Kevin Harvick sits down with The F-Post to recount his version of the events from the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick does burnouts in downtown Atlanta.
2014 champ, Team Penske rival get heated on pit road Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joey Logano said he thought he was doing Kevin Harvick a favor. Kevin Harvick said Logano should think again. “I told him I didn’t appreciate it,” Harvick said after the two drivers had a less than convivial conversation on pit road following Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. A late-race push from Logano’s No. 22 Ford sent Harvick , the defending Sprint Cup Series champion, briefly into the wall and cost both a shot at a victory in the season-opening non-points event. The two exchanged a bit of sheet metal as they made their way to pit road, then exchanged words afterward. “That is Kevin just being an instigator just like everywhere else,” the Team Penske driver said. “It’s a new year and the same stuff. “I was just trying to help, really. We had a run and (I) just kept pushing. Apparently his car was tight. I was doing the same thing with the 78 (of runner-up Martin Truex Jr.) all night and it was working.” Logano, sixth in the rundown for the 25-car field, said he understood Harvick ’s frustration (the Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished 11th), but also said he "was trying to help out, trying to get to the front and trying to win this thing. “No points or anything like that, you know; you go for the win. Second place, third place, fourth place doesn’t man anything.” Harvick called it “just really dumb driving there at the end." “Yeah, you’ve got to be aggressive,” he said, “but you’ve still got to use your head. You can’t just detach it and lay it on the floorboard.” Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Kenseth won the event, avoiding the multicar accidents that resulted in only 12 cars running at the finish. Logano failed to lead a lap, but appeared to have a strong ride; Harvick led one lap and was within striking distance for much of the race as well. Truex confirmed that Logano had been helpful, and fast, during the 75-lap race. “His car was really strong, he pushed me a lot,” Truex said of Logano. “He’s the only person I’ve seen that could get on somebody’s bumper and actually push them forward. Last year with this package it seemed like when you’d get on somebody’s bumper you’d just slow each other down. “He was able to get on my bumper at times and push me past people, which is kind of unheard of with this package.” Regardless of the speed in his car, Harvick said Logano still needs to use his head. “He thinks he was helping, but you can’t just drive somebody straight into the corner into the fence,” he said. “He kind of did the same thing to me at Talladega and I told him … ‘the karma train’s coming after you,’ and it bit him right in the ass.” Logano, along with Harvick , were two of the four drivers in the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2014. Harvick won the season-ending event at Homestead to clinch the title; Logano finished 16th after a pit road issue and wound up fourth in the final standings. “Like I told him last year, that kind of stuff catches up with you and it caught up with him last year,” Harvick said. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Can SHR star join Johnson as drivers to defend title in Chase-era? Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time since he was suddenly thrust into NASCAR's premier series back in 2001, Kevin Harvick begins the new racing season wearing the title of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Thus far the 39-year-old seems to wear it well. Whether it will wear on him, or his Stewart-Haas Racing team, remains one of many unanswered questions before the season gets underway. Defending a title is tricky business in NASCAR, made even more so with the arrival of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the subsequent re-tooling of the original 10-race format and most recently the tweaking of the subsequent retooling of the program. Format changes have been just one issue standing between drivers, teams and the title. Jeff Gordon, a four-time champ back in the pre-Chase days, has yet to celebrate a title won under the 10-race system. Thus he's had no Chase title to defend. Likewise, Matt Kenseth won the last outright "points" title, but so far has been unable to solve the riddle of the Chase despite his many attempts. Kurt Busch won the first title back in in the days of Chase 1.0, but has rarely been heard from since. Others were more fortunate. Tony Stewart was the first to show a team that could win straight up could also win when put into a 10-race showdown, winning a pre-Chase crown, then two more during seasons after the field was reset. Jimmie Johnson has often been lauded (cursed?) for he and his team's ability to dominate in the "postseason," and while it's a fact that all six of the Hendrick Motorsports driver's titles came after the arrival of the Chase, Johnson's No. 48 was no ugly duckling before that -- as his record shows. With Johnson winning so often, few others have had the opportunity to defend a championship, and none done so successfully. Can Harvick turn the tide? Stewart, who co-owns Harvick's SHR team, says teams can do two things after winning a title, either become complacent with what's been accomplished and ease off the throttle or continue to feed off the thrill of the battle and the success. One goal has been met, Harvick said, but others remain. Situations change. Rules change. Times change. Harvick , it appears, thrives on those changes. A former team owner himself, Harvick put away his Nationwide (now XFINITY) and Camping World Truck Series teams to focus on his own quest for a championship after the 2011 season. For the first time in his Sprint Cup career, he changed teams, moving from Richard Childress