Unhappy Harvick could be on move
Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 4:21 pm
By: By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — They called him “Happy Harvick” at the start of his NASCAR career, when success came so easy that Kevin Harvick had a seemingly perpetual smile.
It’s been quite some time since the nickname fit.
Harvick’s been rather unhappy of late and struggling through the worst slump of his career — a winless streak that dates back 90 points races, to the 2007 season-opening Daytona 500. It’s so bad that his name has been thrown into the rumor mill, with mounting speculation that he’s trying to weasel his way out of Richard Childress Racing.
He’s under contract to Childress through next season, as is sponsor Shell-Pennzoil, and the team owner felt the need last week to stress that both will be back with the No. 29 Chevrolet in 2010. Like the dreaded vote of confidence that generally precedes a firing, Childress’ sharply worded statement could very well mean Harvick is on the move.
Harvick is saying very little publicly, which only feeds the rumors. He’s smart, calculating and sometimes manipulative, and over the course of his career, he’s never held back when voicing his displeasure on a variety of topics.
Because nothing sets him off quite like poor performance, the whole world has been waiting for him to explode as he’s drifted out of contention for the Chase for the championship. Instead, he’s said next to nothing, even biting his tongue when his Kevin Harvick Inc. team accidentally ran him out of gas during Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race in St. Louis. It relegated a potentially race-winning car — he led 105 of the 200 laps — to a 17th-place finish.
The Harvick of old would have publicly blasted his team, and maybe even fired an employee or two.
And on the Cup side, where he’s 25th in points and has led just nine laps all year, he’d be screaming bloody murder about the pathetic RCR performance this season.
Childress is the first to admit his team is struggling, and in April he fell back on one of his standard quick-fix ideas, swapping the entire crews of Harvick and Mears. It had worked for Childress two previous times before, when he successfully swapped crews in 1998 for the late Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner, then again with Harvick and Robby Gordon.
So, what could it be that Harvick has in the works?
There was speculation he could be headed to Stewart-Haas Racing as an expanded third entry, but that would require sponsorship, and Stewart has yet to sell off Ryan Newman’s current season.
It’s possible he’s shopping himself to other race teams, but the whole GM hook probably clouds that picture. Because of his longtime alliance to Chevrolet, he can’t just easily sign with a team that uses Chrysler, Ford or Toyota. Then again, since Toyota is the only manufacturer still spending decent money in Nationwide and Trucks, Harvick could be angling for a deal for a manufacturer deal for KHI and a Cup ride with a prominent Toyota team.
It’s also possible that Harvick is simply trying to light a fire under Childress and spark the team owner to get his organization back in line.
Either way, Harvick can’t possibly be his “Happy” self right now and isn’t likely suffering as silently as he’d like everyone to believe.