Kevin Harvick on switching pit crews to start the Chase: ‘You have to do what you think is right and go forward’


CHICAGO – In baseball, if a team falters, it’s typically the manager that gets fired.

But in NASCAR, if a pit crew falters, you can’t fire the driver.

That’s the situation Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were in all season. While things got better during the second part of the 26-race regular season, there were still too many mistakes by the boots on the ground servicing Harvick’s race car.

As a result, SHR took the unusual step earlier this week of switching Harvick’s pit crew with the more experienced group of team co-owner Tony Stewart.

While surprising in its timing – right before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup – the move became one of necessity if Harvick was going to be a serious contender for the championship.

“Everybody talked about it and just felt like this was the right thing to do for now with the opportunity we have and give those guys a little time to still hopefully get Tony to victory lane (this season) and be competitive and be in the same environment and do all the same things,” Harvick said during Thursday’s Chase Media Day in downtown Chicago.

“It’s definitely a hard decision, but sometimes you have to make those hard decisions. … You have to look at both sides of it and understand where we are and what we have to do. It’s a tough decision for everybody to make, and you just have to do what you think is right and go forward.”

Will the change in pit crews make a significant difference for Harvick’s title hopes? There’s certainly precedence: Chad Knaus switched up Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew with that of Jeff Gordon’s with just two races remaining in the 2010 season.

Even though Johnson’s crew had taken him to four straight championships at that point, Knaus felt that a fifth one was not in the offing unless drastic measures were taken.

The move paid off with big dividends as two races later, Johnson won his fifth straight Cup crown. It’s questionable whether he would have done so without the pit crew swap.

While Harvick admits his pit crew was fast, it still needed more work on consistency and maturity, elements that could not be risked in the upcoming 10 races of the Chase.

“The biggest thing is, as a group, my guys have done a good job on speed and probably just lacked a little consistency,” Harvick said. “Another 10 weeks and the off-season to get everything fluid as possible heading into next year is probably (best). … It’s kind of the fortunate/unfortunate position we’re in.

“When you look at the 14 group (Stewart’s team), they’ve been together for a really long time, and raced for and won a championship as a group. We just have the access to that experience and to give our guys a little bit of time to mesh and to get that consistency. They’ve got the speed, it’s just getting that consistency that they need to get started for next year.”

Harvick is not throwing anyone under the bus by any stretch. He even went somewhat to an extreme to compliment what is now his former pit crew – but which will be back with him come the start of the 2015 season.

“They do perform well,” Harvick said. “They just have to work on the consistency, and a lot of that just comes with time.

“… My guys are going to do great. They just need time to go through all the situations that all these pit crews that have been together for a long time and have seen those pit hoses get stepped on, tires get hung and lug nuts fall off. It just takes time, and the team they are now isn’t the team they’re going to be when the green flag drops in February at Daytona.”

On another front, while the 16 drivers in this year’s Chase have mixed opinions on whether a champion can emerge without winning a race in the 10-event playoff, Harvick agreed with Jeff Gordon in the belief someone could win it all and not win a race in the Chase.

“I think you could go through the whole format and not win a race and win the championship,” Harvick said. “There’s so many different ways this whole thing can shake out.

“…The way this deal is set up is you can see one of the favorites get knocked out in the first two rounds and then they go back in stride after that because they have nothing to lose. … I think there’s a balance that, for us, that we’ve tried to focus on. It’s not something that you want to switch the flip on and off in how you call a race or run a race.”

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Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

How to Watch Seattle Supercross
Dylan Ferrandis may return before SX finale
SMX develops “Leader Lights”
Power Rankings after Detroit
Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan
Results and points after Detroit
Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points