There are a lot of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers who would love to trade places with Kevin Harvick.
Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Ford, sits third in points and has top-10 finishes in five of the six races this year heading into Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
While third in points is good, Harvick is also winless on the season. By the time Harvick came to TMS last spring he had already won three times on his way to an eight-win season. While no one on the Stewart-Haas Racing team in panicking, Harvick and his team aren’t accustomed to running like they have.
“The further you get down the garage the more you accept running that way,” said Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief. “We just haven’t accepted running that way. We’ve been at the top of the garage for five years and we expect to be fast right off the truck. We expect to be fast in practice and we expect to be able to win races. We just haven’t been quite there this year.”
Sunday’s race should be a good indicator of where Harvick really is on the season. Harvick is a two-time winner at TMS and comes into the racing with top-10 finishes in nine-straight races. Over his last four starts he’s bagged both of his Cup wins and has an average finish of 2.0.
Those finishes were before the new “aero package” debuted this year. Harvick and his team are still trying to figure things out, even at a track like TMS. He was 23rd fastest in practice Friday and was 23rd in qualifying and felt like his first day at TMS Friday was wasted.
“Absolutely nothing,” Harvick said when asked what he got out of Friday. “Zero. That’s the way every weekend goes now. That’s the way the rules are. You work on the race on Saturday and to the Russian Roulette on Friday.”
Jimmie Johnson won the pole for Sunday’s race with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron starting alongside him. It was the first pole for Johnson since 2016 at New Hampshire.
While Harvick won’t have the advantage of starting up front, he does know how to get around TMS better than most drivers.
“It will be interesting to see how the track progresses,” Harvick said. “Turns 1 and 2 are still going to be the key to this race and that’s really been our moneymaker since they repaved the racetrack is getting through the center of 1 and 2 and being able to make passes and carry speed and do that in traffic, out of traffic. I think it’s going to be that same key, but turns 3 and 4 will be easy. You can run the bottom. You can run the middle.”
Harvick hopes that the “aero package” in place for Texas is one that will get him back to his winning ways. It’s been hard to gauge where the team is so far given the different packages for the different types of tracks teams have raced on so far.
“I feel like we have had top five, top three cars the last four or five weeks,” Harvick said. “They are just not quite winning cars. I think as you look at it, I think we have just raced a superspeedway package we aren’t going to race anymore. A package at Atlanta that we might not race much. You had cars all over the country. It is really just a survival game at this point trying to keep up with the schedule.”
Regardless of the winless start to 2019, Harvick is squarely focused on winning another championship. There was a report earlier this week that Harvick, 43, was eying a post-racing career already involving television.
While Harvick said TV could eventually be in his future, there’s no chance that’s going to happen anytime soon.
“That’s fake news,” Harvick said. “Whoever wrote that is speculating on a lot of rumors. I’m not getting out of the race car. I feel really comfortable with where I’m at as far as how I feel in the race car, where my home life is as far as balance with my kids. I feel fairly confident that being a part of the TV side is something I want to do in the future. It’s not going to happen anytime in the next couple of years I can tell you that.”