The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has the momentum of wins in two of the last four Monster Energy events, including last Sunday’s victory at Michigan.
While the high-banked, half-mile bullring at Bristol has little in common with Michigan’s wide 2-mile speedway, Harvick said winning carries over.
“Any good momentum, especially from winning, is huge momentum,” Harvick said Friday in the BMS Media Center. “You look at last year and probably the best year I’ve ever had in my career in not winning the championship, there were probably a few things that go into not winning a championship.
“But you look at the 22 car and the momentum they had going into the last 10 races was more important at that particular time of the year than what we had done early in the year, so it’s definitely different.”
Although Harvick has been strong of late, it’s nothing like his 2018 season — when he won a career-high eight races. Early in the season, the Stewart-Haas team didn’t adapt to NASCAR’s new rules package as quickly as the Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske organization, which was frustrating to Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR champion.
“You never know what each year is going to bring, especially in a year like this when you have a lot of rule changes,” Harvick said. “I didn’t really enjoy the change in rules. It took me a few months to get over that and realize I drive cars for a living and I just need to make mine go faster than everybody else’s.
“I think once we started getting things settled down and getting our cars back to where we needed to be and in the right frame of mine, we’ve got things going in the right direction. We’ve had a chance to win some races that we didn’t win as well.”
The 43-year-old California native currently ranks third in the Monster Energy Cup Series points behind Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. He also ranks third among active drivers with 47 career wins. It puts him 16th on NASCAR’s all-time win list and just two victories behind his car owner and former teammate, Tony Stewart.
However, in a fast-changing sport and as he pointed out, a fast-changing world, he knows success isn’t guaranteed.
“Nothing surprises me anymore. I think as you look at the world in general and you just put our little sport in a little speck of that, there’s really nothing,” he said. “You have to make sure you remind yourself to be prepared for the unexpected and make sure that you’re ready because that’s when things creep up on you — when you expect them the least.”
He added that drivers have to be more open-minded than the past with drivers and teams going to computer simulation more than on-track testing. Harvick appreciates the history of the sport and mentioned how he enjoyed a recent conversation with Roger Penske talking about his long history in NASCAR and other forms of racing. Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty are others he’s listened to stories from, and picks David Pearson with his low-key style — but the second winningest driver of all-time with 105 victories — as someone he admires.
Still, the older generation of drivers could be stubborn with the changing times. Harvick shared a story about the late Dale Earnhardt.
“I was doing all the testing for Earnhardt in 2000,” Harvick recalled. “When we took the car to Indianapolis to test — that we had been doing all the development work on — he got in it and ran nine-tenths of a second faster than what he did in his own car with his standard setups.
“They told him what was in the car he made them put it back in the trailer and told them that he was never driving anything like that.”