There’s a photo hanging in the man’s closet, of he and his son and pure, simple joy. Thumbs up, smiles. Exactly the sort of memory that warrants immortalization.
But that photo of Kevin Harvick and his son, Keelan, now 5 years old, reveals more than just a pleasant memory. It reveals the essence of who Harvick is and the reason he races – and the motivation for him to win Sunday’s race at Homestead and win his second NASCAR championship.
“That picture of he and I giving the thumbs up, winning the championship, it’s one of the coolest things that you’ll probably ever get a picture of,” Harvick said Thursday. “It’s little things like that that mean a lot and go a long ways.”
Harvick isn’t racing for his ego, or for a taste of championship glory. He’s already had that once before, that November night three years ago when he won the Cup Series. Instead, Harvick is driving for something else this time around – to give that feeling, that sense of accomplishment, to everyone else.
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“I want to win it for my guys and the organization more than anything,” Harvick said. “That to me is more gratifying than what my legacy is or isn’t.”
‘We were late bloomers’
In order for Harvick to guarantee his team that gratification though, he’ll actually have to win Sunday’s race, something that didn’t seem imaginable as recently as two months ago.
Harvick entered the playoffs with only one victory all season. His car had been good at times, but it lacked the consistency required of championship-caliber teams.
“We were late bloomers to the party,” Harvick said, “just to the fact that we had a lot of work to do, a lot of change.”
So the team tinkered, making adjustments and improvements with that goal, consistency, in mind. By the time the playoffs rolled around, they finally started finding that mojo. Then once they hit the third round, they peaked.
Harvick came fifth at Martinsville to open the round, and then won at Texas to clinch his berth in the championship four. He finished fifth at Phoenix as well, but that Texas win, the one where he passed Martin Truex Jr. at the end, is the one that stands out.
“As you look at the results, how we won it and who we passed, that’s kind of like winning the seventh game of a championship series headed to the Super Bowl or the World Series,” Harvick said. “That couldn’t have come at a better time.”
A dark horse, not the favorite
Don’t underscore that Texas win. It was important and all, just ... it wasn’t the big one.
Also, it was so recent. The other three championship contenders – Truex, Kyle Busch, and Brad Keselowski – have been terrific for large swaths of the season. Not Harvick. He may be peaking at the right time, but his team’s inconsistency has made him more of a dark horse pick than an outright favorite.
At least that’s how Las Vegas oddsmakers have painted it, only giving him the third-best odds to win (Truex is the favorite with Busch just behind him). Harvick isn’t concerned with that though, especially not after his performance the past three races and his history at Homestead (where he has finished in the top 10 each of the past nine years).
“At this point, it’s proven that we can do it,” Harvick said. “That would be the ultimate feather in the cap to the company.”
Instead, Harvick is concerned with what a second championship would mean, although not for himself.
“It’s really not about me and my legacy,” Harvick said. “That part doesn’t really mean a lot to me.”
“I feel like I’ve done a lot in this sport and at this particular point, it’s about making people happy and being around people that have taken a chance on you and the things that you do.”
So he’ll race this championship for his crew, for his Stewart-Haas racing team, for his owner and his fans and Ford and a whole host of other people. They are the ones he wants to savor this championship, if he can overcome the odds and prove those Las Vegas oddsmakers wrong.
And of course, he’ll want this win for Keelan, finally old enough to remember Victory Lane.
Maybe come Monday, Harvick will have a new photo to hang in his closet – and a new trophy to go along with it.