Really, there shouldn’t have ever been any doubt that Kevin Harvick would win a race this season.
But once he won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Harvick and the entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization could take a deep breath.
Harvick, of course, is one of the sport’s elite drivers and SHR is one of the sport’s elite teams, but until you win, you aren’t assured of making NASCAR’s playoffs. Now that he has won for the first time this season — and the 36th time in his Cup career — Harvick knows he’ll be one of the 16 drivers who will race for a championship.
And that’s huge not only for Harvick, but for team owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas as well.
“Winning makes everything better,” Harvick said. “It takes the pressure off of us having to answer those questions.”
Harvick said he was confident he and the team would win again, but the switchover from Chevrolet to Ford in the offseason was a huge endeavor, bigger than folks outside the walls of the team’s shop realized.
“I can say this now, but I had mixed emotions about how the year was going to go just because of the fact that we had a lot on our plate to switch over,” said Harvick. “And I think as we started the year, we had good performance, and we went through a little bit of a spell where it wasn’t as good as the first three or four weeks, and then the last month and a half has been really good.
“So it’s just a big undertaking, and one day I think when we get done with this year, I think everybody will actually learn all the details of all the things that it took to get to this particular point. But it’s a huge undertaking, and I think it says a lot about our people at Stewart-Haas Racing,” Harvick said.
The confidence to win was still there, and that’s a critically important part of the equation.
“I felt like I knew we were going to win again just for the fact that our cars were running good,” said Harvick.
And now that he’s broken through, do not be surprised if he wins a few more and makes a strong run at a second championship to go with the one he won in 2014, his first year with SHR.
“It’s been a good year, we just hadn’t been to Victory Lane, and today it all went our way, and hopefully we’ve gotten all that bad luck out of the way and we can enjoy days like this where it all goes our way and capitalize on the fastest car,” said Harvick.
If that happens, and it certainly could, it would be great news for Harvick and SHR, and bad news for the rest of the garage.