Harvick wins at Michigan

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kevin Harvick is afraid to pinch himself in case his dream NASCAR Sprint Cup season turns out to be just that — a dream.

But it is real and it was cemented on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway when Harvick crossed the finish line first in the Carfax 400 in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

It was just 12 months ago that Harvick was blunt in his assessment of the RCR team, saying he wasn’t sure he’d be back.

Rumours were rampant that he had soured on an organization that had got him close but could never close the championship deal with him behind the wheel.

In the off-season, however, team owner Richard Childress gave the 34-year-old Harvick his word that a championship effort would be forthcoming out of the No. 29 garage this season.

Harvick bought into the plan and it seems the guys who build the cars at the RCR shop bought into it too, giving the California native fast cars every week.

Now, after his victory at MIS — the first for an RCR car since the late Dale Earnhardt won here in 1990 — Harvick is the clear favourite to win this year’s championship with just 13 races left.

And he increased his Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship points lead to 293 over second-place Jeff Gordon.

Could things get any better for Harvick?

Well, in a word, yes. Just as he was drying off from his post-race champagne shower it was leaked that beer giant Budweiser — with one of richest sponsorship deals in all of sports — would be his primary backer next season.

Harvick, with a smile as big as all outdoors plastered on his mug, said his turnaround from a frustrating 2009 is alarmingly simple.

“The reason is that we were so damned bad last year,” he said. “To come here and do what we did today says a lot about where RCR is at.”

Childress said that Harvick, himself, was a big part of making he team dramatically better this season.

“A lot of people get credit. We made some changes in personnel, engineering, a lot of different things,” he said. “But Kevin has been so rock-solid. He is into it this year. He’s figured out how to make this thing work.”

In the past, one of the criticisms directed at Harvick was his quick temper and inability to control his emotions in the heat of battle. That has changed this season.

“As you get older you experience more things,” he said. “You learn how to deal with things better and you learn what to do, what not to do and when to do it.”

Harvick said that he has sought to get more time away from the track to get his mind off the pressures that come with top-level racing.

“That’s all we are doing different. Trying to get away from racing during the week to take my mind away from things; to relax more.”

Denny Hamlin finished second in he No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .

Hamlin said that he was giving it all he had at the end of the race but could not match Harvick’s pace.

“It’s win or nothing for us,” he said. “This was the kind of run we needed to get back in the swing of things, but we still have to get better.”

Carl Edwards was third in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and his RFR teammates Greg Biffle, in the No. 16 Ford and Matt Kenseth, in the No. 17 Ford, rounded out the top five.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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