Harvick down but not out as focus shifts to playoffs

Kevin Harvick entered last season’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the regular-season champion and No. 1 seed, but failed to make it to the Championship 4. This year, if he hopes to take the title he’ll have to do it from the bottom as the 16th seed.

“Every year is a little different than the last and creates new challenges, and new conversations and new things happen,” Harvick said on Tuesday. “Every year is not going to be great. The good news is you have a group of people you’ve worked with for a long time and an organization that wants the exact same goals as you do, so you’re working toward those things together as a group and doing what you can.

“I don’t think we’d be sitting in this position if it weren’t for the group of people navigating through all the things that have gone on with our stuff this year. Everybody on the team has done a good job in getting a lot of out (this) scenario.”

One of two Stewart-Haas Racing drivers in the postseason, the win column is empty for Harvick and the No. 4 team. Last on the playoff grid with 2,002 points, his only playoff points came from the two points earned for being inside the top 10 in the regular-season standings. Harvick was ninth in points when the checkered flag flew on the regular-season finale at Daytona.

Last Saturday night was a good summation of his season. Harvick pointed out that when it looked like the team was in a good position, they didn’t make it out of the last corner because of a wreck.

It has been a season of struggles, and the fight for competitiveness has been tedious and ongoing. On the one hand, while Harvick does believe they’ve fixed their cars, he said over the weekend – and reiterated Tuesday – it’s not about speed anymore because the balance at the start of each race remains too far off.

“We know where the problem lies,” said the 2014 Cup champion, “and they’re working to try to fix it.”

Harvick would not elaborate on what the problem is when asked.

Despite the down year, the expectations haven’t changed. Harvick and his group enter the postseason with the same thinking they’ve always had, although accomplishing their goals might take a different route than usual.

“You can pull something apart a whole lot faster than you can build it,” Harvick said. “I think as you look through the years, it’s very easy to sit back and just chime in and jump all over people. Obviously, there are still times you need to do that. But the thing that I’ve learned is that you’ve got a group of people around you that you know can win and do the things you need to do.

“But sometimes you’re just off, and sometimes the problem-solving in our world is difficult, and sometimes it’s a whole bunch of small things. Trying to push something – and I’ve done it a couple of times this year on the racetrack – you just push something a little further than it can go, and you wind up with the fenders torn off, and you make bad worse. There is no reason to make the problem worse than it needs to be. You have to be a part of the process and solution to solve the equation.

“Yeah, obviously, we all want to win and run better and do the things we need to do… You ride the wave down just like you ride the wave up. You just hope your wave down is shorter than most people’s, and you ride that wave back up when its right.”

Trying to do that in the playoffs amid a tough season doesn’t mean Harvick has to change how he races from here on out.

“I’m going to do what I always do – start the race, see where the car is at and go from there.”