Stewart-Haas Racing has had a slow start to the NASCAR Cup Series season.
The four-car organization has posted just two top five and three top 10 finishes, all from Kevin Harvick. It’s the fewest they’ve had through four races since 2017. Additionally, their 18 laps led are the fewest they’ve had through four races since 2013.
Last Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was particularly tough. Harvick started on pole, but was immediately off the pace and struggled to a 20th-place finish. Rookie Chase Briscoe had a quiet day in finishing 21st. Cole Custer was hampered by rear gear issues before finishing 25th. Finally, Aric Almirola suffered his second DNF of the season when a cut tire led to a crash on Lap 179.
Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, showed no signs of panic during his Tuesday media teleconference. But following races like the one he and SHR had, he said it’s important to take an active role in solving the problems, which he happens to enjoy.
“You can’t just step back,” he said. “You have to push buttons. This is not an abnormal situation for any race team. … You’re gonna have those particular weekends, and you have to be a source of information (for the team). You’re not gonna fix it. Like, I have no chance of fixing it. I’m merely the source of information for what happens in the car.
“It’s way too technical, there’s way too many engineers involved, and you have to be confident in the things you’re saying and feeling to deliver that information, then ask enough questions to make sure the direction and the magnitude of your suggestions is put into the proper channels – to make sure it’s delivered in the appropriate way as an emergency, or just an isolated problem, or whatever the scenario is.”
He also noted how Las Vegas’ 1.5-mile oval puts many areas of a race car in play and, thus, raises many questions that teams must answer correctly to nail the set-up.
Answered incorrectly, you get what happened to Harvick and the No. 4 team – simply missing it.
“You have to look at the things you did that led to this particular road,” he explained. “Is it your simulation? Is it the set-ups that your engineering group put in the race car? Did you do things right on the seven-post? Do you need to go into the wind tunnel?
“You have to try and tie all those pieces together. But Vegas in general, it’s a real balance between all those things from mechanical grip and aerodynamics and aerodynamic balance and bump stop loads and spring choices … It’s just a difficult race track to get all of those things right.”
One race track that Harvick has gotten right over his career is Phoenix Raceway, where the Cup Series heads this weekend.
Harvick is the all-time wins leader at the dog-legged desert mile with nine Cup victories. Six of those victories have come in the last 15 Phoenix Cup races dating back to November 2013. During that span, he’s finished no worse than ninth.
But after a sub-par showing in Las Vegas, Harvick says he isn’t going to his most successful race track with a need to drive “angry.”
“For me, Phoenix is a great example,” he said. “You look back at the first race last year, and we had a chance to win the race and had the best car (finished second, led 67 laps). Then we go back for the second race and things didn’t go our way because it’s not what you expected (finished seventh, led no laps). That’s just part of what we do.
“You guys, sometimes, see the results and look at it and say, ‘Oh, he’s gonna be this or that.’ Really, it’s just the same. It’s really no different. As you get into the meetings on Monday, the conversations may be different. But it’s the same routine week after week for me.”