For the last few years, Kevin Harvick hasn’t had much enthusiasm for competing in the Xfinity Series.
“It really hasn’t been that much fun to drive on Saturdays, just with not really being involved and not really having the people around me that I knew,” Harvick said Tuesday during NASCAR’s test at Phoenix Raceway.
In the last three seasons since he left Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has competed in 34 Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports and won six times.
But Harvick’s full-time job at SHR kept him from providing the best lending hand. That will change this season as SHR launches its own Xfinity program, headlined by Cole Custer in the No. 00 Ford Mustang.
“I’ve going to be very involved,” Harvick said. “I want to be as involved as they’ll let me be involved.”
Part of that will include driving the No. 41 Ford this year. The 46-time Xfinity winner and two-time champion is tentatively scheduled to make five starts in the car.
“When I can walk across the parking lot and be able to talk to the guys in the shop and drive the cars and have that a part of our system, that’s very important for to learn how to utilize that system in order to make it a benefit for our Cup teams,” Harvick said.
A vital part of Harvick’s efforts will be in his guidance of Custer, who has only five Xfinity starts, which also came with JR Motorsports.
Custer, 19, is soaking up everything the 2014 Cup Series champion has to offer about what it takes to make it in a series that is heavily populated with Cup drivers.
“I’m trying to get as much information I can from Harvick going into these different Xfinity races because he’s obviously one of the best in the Xfinity Series,” Custer said last week at the NASCAR Media Tour. “I feel like I’ve related to him more since he runs a lot of the Truck races and Xfinity races, so he can really help me a lot with that. It seems like he’s my go-to guy I would say right now, but there are a lot of great drivers at Stewart-Haas. If I can just get a little bit of information from any of them I think it would be a great thing.”
Custer “can’t even stress” how much work SHR is putting into getting the Xfinity operation set for its debut on Feb. 25 at Daytona International Speedway.
“You’re creating a fab shop and you’ve never really hung Xfinity bodies before, so you’re learning how to do that and you’re figuring out everything that goes with it,” Custer said.
Harvick knows there will be “hurdles” SHR will face in its new endeavour, but they’ll be done in an effort to improve what the team is doing on Sundays.
“We need Cole to be successful and all that stuff translates,” Harvick said. “There’s a lot of pieces, whether it be building the team and having those guys ready to slide into the Cup position or pit crew guys. That’s an important piece of what we do, so it’s important that we lay the groundwork correctly.”
Harvick’s first on-track contribution to that groundwork will be the March 4 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.