SPEED.com has selected NASCAR’s top 10 drivers – across the three major national series – in 2010 and will spotlight them for two weeks. Today, driver No. 4: Three-time Sprint Cup race winner Kevin Harvick.

The contrast between Kevin Harvick's 2009 and 2010 Sprint Cup seasons could hardly be more striking.

In 2009, as Richard Childress Racing sagged through a difficult and confounding season, Harvick raced against the wind – and got almost nowhere. He went winless, had only nine top 10s and finished a miserable 19th in the point standings. It was hardly the type of season expected from Harvick, who had been in the points top 10 the previous three years.

There was a turnaround, however, and it was big. Not only did Harvick rebound, but the rest of RCR surged, too. All three team drivers, including Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, made the Chase, and Richard Childress’ team re-established itself as one of the best in the business.

And Harvick was its flagship. He led the point standings on 20 occasions during the year and didn’t surrender it in the “regular season” after he took first after the 10th race of the year at Richmond.

Series champion Jimmie Johnson (6) and second-place Denny Hamlin (8) had more wins than Harvick (3), but Harvick showed amazing consistency, finishing in the top 10 26 times in 36 races. Johnson had 23 top 10s. No other driver was in the 20s.

Harvick didn’t hold on to win what would have been his first championship, but his Chase performance was nothing to sneeze at. In the 10 races, he had one second, three thirds, one fifth, two sixths, a seventh and an eighth. The “poor” finish that hurt him came at Dover, where he came home 15th.

“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.”

Figure Harvick to make another strong championship run in 2011.

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.