martin) and these guys, they don't care, they just want to win races. They're going to work on the car whether it's a guy that's going to be here for tomorrow or for 20 years, their job is the same. A lot of responsibility to be professionals and do our jobs, and we have a lot of pride, too. Pride is key in this whole situation as to how we perform."

Even though the window may be closing on the driver-owner pairing, both Harvick and Childress have had plenty to be proud of this week at Daytona, drawing the focus of their rivals in the 43-car field. Jeff Gordon, a three-time 500 winner, suggested that the lack of uncertainty over 2014 plans may actually bode well for the swan song to the Harvick-RCR partnership, which dates back to 1999.

"He seems to me to be a guy who, no matter what he's driving, he's going out there to win," said Gordon, who will start second alongside pole winner Danica Patrick on Sunday. "I think there's probably some relief in some ways that he's made this announcement and that he can just go about his business. But when things are good, everything's going to be good. When things are challenging and difficult, that's when we're really going to see what kind of connection they have and what kind of team they are.

"But Harvick's a professional, and he's going to be professional about it, and so is RCR. And they've got a car and a team that can win the Daytona 500. So they're trying to win it. I wouldn't expect anything different."

For all the importance Harvick has placed on being a consummate pro in his career path, being a father comes first and winner's spoils come a distant second. After prevailing in Thursday's first qualifying race, Harvick was left stranded outside his motorhome, still wearing his firesuit. His wife had left a sign on the door to indicate that Keelan was sleeping, a request that Harvick certainly didn't want to disregard.

As good as Harvick has been before, the family man incarnation of the 35-year-old driver might be even more tuned in.

"It's added a new balance to my life where I can still come to the racetrack and I feel like I'm more relaxed and more focused, which is good for me," Harvick said. "I don't get as wound up on things when they happen, whether it's in the car, outside the car. When you've had a bad day, you're frustrated, you're right to the point where you can say something stupid, you go back to the motorhome, you see that smiling face, it lets you get your mind off of things.

"It's added a great balance to my life. I think it's made me better."

Having life balance matters, but the good luck aspect of the new addition to the Harvick family is hard to ignore. The new generation of Sprint Cup race car has certainly made season-opening expectations harder to predict, but it's a safe bet that Keelan will enjoy a few minutes in the No. 29 Chevrolet before the green flag falls on the 55th running of the Daytona 500.

"We just got to keep a level head on our shoulders, not get too high over what we've done, just do the same things that we've done," Harvick said. "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I think we definitely have the car and team to be in contention to do that."


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