Kevin Harvick prefers work horse to lame duck.
Saturday night, he showed why.
Entering the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season knowing it’s his last at Richard Childress Racing, there were many who discounted the chances for Harvick and his No. 29 Chevrolet team to be serious title contenders in a “lame duck” year.
A dramatic last-lap filled with multiple blocking maneuvers produced a victory for Harvick in the Sprint Unlimited non-points race at Daytona International Speedway – his third win in the event in the past five years.
Many things have changed this season for Harvick, but not his resolve.
“Everybody is just working towards the same goal. That’s winning the races. We have to be professional anyway, whether it’s lame duck or not,” Harvick said. “You can call it whatever you want, we’re going to have a heck of a lot of fun racing, having a good time, doing our jobs.
“We have a responsibility to the people that are spending millions of dollars on the side of that car to do it as best we can.”
Harvick’s crew chief, Gil Martin – who returned last season to work with Harvick after losing his position at the end of 2011 – was even more adamant.
“This is too hard to be miserable. It’s too hard of work not to come out and try to win. That’s not in our team’s nature to try not to win,” Martin said.
“Anybody that thinks just because of what the situation is that anybody’s going to lay down, they’re sadly mistaken because we’re going to try to win this championship.”
Harvick got an unexpected assist in Saturday’s win when a nine-car wreck early in the first 30-lap segment sent several contenders – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch among them – to the garage.
Harvick won the second segment and stayed in control most of the third until the very end when Greg Biffle, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart started to make moves trying to find a way around Harvick.
Harvick did a masterful job driving from his rear-view mirror finally holding off Biffle with a block to secure the win.
Logano finished third, Stewart fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.
The race was the first for the 2013 model Cup cars that feature much greater manufacturer identity.
Although not a lot can be learned about Sunday’s Daytona 500 because of the low number of cars running at the finish (12), Harvick said it’s clear pack-racing will dominate the day.
“You’ll see some cars break away . You’re going to have a lot more advancing of positions when you get so many cars out there,” he said after the race. “Tonight you’d have eight cars up top, four on the bottom. Eight cars is always going to win over four.
“It’s a difficult situation with fewer race cars. But they were always in a pack, even though (Saturday night) they were somewhat in a pack.”
Childress said he believes Saturday night was just the beginning of a productive Speedweeks for his organization, which put just one of three teams in the Chase last season.
“We’ve got a lot more to do,” he said. “This is just the start of a long, long 10 days here. We’re going to be after it the rest of the week.”
|8||16||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevy||75||$46,525|
|9||6||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||75||$44,525|
|10||14||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevy||75||$43,025|
AVERAGE SPEED: 177.538 mph. TIME OF RACE: 1 hour, 3 minutes, 22 seconds. MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.149 seconds. CAUTION FLAGS: Three for four laps. LEAD CHANGES: Nine among five drivers. LAP LEADERS: G. Biffle 1-2; M. Truex Jr. 3-4; M. Kenseth 5-29; T. Stewart 30-33; K. Harvick 34-42; T. Stewart 43; K. Harvick 44-61; M. Kenseth 62; K. Harvick 63-75.
REASON OUT: 1-accident, 2-vibration