Racing to SHR before the start of 2014. His personal life has had major transformations as well, with the birth of a son and most recently a re-location to the Charlotte area. "In the end, we changed our whole life to try to accomplish everything that we did last year," Harvick said. "We were able to pull that off and in three years, basically, change everything that we have done. So, that's very rewarding for all the people … everybody who has been involved in it." While 25 teams will return to the track here this weekend at Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX), the official start of the season begins next week with the season-opening Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 22 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). The list of NASCAR premier series champions is a short one -- Harvick is just the 30th to wear the crown. It's more important that he got here, he said, than that it took him so long to finally arrive. "I think I respect it a lot more and understand how hard it is to get to this point and really know the work and effort that and how many people it takes to be a part of it," he said. That hard work and effort paid off. Now it's time to see if success is fleeting, or if the driver and team that ended 2014 on top can continue to be the best. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kevin Harvick talks about his first Daytona 500 win, the upcoming Daytona 500 and the offseason as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick exchange words following the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Track president: 'We've got history and experience doing March races' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live For the first time since 2004, NASCAR teams won't load up and head west for the season's second stop following the Daytona 500. Instead, Week No. 2 will find teams from all three national series -- Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck -- headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coming on the heels of the season’s premier race has its challenges, AMS president Ed Clark told NASCAR.com, and weather is always a concern with an early March date in the area. RELATED: Atlanta plans SAFER barrier additions But, Clark said, "We've got history and experience doing March races. "The thing that's different about this one is that in the past, the Daytona 500 kicked the season off, we came home and had two to three weeks of outstanding interest in the sport. The day after the 500 was always your biggest ticket sales day of the year. "In this case, the Daytona 500 is over Sunday afternoon and we’re into Atlanta's race week right then." AMS hosted a Labor Day weekend race from 2010 through this past season. Up until 2010, it hosted two annual Sprint Cup weekends, the first typically falling in early to mid-March. From '82 through 2004, the second Sprint Cup race of the season was held at either Richmond International Raceway or North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham). California's Auto Club Speedway hosted the second stop from '05 through '10 and Phoenix International Raceway had been the host since '11. "It's a plus and a minus," Clark said of being No. 2 on the schedule. "We all remember the year that Cale (Yarborough) and Bobby and Donnie (Allison) got in a fight (at Daytona in '79). The printing press couldn't have printed enough tickets for the next race. … That's a bonus when it happens. The world is watching what goes on at Daytona, there's a lot of focus on the sport. Everything is new. So it's a plus from that standpoint." Weather issues early in the year aren't uncommon for the Atlanta region, however. And the long-range forecast for this year's race weekend didn't look promising. But it has since changed (and will likely again), going from a chance of snow to a 40 percent chance of rain to a 20 percent chance of rain in the span of a week, according to www.NOAA.gov. Clark is more concerned about those things his group can control instead of those it can't. "I haven't even looked at (the weather forecast) in about a day and a half," he said. "No need to. It changes. "That's the approach we've taken all along. We know how to promote races; we've done it for years. Have your plan; work your plan. When you get to race time, you don't want to look back and say there was something you could have done that you didn't do." Part of that plan included an appearance by reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick on Monday. Prior to Thursday's scheduled test session, Atlanta Motor Speedway Day will be celebrated at the state capitol. Three-time premier series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip is expected to join active native Georgia drivers from all three series for a visit with the governor as well as stops as the Senate and House chambers. "The long and short of it," Clark said, "is we've done things we typically do, no matter when the race is." In addition to normal race-weekend preparations, AMS announced Tuesday upgrades to its current SAFER barrier system will be put in place in time for this weekend's events. Camping World Truck Series teams, which haven't competed at AMS since 2012, will share top billing on Saturday with the XFINITY Series in a double-header race day that features the Hisense 250 XFINITY Series race (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 Truck Series event (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series event is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 with TV coverage on FOX. "We know we'll have a good race; we always have a good race at Atlanta," Clark said. "If we can get that first one done and all be positive, we have a whole year to work on ('16). I think that's when we will find out what the potential is for the future." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
What are Harvick's chances of claiming the title back-to-back?
