Last week NASCAR came to Phoenix International Raceway to get in some pre season testing at the one mile facility in the desert. I was fortunate to have issued media credentials to cover the two day test. During the one hour lunch break on Tuesday, the first day of the test session, drivers, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick came into the media center to answer questions. Many topics were covered by the media and the drivers were eager to answer those questions.
When Kevin Harvick took questions most of the media was concerned with Stewart-Haas Racing’s transition to Ford from Chevy and the ramifications of the change.
However, I was interested in learning about SHR’s venture into the Xfinity series with Cole Custer as their primary drive, with Harvick entering four races in a second SHR Ford Mustang, No. 41. With that in mind, and the fact that Harvick had started up his own Truck team years ago, I asked him “how involved he would be in getting SHR’s Xfinity team off the ground, running and competitive this season”?
Harvick smiled that coy smile of his, perked up and was quick to run with my question issuing the following explanation!
“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 led off.
As a side note, in the last three seasons since “Happy Harvick” left Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing, he has competed in 34 Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports and won six times.
Nevertheless, Harvick’s full-time job at SHR has kept him from providing the best lending hand. All of that will change beginning this season as SHR launches its own Xfinity program, headlined by Cole Custer in the Haas Automation 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 involvement will include driving the No. 41 Ford this year in 4 races.
“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 mentoring of Custer, who has only five Xfinity starts, all of which came with JR Motorsports last season.
Harvick knows there will be some bumps in the road that SHR will face in its new endeavor, 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.”
Now that Cole Custer is racing under the Stewart-Haas Racing banner, and not in an out building at JR Motorsports with their (JR Motorsports) Truck team, there should be more continuity and much more help coming from Harvick and the other SHR stable of drivers. So in the early part of this season it may be very common to see Kevin Harvick going between his garage stall and the garage of the NXS SHR No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang of Cole Custer, helping out in whatever way that is asked of him.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!