Kevin Harvick celebrates with his son Keelan after Sunday's victory at Phoenix International Raceway.
There was no anger, only admiration. For as much as Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress fought through the years, they built an endearing bond. As Harvick talked about how Childress has “taught me a lot about being a dad,’’ he suddenly stopped. His throat constricted. Emotion washed over his face. Suddenly a victory celebration stopped. Harvick turned and looked at Childress admiringly with the same reverent gaze a child looks at a father.In that moment, it seemed implausible that Harvick would leave Childress after this season for Stewart-Haas Racing.
How could he?
Harvick departs as he’s about to complete one of his best seasons. His victory Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway marked his fourth of the season, matching his 2011 total and one shy of his career-high in 2006. He’s six points behind Matt Kenseth for second in the standings. If he passes Kenseth, Harvick will record his best points finish.
So, is Harvick making the right move by leaving Childress for Stewart-Haas?
Harvick is the only driver to score a Cup victory for Childress in the past two seasons. Although Harvick could be headed for his third top-three points finish in the last four years, one wonders if
he’s reached as far as he’s going to go at RCR - which last won a Cup title in 1994 with Dale Earnhardt.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s last title came in 2011 with Tony Stewart.
Harvick enters this weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to win the title, but it’s slim. He’s 34 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.
For all that RCR has done, it’s struggled with consistency. The organization went winless in 2009, had five wins in 2010, scored six wins in 2011, had one victory last year and four wins this season.
While Stewart has been the lead driver at SHR, Ryan Newman - who is headed to Richard Childress Racing after this season - scored at least one win each of the past five seasons. That shows stronger depth in the organization.
The drama that Harvick leaves behind could join him at Stewart-Haas Racing. The organization has struggled at times this season and its two victories this season - Stewart won at Dover and Newman won at Indianapolis - are its fewest wins since Stewart became a co-owner in 2009. Such results often can lead to personnel changes.
That’s only part of what is happening at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Stewart is recovering from a broken leg, co-owner Gene Haas will fund a fourth team on his own for Kurt Busch, forcing the team to add crew members and build additional space to the race shop
Still, even with these situations, it’s time for Harvick to move on, just as it becomes time for a child to leave home and go on their own. Consider that Harvick first drove for Childress in 1999 and moved to Cup in 2001 after Earnhardt’s death. Only Jeff Gordon has been with the same Cup team longer than Harvick has been with Childress.
Sometimes it is better to make changes to chase one’s dreams.
It’s that time for Harvick.
It happens in every family. The child eventually leaves home.
“We want to be successful,and we want to win races,’’ Harvick said, noting the generation gap between he and Childress. “I think we have a different approach of how you approach things and how you talk about things and how you move through things. In the end, you want to respect each other.’’
That was evident last month at Martinsville Speedway. Upset after an incident with Ty Dillon, Childress’ grandson, Harvick criticized Dillon and his brother Austin, stating that they were among the reasons he was leaving the organization.
Just like any parent and child, a discussion followed.
“I think some of the conversations that we had were good for all of us and made us really understand just the fact that how successful we’ve been together and how successful we’ve been for each other at RCR,’’ Harvick said.
Childress admits that generational gap is significant between the two.
“The ... gap is bigger than it was with Dale (Earnhardt) and myself,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, the one thing we both do have is a word called respect and we’ll aways have that.’’
And the memories.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.