Winning slogan has returned at an opportune time for Kevin Harvick’s team

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The “I Believe That We Will Win” chant returned Sunday in victory lane at Kansas Speedway, signifying belief for Kevin Harvick’s team after a brief period of lost faith.

Crew chief Rodney Childers recently reaffixed a sign sporting the slogan to the back door of the No. 4 Chevrolet’s hauler, where it has been hanging for nearly two years.

“Honestly, I thought it had started to stall,” Childers told NBC Sports. “I thought it was getting old with our team, and we needed something new. So I took it off the back door and come up with something totally new and put it on the back door for a while.

“Things weren’t going good, so I tore it back off and we went back to what works.”

The “I Believe That We Will Win” sign was hung up again shortly before the 2016 playoffs. Harvick has won in the middle race of the first two rounds to secure advancement.

Childers said Harvick texted the slogan – which was popularized by the U.S. Men’s National Team during the 2014 World Cup — to team members before the Oct. 11, 2014 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which Harvick won on his way to the championship.

“Kevin basically said this is what we need to live by these next few weeks,” Childers said. “We believed in that. We did the same thing last year. It’s always written on our back door of the hauler.”

Harvick has made a habit of capturing must-win races. Since the playoffs were restructured three seasons ago, he has six Chase victories – each of which either advanced him to the next round or claimed a championship.

“That’s just another example of those guys believing in themselves, and I love it when they’re having fun,” Harvick told NBC Sports about hearing the chant. “To hear those guys and see them as excited as they are, I know I’m excited. This is what we do this for is to win races. There’s no better feeling than winning races, and you put your back against the wall and see a whole group of guys come together and accomplish something that a lot of people can’t do, it’s just a great feeling.”

Harvick said the dynamic of his team works because “everybody gets along. We’re all approximately the same ages. Most of us have families. That’s really the case at Stewart-Haas Racing from top to bottom. So we don’t have that generation gap of communication from older leaders to a younger staff. It’s a good chemistry of people that makes it work and wants to race.”

Harvick chuckled when told that Childers had removed the “I Believe That We Will Win” sign.

“I didn’t know that,” he said. “Those guys are a lot more superstitious than I am. I believe in fast cars and good preparation are what wins races, not signs in the hauler. So whatever works for them, I’m money. I’m with them. If that’s what we’ve got to, I’m good with that.”

So what was the new slogan that Childers had tried to use?

“I don’t even remember now,” he said with a laugh. “It doesn’t matter at this point. We’re going with what works.”

Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in must-win scenario at Kansas

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Going into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are likely to be among the four drivers eliminated from playoff contention.

Stenhouse is 22 points back from the final transfer spot and McMurray is 29 points back.

Both drivers talked with NASCAR America before the race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) about being in a must-win scenario to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Watch the above video for the interviews.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. His first oval win since Kansas Speedway a year ago validates the team’s 1.5-mile speed in the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. Mark it down, he wins and advances to the next round to continue his quest for a second title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. keeps his foot on the throat of the competition and gets his sixth win of the year at a 1.5-mile track.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kyle Larson is starting 13th but expect him to get to the top five within the first 20-30 laps. He needs a strong run to give him momentum heading into the Round of 8 and he gets it Sunday.

Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – James “Jim” Watson, a fabricator for Furniture Row Racing, died Saturday night after suffering a heart attack, the team stated Sunday morning. Watson was 55.

A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Watson had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-15 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. He was a long-time racer, competing in dirt late models and asphalt super late models throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Watson was with the team this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

He is survived by wife Laurie and daughter Brittany.

“On behalf of Furniture Row Racing we extend our deepest sympathies to Jim’s family,” said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “He was an outstanding and talented member of our racing family, whose life was dedicated to racing since his early days as a race-car driver in Wisconsin. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim’s wife Laurie, daughter Brittany and to his entire family and friends. Our No. 77 and 78 teams will be racing with heavy hearts today.”

Ryan Blaney ready to prove doubters wrong

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Ryan Blaney has a bit of a chip on his shoulder this weekend.

The 23-year-old driver for the Wood Brothers seeks to hold off three former champions today at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) for a spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs.

Even though former champions Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth trail Blaney in the points, some say Blaney won’t hold them off and advance to the Round of 8.

“I’ve heard that all week that we don’t really deserve to be here, so that kind of ticked me off a little bit,’’ Blaney said Friday after qualifying.

“They just say we’ve been kind of overachieving or they didn’t expect us to be here. Those little things kind of make you a little bit irritated because our guys do just as good a job as anybody. They deserve to be here. They work their tails off like anybody else. Hopefully, we can prove that Sunday.’’

MORE: Wood Brothers lifeline started with a phone call

Blaney’s job, though, will be more difficult. He will start last in the 40-car field because his car failed inspection after qualifying. Kenseth (third), Busch (seventh) and Johnson (13th) all start in the top 15 and should be able to work their way into the top 10 to score stage points by Lap 80 when the first stage ends. Blaney will be challenged to do so and could see his advantage on each shrink. 

There’s hope for Blaney because he posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s final Cup practice. But he ranked ninth in average over 10 consecutive laps — behind Busch and Kenseth.

“There’s definitely things we can improve on,’’ Blaney said after placing third in Saturday’s Xfinity race. “(In the Cup race) everyone is going to be kind of married to the wall pretty early in a run. It might be hard to pass. Hopefully, we can work the bottom. I think the Cup cars might wear the top out, might over-rubber it where we have to move down a little bit.’’

With starting in the rear of the field, changing weather conditions (the wind is not expected to be as prevalent today as Saturday) and facing an elimination race, it would be easy for the pressure build on a driver and team.

“I really don’t feel that it’s a different weekend,’’ he said, alluding to the battle for the final playoff spots. “More people are paying attention to it because it’s a big deal. There’s four cars pretty much going for two spots. We try to approach it as any other weekend. It will be more challenging coming from the back.’’

Along with starting at the rear for the penalty, Blaney’s team had to pick last for pit stalls for failing inspection after qualifying.

His team would have had the third pick and he would have had an opening either before or after his stall, making it easier to either enter or exit. Now, he’ll be sandwiched between Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Provided both stay on the lead lap, Blaney could face challenges squeezing into his stall throughout the race.

“It doesn’t help our situation for sure,’’ Blaney said. “Those are two good cars. We’ll kind of be pitched between them all day. Dale actually sent me a text. Teams work well with each other about that. That will be tough for us. That will be another challenge.’’

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