Grading 2014′s New Driver/ Team Pairings- Part 1

12 years ago Richard Childress selected Bakersfield, California native Kevin Harvick to assume the driving duties of the famous #3 Chevrolet following the untimely death of perhaps NASCAR’s most polarizing figure Dale Earnhardt Sr.

At age 25 Harvick would face the daunting task of winning over the large population of diehard Earnhardt supporters. Initially some fans were disappointed with Richard Childress’s driver choice. Notwithstanding his achievements on the NNS tour Kevin Harvick was still considered a virtual unknown to casual NASCAR followers. Skeptics pondered how this young driver would respond to the great responsibility bestowed upon him, in the week leading up to race number two of the 2001 NSCS season. On Monday February 26th 2001 Kevin Harvick’s journey toward achieving stardom at the NASCAR Winston cup level would begin. Harvick’s cup debut would end in a respectable 14th place finish. Two weeks later Harvick would set the racing world on fire. In the closing laps of the spring race at Atlanta, Harvick battled then 3 time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon to a final lap photo finish. In only his 3rd career NSCS start Harvick would claim victory for a Richard Childress Racing team still mourning the loss of their former team leader.

Kevin Harvick’s dramatic first career victory forever cemented his place in the NASCAR history books. Now 22 wins and 13 season’s later Kevin Harvick is set to depart from the only place he’s ever called home on the NSCS tour Richard Childress Racing.

Last November rumour’s circulated around the garage area regarding Kevin Harvick’s future with RCR beyond the 2013 season. Reports out of Phoenix International Speedway were to the effect of Harvick joining Stewart Haas Racing in 2014. Although neither Harvick nor team owner Tony Stewart would acknowledge these rumours, they were widely believed to be factual.

Team owner Richard Childress would officially confirm in January 2013 that indeed Kevin Harvick would be leaving his organization for Stewart Haas Racing in 2014. Also joining Harvick for the next chapter of his career are current RCR sponsors Budweiser, Jimmy John’s, & Hunt Brothers Pizza. Nine year veteran crew chief Rodney Childers departed MWR earlier this season to oversee Harvick’s 2014 campaign with SHR. Childers thrived at MWR earning 3 victories and the organization’s first with David Reutimann in 2009.

Since 2010 Kevin Harvick has scored 11 NSCS victories, finishing 3rd in the overall standings 3 of the last 4 years. Obviously Harvick presents SHR with a legitimate chance to claim the organizations second championship. In order for this dream to become a reality solely depends on how quickly Harvick develops chemistry with new crew chief Rodney Childers. Harvick’s also likely to take on the role of team leader, a position he’s not unfamiliar with from his days at Richard Childress Racing. The fact that Harvick’s sponsors are willing to make the move with him from RCR to SHR says a great deal about Harvick as a brand ambassador, and Stewart Haas Racing’s credibility.

Realistic goals for this team include making the chase and winning multiple races both something Harvick has done with regularity throughout his NSCS career.

Overall grade B+

 

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

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