MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—The way the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season unfolded, Kevin Harvick wasn’t sure he’d be seeded among the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In the first 10 races, Harvick earned four top-fives and seven top 10s—but couldn’t finish better than fourth. The Rodney Childers-led team had no choice other than to dig deep and get to work.
Even following Harvick’s first of four wins—20 races into the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway—there was still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
“Oh, yeah, a lot of doubts,” Harvick said. “I think as we started the season--the results weren't bad--we had mediocre results, I think for what we expect as the No. 4 team. So, it's been a grind and a battle week‑in and week‑out as to what do we need, what do we need to do differently because the thought process is just so much different than what we have ever done before. I think, as an organization, we have had to struggle through that, and it's been a grind.
“So I would be lying to you if I told you it wasn't taxing on everybody in the amount of work that has been put in to get to this point. But that's the good part about working at Stewart‑Haas is you have a group of racers, and that's what they want to do. They want to be competitive, and they're not satisfied with finishing 4th like we did, I think five or so races in the first seven or eight.”
Harvick had fast cars. He won three poles in the first 12 races. But early on, his Mustangs weren’t in the same ballpark as the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas or even the Team Penske Fords.
“So we want to, we have to, you have to be able to lead laps,” Harvick said. “You have to be able to lead laps and you have to get top-fives in order to have a chance at winning races. And we just, we just weren't at that point in the first half of the year, and I feel like we have still been sporadic in the style of racetrack that we can lead laps on.
“I think Phoenix is, obviously, you know, those types of racetracks have been our toughest for us in order to navigate and get what we think we need out of those particular weekends, but we have done a good job at being able to get our speed back on the mile‑and‑a‑halves.”
And speed on the 1.5-mile tracks bodes well for Harvick’s chances at Homestead-Miami Speedway. At Texas Motor Speedway, the most recent intermediate track on the schedule, Harvick won the pole and led 119 laps en route to his fourth win this year.
“It's a little bit of a guess, just because we all know that Homestead's so much different than a lot of the racetracks that we go to,” Harvick said. “Our guys have done a great job in preparation, regardless of how it goes, and having scenarios and situations and adjustability and all those types of things prepared for the weekend, as to what happens after you unload in the first practice and see where the racetrack is and where you are with your car.
“So it's been a great second half of the year, I think our team has really proven to not only everybody else but ourselves just how much, how good we are as a group and how much we have had to work this year to get to where we are. And it's been very rewarding to sit here and be able to look at each other and have celebrated in Victory Lane and have a chance to race for a championship is something that I'm really proud of the team. And I know that they're obviously excited that everything ended the way that it is currently.”