He has won 14 Monster Energy Cup Series races and a series championship since joining the Stewart-Haas Racing team four years ago. But, the 2014 NASCAR champ looks back and sees many more races where his No. 4 team should have won.
Like an adage in other sports where coaches say that more games are lost than won, Harvick said the same holds true in stock car racing.
“We won two races last year. We ran 38. We screwed up in 36 of them somehow, some way,” he said at the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“There are situations you think you could have capitalized on and I have won races that I shouldn’t have won if you are basing that on the fastest car. The fastest car is usually not going to win the race because so many things come down to strategy and situations and cautions.”
Harvick, who finished third in last season’s point standings, has 37 Cup Series wins overall. But as memorable as the thrill of victory in such events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and August Night Race at Bristol, there has been as much disappointment in the races that got away.
“There are so many things involved in winning a race that you look back at 2014, 2015, 2016 and there are so many situations that you say if that caution flag didn’t come out there then we could have won this many races,” he said. “That is just not how it works. That is what makes sports great in general. Watching that Vikings versus Saints game the other night, everybody thought that was over, including the other team.”
Now 42, Harvick said there is something to be said for experience. That’s the biggest reason he remains competitive at an age when drivers are often asked about retirement. He points out that racing is different from football, basketball or baseball — where a player is so dependent on his body.
He uses a former University of Tennessee quarterback to illustrate how important experience is in any sport.
“Peyton Manning is a good one to look back to,” Harvick said. “Look at that (Broncos) team since he has been gone. The next year they had pretty much the same defense, but there is something about that experience and being able to relate those things to guys that haven’t been in those situations before. It helps you kind of keep things from going down a path that they don’t need to go down because you have seen those types of things happen.”
The outspoken Harvick pointed out that Ford has the oldest race car in the garage, but it is offset by the work which Stewart-Haas does with easy access to the wind tunnel. Harvick also believes NASCAR needs to change the schedule around to put different tracks in the playoffs and change the location fo the final race.
“We need to create events and moments. There needs to be a rotation of the championship race,” he said. “I don’t think we should go to Homestead-Miami every year. I think it gets stale. It is a great race track but it isn’t all about the race track. It is about the event. How many times have you had a crappy Super Bowl but everybody goes to the Super Bowl because it is an event. That is what we need to create.”
Harvick doesn’t subscribe to the sky-is-falling attitude toward NASCAR, although he acknowledges the popularity has fallen off from a decade ago. He sees rules changes the last couple of years to curb costs as positives.
“Our sport is a lot like any other sport in the world,” he said. “I think as you look at this transition of generational change of drivers and look at the growth of the sport that we went through in the late ’90s and early 2000s, it is changing. You look at the TV ratings and, compared to all the other sports, they are all right in the same realm of where they used to be. Everybody is lower.
“It isn’t as big as it was in 2006, but it is still really big. You are going to go to the Daytona 500 and still have 100,000 fans in the grandstands. And when they talk about attendance being down, it is all relative.”