Kevin Harvick looks at the season just completed and the one to come from two viewpoints – he’s happy, but he’s not satisfied.
Harvick figures he ran good enough to win the Sprint Cup championship this season – he led the standings much of the year, after all, and finished only 41 points off Jimmie Johnson's championship pace.
So, pleased? Yes. But…
“I think we have to take the same aggressive approach,” Harvick said. “Even though we ran good, we’ve got to act like we’re behind. You’ve got to fight and scratch and claw for every piece of downforce and horsepower that you can get. We know what we have to do to continue doing that.
“It doesn’t feel like we were distant [from Johnson]. We ran with them, outran them, ran door-to-door with them. We felt like we were in contention to the very end.
“The most important thing for us at this point is to not sit on our hands. Keep working and try to keep things moving forward as we did this year and take the same approach next year as we did this year.”
“I think we were there this year, honestly, performance-wise and speed-wise,” Harvick said. “It’s just one of those deals where you look at the Hendrick team – their cars were fast enough, and they did a good job driving them.”
Harvick finished the season two points behind second-place Denny Hamlin, who had the point lead entering the season’s final race at Homestead but couldn’t repel Johnson’s last-day charge. The failure hit Hamlin very deeply. Harvick was more philosophical.
“After you are around for a while, you understand that the sun is still going to come up tomorrow,” he said. “You use it to try to make yourself better and analyze the situations that cost you the most points.”
As for his Chase, Harvick said he’d like a “do-over” of the second race at Dover, where he finished 15th. It was his only Chase run outside the top nine.
“We had a tough time on pit road that day,” he said. “Our car wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t fast. If we could have back those six or seven spots… But I don’t think there’s one particular moment that won or lost us the Chase. We just fell a little bit short.”
After RCR’s big rebound from a sour 2009, however, Harvick goes into the off-season having retained his “Happy” nickname.
Can he be happier next year? Stay tuned.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.