These are not the happiest of times for Happy Harvick.
True, Kevin Harvick is sitting in sixth in Sprint Cup points and seems to be on the way to another Chase appearance, and he’s finished every race except one this season.
But Harvick remains winless as the schedule reaches its traditional halfway point this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, and he’s having trouble turning top-15 runs into top-five finishes.
Harvick finished 11th Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway to continue a recent trend. He has only one top-five finish in the past nine races, and he was never a factor up front at Kentucky, running outside the top 10 for much of the race.
Harvick’s frustration resulted in some expletives being tossed across his team radio channel two weeks ago at Sonoma, and it’s clear the team has some work to do over the summer before the Chase tempest begins.
“It’s mistakes,” Harvick said. “It’s mistakes from top to bottom. There is nothing to hide on. The cars run fast enough to win races. The cars run fast enough to be in the top 10, and until the mistakes stop – stuff can’t fall off the car, you can’t run out of gas for the fifth time this year. It’s just flat-out mistakes, and those guys know that. I know that.
“It’s not something that we have set out and planned. It’s just… and we talked about it very openly this week. This isn’t something that I’m getting defensive about or anything. It’s very obvious as to why this team hasn’t won a race. We are fortunate to be in the position that we are in points, but we can’t scramble. You can’t win a championship, and you can’t win races on a week-to-week basis making the mistakes that we’ve made.”
It hasn’t been a bad season for Harvick, but floating around in the middle as he has been for much of the year doesn’t sit well. He’s had only three top fives. All of the drivers above him in the standings have had at least seven.
“You just cannot do the things that we’ve been doing and expect to win races in this garage,” Harvick said. “Everybody has to step up, myself included.”
Harvick will have a shot to inject some fire into his season over the next two weeks as the tour visits tracks – Daytona and Loudon – where he owns wins.
“I think with the smaller spoilers and everything that we started the year with at Daytona and with a pretty big increase in temperature, I’m a little bit curious as to how the handling of the car will be,” he said. “I think you will see a very similar race to what you saw at the beginning of the year. They are always exciting on the speedways.
“Loudon is a much different flat race track. Track position and you have to have your car turning in the center of the corner and be able to hold the power down off. It’s definitely two different styles of race tracks over the next couple of weeks.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.