Kevin Harvick does not lack confidence. It’s easy to see why.
Harvick has won half of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races early on this season, and returns to Texas Motor Speedway having snapped a career-long winless drought at the track last fall.
So, as he’s known to do, Harvick provided an unfiltered take on all things NASCAR going into Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at TMS in helping to unveil the track's new "Busch Restart Bar."
Harvick declared his No. 4 Ford team as the best on 1.5-mile tracks, better than even reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr.
“We’re better than Truex,” Harvick said with a straight face.
This statement came hours before Harvick qualified second for Sunday's race.
Harvick, the 2014 series champion who has 40 career wins, reiterated his stance that it’s a veteran-driven sport right now. TMS, though, is trying to sell the young drivers as this weekend’s marketing ploy.
A large banner hangs on the infield broadcasting center that boasts about the “New Kids on the Track,” an ode to the boy band “New Kids on the Block.” Among those youngsters featured are Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and William Byron.
A smaller banner next to it reminds people of Harvick’s recent tweet in which he pointed out the average age of drivers visiting Victory Lane this season: 38.5.
“The ‘New Kids on the Track’ banner? It’s a cool promotion,” Harvick said. “I like the promotion if you like good marketing. But, if you like winners, you go for the old guys.”
As stated, the 42-year-old Harvick has won three of the six races. The other winners have been Clint Bowyer (38), Martin Truex Jr. (37) and Austin Dillon (27).
The seven “promising” drivers on the banner, meanwhile, have combined for four top-five runs between them this season. Blaney leads the way with two and Wallace and Elliott each have one.
The other four – Suarez, Jones, Bowman and Byron – have yet to crack the top-five.
“I love every one of those kids on the poster. I think they’re all great for our sport,” Harvick said. “I’m not taking personal digs at them. I’m trying to have as much fun with it and, as I told them, they should have fun with it too.”
Harvick believes the old guys vs. new guys debate only helps energize a fan base. As he put it, the father and son in the stands are from two generations and cheering for the two different sets of drivers.
“It makes it fun to have that banter back and forth,” Harvick said.
Harvick certainly understands the importance of having those debates and conversations throughout the racing world. He’s been vocal about giving more attention to grassroots racing and would like to see NASCAR change up its schedule to try and increase interest.
But he is happy one storyline was put to rest last fall when he won for the first time in his 30th start at Texas. Harvick no longer holds the dubious label of “best driver to never win at Texas.”
He joked about the biggest benefit being that TMS president Eddie Gossage can’t remind him anymore.
“He was the monkey and he was getting heavy,” Harvick said, chuckling. “It’s a really big market for us, personally as a race team. Just for the fact that you have Mobil 1 and Busch who spend so much time and money promoting this particular market and bringing a bunch of people to the race track and not to get to Victory Lane was a little bit … almost embarrassing.
“So to be able to check that off the list and have Mobil 1 on the car, that was a really big deal.”
Now, Harvick is eyeing his second win at Texas and is looking to prolong his early-season run of success.
The comments he made about being better than Truex and about the veterans caught the attention of those on hand for the ‘Busch Restart Bar’ ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I heard that. He didn’t smile when he said that, either,” Gossage said. “I guess if you go into a race, you better think you’re better than the other guy. But his record this year has proven it, so I guess we’ll find out more Sunday.”
For now, it’s hard to find anything wrong with what Harvick is doing on the track or saying off it. Just ask his team owner, Tony Stewart, of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Stewart believes Harvick is one of the must-see drivers today in a sport where so many household names (Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick) have left in recent years.
“Kevin’s got the personality that the people that are a little bit edgy love, for obvious reasons,” Stewart said. “He’s a guy who is up front. He wins races. He’s great with sponsors, great with fans, great with media. I think he’s one of those marquee guys up there.”