2014 Sprint Cup championship preview: Kevin Harvick

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Driver: Kevin Harvick
Age: 38 (will be 39 Dec. 10)
Full-time seasons in Sprint Cup: 14
Career starts: 501
Career wins: 27
Career top-5 finishes: 113
Career top-10 finishes: 228
Pole positions: 14

* 2014 record to date: 35 starts, four wins, 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. Eight poles. Laps led: 2,083. Average start per race: 9.2. Average finish per race: 13.3. Lead lap finishes: 26.

* Highest single-season finish to date: Third, 2010, 2011, 2013

* Season finishes to date: 2001 (ninth), 2002 (21st), 2003 (fifth), 2004 (14th), 2005 (14th), 2006 (fourth), 2007 (10th), 2008 (fourth), 2009 (19th), 2010 (third), 2011 (third), 2012 (eighth), 2013 (third).

* Homestead Record: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2003 and 2008. Average start: 14.0. Average finish: 8.1.

* Year-by-year finishes at Homestead: 2001 (seventh), 2002 (20th), 2003 (second), 2004 (10th), 2005 (eighth), 2006 (fifth), 2007 (19th), 2008 (second), 2009 (third), 2010 (third), 2011 (eighth), 2012 (eighth), 2013 (10th).

Will “Freaky Fast” finally earn his long-awaited first career Sprint Cup title?

Kevin Harvick has waited nearly 14 seasons to be in the position he is today. He’s long been considered a championship contender, but has never been able to seal the deal.

Will he finally be able to do so Sunday in the Sprint Cup championship-deciding season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

From an experience standpoint, Harvick has the most of the four title contenders. But in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick and his team had some definite and noticeable growing pains, particularly on pit road.

It was for that reason that Harvick and SHR switched pit crews with teammate and team co-owner Tony Stewart just before the start of the Chase, an unusual move of timing. And while there have been a few bobbles along the way, there is no question that Stewart’s crew has helped get Harvick to where he is now.

“The progress that we’ve made this year is really something that I think we’re all proud of,” Harvick said, “just for the fact that we were able to knock off a win early, we were able to overcome so many problems, we’ve won a race in the Chase now, we’ve gotten this far in the championship race and we’ve done really well as a group.

“We’ve built a race team from scratch, really from not one nut or bolt in a trailer and not one race car. Everyone has done a great job and everyone at SHR has given us the financial ability and all of the tools that we needed to go about building a race team how we wanted to. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Harvick came close to winning the Sprint Cup championship several times during his 13-year tenure at Richard Childress Racing. Even though he threatened to leave the team at least twice along the way, he always returned.

But after the 2012 season, Harvick decided it was time for a change, that perhaps he had run his course at RCR. So he announced 2013 would be his last season, and that he would be headed to SHR for 2014.

In an interesting twist of irony, the man who Harvick replaced at SHR, as well as who essentially replaced him at RCR, is one and the same, and also finds himself in the final four Chase contenders: Ryan Newman.

Still, Harvick feels he made the right move by going to SHR and now he stands just 400 miles away from that long-awaited championship trophy and ring.

I think for me and my confidence, when I climb into the car every week, I know that thing is going to be fast, and if it’s not, I know we can figure out what we need to do to make it better,” Harvick said. “I’m just really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing and particularly my team for everything that we’ve built this year and been a part of.”

Harvick’s overall record at Homestead is quite respectable, especially the fact that in his 13 starts there, 11 have ended up in top-10 finishes.

While a top-five may potentially win it for him (and he has five of those, as well, at HMS), a win is the only thing Harvick has on his mind for Sunday’s race.

That way, he won’t have to worry about counting points. As the saying goes, “May the best man win.”

And Harvick believes he indeed will be the best man Sunday.

“This is all about winning a championship,” Harvick said. “That’s what we all show up for. We all want to be competitive on a weekly basis, but at the end of the year, you want that championship trophy.

“I think I’ve been fortunate to have won all of the marquee races and won at different race tracks, Nationwide championships, Truck championships as an owner, so we’ve been able to achieve a lot of things.

“That Cup trophy is the one thing that’s eluded us up until to this point. I definitely want to check that off of the list and be able to experience that for not only myself, but for all the guys that work on my car and haven’t been able to win that championship either. It’s been fun and hopefully we can reach that goal if not this year, at some point.

“We’re going to approach it as having a good time, having fun and really try to keep it as low key as possible, just for the fact that this is what we all signed up to do — to race for a championship and to go to Homestead and just have a chance,” Harvick said. “So, let’s go down there and go for it and see where it all winds up.”

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