Harvick's season resurgence continues with Daytona win

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - What a difference a year has made for Kevin Harvick.

One year ago, Harvick was far from making the championship Chase, as he sat 26th in points. Now, he's atop the standings with two wins so far this season under his belt, including an impressive victory in Saturday's 400-mile race at Daytona.

Harvick currently holds a 212-point lead over Jeff Gordon, and he's scored 13 top-10 finishes in 18 races this season.

How has he been able to turn things around? Give credit to team owner Richard Childress.

Kevin Harvick currently holds a 212-point lead over Jeff Gordon.
"Richard pulled the trigger on a lot of different things, whether it was reorganizing people or whether it was getting us the funds to build new cars," Harvick said. "He stepped out on a huge limb to spend the money to start over with basically four teams halfway through [last] year, and it's paying off now for us."

Signs of a turnaround for Harvick's team, as well as the teams of Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer at Richard Childress Racing, began to materialize at the tail end of the 2009 season. And the momentum hasn't lost its steam.

Burton sits eighth in points, while Bowyer holds the 14th spot, just 49 points behind 12th-place Carl Edwards. With eight races remaining until the Chase, both drivers will scramble to qualify for the playoffs, which begin on September 19 at New Hampshire.

Barring any unforeseen incident, Harvick will make the Chase, but where he will be seeded depends on his number of wins during the 26-race regular season.

"That's all we have talked about for the last two or three weeks, what do we have to do to win more races before the Chase starts," he said.

Whatever it will take for them to win, Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin said they're willing to do it.

"Obviously we're in a fortunate position to be where we are right now in the points lead," Martin said. "As far as rolling the dice, we're going to try to do that as much as possible, because we need to get to victory lane as much as we can, because basically that's what Richard pays us to do.

"We've got to get there, but at the same token, we've got to get there smart and make sure that we're not only consistent but we have some speed. Luckily, we're going to be able to take some chances possibly that we haven't been able to take in the past."

The driver with the most wins after the September 11 race at Richmond will enter the Chase as the first seed. Each of the 12 drivers who make the playoffs -- the final 10 races of the season -- will have their point totals adjusted to 5,000, plus 10 bonus points tacked on for each one of his wins this season. Right now, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have the most victories this season with five each.

Harvick's victories this season have come at restrictor plate tracks. He snapped a 115-race winless streak in April at Talladega. This past weekend, Harvick survived a rash of accidents, including "the big one" that involved 19 drivers, and then held off Kasey Kahne and Gordon in a two-lap overtime finish to win at Daytona.

"Kevin is becoming one of these guys who wins the restrictor plate races," Childress said. "He's kind of like Dale [Earnhardt] Sr. You knew he was going to be a factor in it."

Harvick easily could have begun the 2010 season with wins in the first two races -- Daytona and California. He held the lead for the final restart in the Daytona 500, but eventual race winner Jamie McMurray got a bump from Greg Biffle to move in front with less than two laps to go. Then at California, Harvick lost a spirited battle with Johnson for the win after brushing the wall in the final laps.

In May, Harvick signed a multi-year contract extension with RCR. Harvick had considered leaving RCR after finishing a disappointing 19th in points in '09. His contract with RCR was set to expire at the end of this year, and he was considered the top free agent for next season.

Harvick has driven the No.29 car for RCR in Cup since replacing Dale Earnhardt after Earnhardt's fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

With the contract distraction out of the way, Harvick and Childress are focused on winning the championship. But they'll have to figure a way to dethrone Johnson, who is the four-time defending series title-holder.

"To race with [Johnson's team] every week and to get to the level to where they've been, they're not looking for home runs every week, they're looking to refine their product every week," Harvick said. "I think that's what we've done a really good job throughout the whole company this year is we've taken a product, refined it, and by the time we get to the Chase, hopefully it will be."

Hamlin has been considered Johnson's biggest threat for the championship since the start of this year. But with the season now at its midpoint, it's time to add Harvick into the category of favorites to win the title.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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