Kevin Harvick never panicked during his recent 65-race winless streak.
Since breaking his second-longest dry spell with consecutive NASCAR Cup Series victories at Michigan and Richmond, respectively, Harvick has emphasized a steady, unwavering focus that helped neutralize the lows and highs over the past 23 months. Before Aug. 14, Harvick last visited Victory Lane in September 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The unfaltering mindset wasn’t something naturally engrained in Harvick. Instead, it grew from lessons learned the last time he went through a long skid — a career-worst span of 115 races between February 2007 and April 2010 when he went winless at Richard Childress Racing.
The key takeaway?
“Handle absolutely everything completely different than you handled that one,” Harvick told NASCAR.com on Tuesday.
Harvick doesn’t have fond memories of that stretch, highlighted by the fact he never won a race during the Car of Tomorrow era, when a wing was featured on the rear decklid. Twelve years removed from that dreadful drought, Harvick takes accountability for the lengthy vacation from Victory Lane.
“At that particular time, I was more part of the problem than I was part of the solution,” he said. “So … as you look at this particular (65-race) winless streak and you look at the way that things were handled and how we communicated with each other, you handled it like … I tell people you handle it like an adult. And it was much more productive. And I think as you go through the streak this time and get out of it, you know, it’s like, OK, it’s all the same people. It’s people that you work through a problem to create a solution with, and people that I’ve had a relationship for a long time.
“I would look at the previous (winless) streak at RCR (as) a lot longer than it probably needed to be because of the fact that you weren’t the leader and you weren’t the responsible adult in the room, trying to try to help progress it forward and do the things that you needed to do to fix the cars.”
That experience seemingly changed his entire perspective. Now in his ninth season at Stewart-Haas Racing, the 2014 Cup champion finds connecting with his team is the most imperative facet of his job today.
“I think I worry less about what I want to accomplish and just trying to accomplish what I know I need to accomplish,” Harvick said, “and that is being engaged with my team on a week-to-week basis to get the most out of our cars and vehicles and the responsibility that comes with being prepared and being a part of that process on a week-to-week basis.
“You want to do everything that you can to try to take as much as you can every single week that you’re at the race track, because at some point there won’t be a next week. It’ll be what you used to do, and you want to give it your all while you can.”
Twenty-four races through the 2022 schedule, Harvick is still accomplishing plenty. He holds the hot hand entering the penultimate race of the regular season at Watkins Glen International on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and sits tied for ninth all-time in career victories, claiming his 60th checkered flag at Richmond. The man with whom he’s tied is Kyle Busch, the series’ only active multi-title winner.
Harvick became the first driver to score back-to-back wins in the Next Gen era over the past two weeks. To net the hat trick with a third straight victory — which would be the first three-peat since Kyle Larson accomplished the feat in October 2021 (Roval, Texas, Kansas) — Harvick will need to win at the 2.45-mile road course on Sunday, something he hasn’t done since 2006.
“We’ve done a fair amount better on the road courses this year than we did previously,” said Harvick, who rallied to finish fourth at Sonoma Raceway in June but is showing even better speed now. “So Watkins Glen is a place that I’ve been fortunate to win at and have some success at, so it’s a traditional course that we always run so I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. And you know, we just have to have to get in a good rhythm and try to be prepared from the simulator to the race track for that short practice that we have and go straight into qualifying and see where it all goes from there.”
Only three weeks separate the series from the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, set to begin at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 4. Harvick is determined to earn his second career championship — but he admits he’s not worried about adding stats to his legacy. His goal is simply to execute his tasks at the highest level possible.
“That’s definitely what we’re trying to accomplish, is trying to put ourselves in position to race for another championship,” said Harvick, 46. “And whether it works out or not, I’m not sure that it changes the long-term outlook or not. But I’m sure when I get older, you probably tell yourself that I wish I would have done this a little better or this a little differently, and what year that is I don’t know. But I know right now the goal is to try to accomplish that (championship) as we get towards the end of this year.”