CREW CHIEF: Rodney Childers
TEAM: Stewart-Haas Racing
POINTS: Fifth in NASCAR Cup Series
LAPS LED: 217
TOP 5s: 10
TOP 10s: 24
QUALIFIED FIRST: Once (Las Vegas I)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Stewart-Haas Racing had across-the-board performance woes this season, and its standard-bearers were not immune. But even missing their signature speed, Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team posted solid results.
Harvick’s 24 top-10 finishes were third-most in the Cup Series behind series champion Kyle Larson (26) and Denny Hamlin (25). That consistency stretched into the playoffs, where Harvick nabbed eight top-10 finishes in the final 10 races. The run vaulted him to fifth in the final Cup standings after starting the playoffs as the 16th and final seed.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Harvick went without a race win after leading the Cup Series with nine victories in 2020. He also failed to earn a single stage win and his two playoff points came via a ninth-place finish in the regular season points.
The Round of 16 cut race at Bristol Motor Speedway saw Harvick begin a costly feud with Chase Elliott. A late-race clash for the lead between Harvick and Elliott sent the latter to pit road with a cut tire. But when Elliott returned to action (now several laps down from pitting under green), he got in front of Harvick and slowed him down. That allowed Kyle Larson to catch and pass Harvick for the win – and led to a post-race confrontation between Harvick and Elliott.
Three weeks later in the Round of 12 cut race at the Charlotte Roval, the feud resumed as Harvick knocked Elliott into the Turn 7 wall at Lap 55. But despite heavy damage to his car, Elliott rallied through the field. Then, with 11 laps to go, Harvick locked up and slammed the Turn 1 wall as Elliott lurked behind him. Elliott went on to advance to the Round of 8, while Harvick did not.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022: In a season where uncertainty abounds, you could pick a much worse driver-crew chief combo to face that uncertainty than Harvick and Rodney Childers. After having to grind things out for much of 2021, they and the No. 4 team will be itching to fire off strong with the Next Gen car.