SHR driver ready for the challenge of defending his title Registration for NASCAR Fantasy Live is now open! CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Turning the well-worn saying on its ear, the head that wears the crown is not heavy for Kevin Harvick , who enters the 2015 season with all sorts of burden removed from his shoulders. The nickname "Happy" still fits, but the description of "relaxed" also seems to apply. Harvick's pressure-free composure, on prime display Tuesday afternoon during the Stewart-Haas Racing portion of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, has plenty to do with the title of reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion after 13 years of coming up just short. But the lighter load is also equal parts being free of the controlled maelstrom from the offseason a year ago as SHR assembled the parts and pieces that made up the championship-caliber No. 4 team. For the here and now, Harvick was grateful that his first title meant no further questions about whether this would be his year. "The pressure's definitely off," Harvick said. "There's not that pressure of being that guy who was so close to winning championships and had not won one. To be able to accomplish that and take that pressure off is a really good thing because that's really what we wanted to accomplish in coming over to Stewart-Haas Racing . So to be fortunate enough to be able to do that is definitely a sense of relief, and now you've been through it, you understand it, you know the feelings, the emotions and the things that you've been through, and hopefully that leads to that chest full of experience that you carry around with you to just put another tool in that chest to hopefully win more." Making the leap from the familiar turf from Richard Childress Racing , where he spent the first 13 years of his premier-series career, came with some initial gnashing of teeth but his enthusiasm for showing up to work each day had grown stagnant. Joining SHR eventually bore fruit with plenty of rejuvenating qualities, but Harvick first had to prepare himself for the jump in to the unknown. "I didn't want to be comfortable," Harvick said. "I wanted to experience what we experienced last year, and sometimes you have to make some bold or hard decisions in order to make things like this happen. So for me, I'm as comfortable as I've ever been." For starters, Harvick won't have to deal with the same amount of change -- borne of necessity -- that the team had ahead of the 2014 campaign. Partnering a new driver with new crew chief Rodney Childers during a time when the organization was expanding to a four-car operation could have stalled the process of building chemistry on the No. 4 team. It didn't -- the combination produced its first victory in just the second race of the season. With all the parts still in place, it's a combination that team co-owner Gene Haas has no intention of tampering with. "He just won the championship. We've basically frozen the team as it is," Haas said. "So we've got something that works and we're going to treat it very, very delicately and try to repeat that. There's no use tempting fate." One thing out of the organization's control in the change department is the new rules package for 2015. A crucial cog to the No. 4 team's march to the title was how well it adapted to last year's rules package, spearheaded by the work Childers put into making that fateful December 2013 test a smashing success at the Charlotte track. Will the new rules package throw Harvick and Co. a curve ball? In a statement that could have the competition on edge, Childers said the changes might actually benefit the team since something similar to the 2015 package was one of the test configurations that suited the car the most. Even with that institutional knowledge in tow, Childers -- one of the most relaxed workaholics in the garage -- isn't ready to adopt Harvick's pressure-free approach. "I don't really feel that way at all. I mean, I always feel like my job's on the line every single day and either you can go in there and work hard or someone else is going to take your job," Childers said. "I try to be the first one at the shop and the last one to leave, work as hard as I can while I'm there and hopefully that'll constantly pay off as long as the years go on." With one title under his belt, the immediate task ahead of Harvick is focusing on a repeat. The pressure might be off for now, but it certainly wasn't the case during the elimination phases of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, which debuted its new format last year. Harvick responded to the intensity by turning up the wick and winning the last two races of the season to wrap up his first title. His approach might have changed in terms of the pressure, but Harvick said his aggressive nature on the track certainly won't. "It's definitely going to be a challenge, as it is every year, and obviously there's some different rules and everything that comes along with that this year as far as the engine," Harvick said, "but I think the one thing we did learn through the last half of the year is I think everybody figured out that winning a race and being aggressive is the most preferable method in order to win a championship." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
2014 Sprint Cup champion will be second reigning champ to cast a ballot Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: See the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees class by class Kevin Harvick received several perks after securing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship last season -- the trophy, the oversized check and the ability to etch his name in the stock-car racing history books. This spring, he'll cash in on another bonus: Having his say in which drivers take their rightful place in the sport's annals. Harvick will take part in NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day this May, becoming the second reigning Sprint Cup champion to cast a ballot to help determine a class to be enshrined. Harvick is scheduled to participate in Friday night's induction (7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) of the 2015 class at the Charlotte Convention Center. Harvick , entering his 15th season in NASCAR's top series, demurred when asked about his own chances of one day being selected for enshrinement, but said he imagined his Voting Day duties would be educational. "Well, I'm not going to rate my own credentials, but I can tell you that I'm excited to be a part of the process, having a vote and being able to experience that and learn more about our sport," Harvick said Tuesday during Stewart-Haas Racing 's portion on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "I think there's obviously that you can constantly learn about, and to be able to take that in and experience that is going to be a lot of fun." Alterations were made to the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel in December 2013 to add the reigning Sprint Cup champion to the list of vote-casters. That change meant that Jimmie Johnson , just weeks removed from winning his sixth title in NASCAR's top division, was involved in the discussions and balloting process that determined the Class of 2015. The responsibility wasn't lost on Johnson, who reflected on his Voting Day experience to the NASCAR Wire Service last year. "That was a huge honor and an amazing day to be a part of," Johnson said. "To sit in a room with so many people that care for our sport and know about our sport and then discuss what took place in eras of time when I certainly wasn’t around … it was a very awesome and unique experience and something I think that is a huge honor and in years to come. "It's only going to help drivers in the garage area understand the history of our sport and grow closer and more attached to the people that built this sport. And in a big way, I wish that the garage area could sit in on that discussion and see the respect that the peers and the people on the voting panel have for our industry and for the people involved." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule