2014 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Fourteen seasons of hard work and
blinding pace at the top of the stock car
scene finally paid off for Kevin Harvick in
2014. He’s the man drafted into Richard
Childress Racing’s Cup team following the
death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001; he’s the
man who amazingly won in only his third
Cup start; he’s the man who, before this
season, had six times finished the year in
the top five; he’s the man who’d gone
winless in only three of his Cup seasons.
And now, finally, he’s The Man. Period.
There had been worries pre-season that
Stewart-Haas Racing’s mix of Tony Stewart,
Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick was a
timebomb, but the fuse was never lit.
Stewart suffered a desultory season
from the results standpoint and a tragic
one in human terms; Busch had a
solitary win, finished a solid 10th in the
championship, but rarely appeared to
have enough pace on enough types of
track to launch a serious title run.
And so Harvick’s focus turned to
holding off not teammates but fierce
competitors from outside. There were
fellow Chevrolet runners, like the reborn
Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports and
Ryan Newman, who’d gone the opposite
way last winter, from SHR to RCR. Ryan
was a constant championship threat, to
the extent that he finished the season just
one point behind Harvick, despite never
winning. And then Team Penske’s Fords
amassed 11 wins between Brad Keselowski
and Joey Logano, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s
Denny Hamlin gave Toyota an outside
chance right down to the finale.
But Harvick didn’t just hold on. When the
10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup began, he
and the No. 4 SHR crew were ready, and
three wins in the final seven events sealed
the deal. It took way longer than any of
us imagined for Kevin to reach this point,
but that surely makes the glory sweeter.
We’ve predicted NASCAR Sprint Cup glory for Harvick
almost since he started in 2001. Now the wait is over.
Stewart-Haas co-owner Tony Stewart had
a grim 2014 following the fatal sprint car
accident he was involved in. Kevin Harvick
at least brought some pleasure to his life.
FRIEND AND BOSS
Made-for-TV fights piqued interest
NASCAR’s new-for-2014 Chase format –
over the final 10 races, the top 12 drivers
are whittled down to four in title contention
at the finale – was unpopular with fans at
first. But when even the mild turned wild and
TV cameras captured the angry exchanges,
audience ratings improved for the final races
compared with those of 2012 and ’ 13.
In Charlotte, Matt Kenseth – never a fan
of Brad Keselowski – got into it with the
2012 champion between two haulers
after collisions on track and on pit road.
At Texas Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon
and Keselowski collided as they fought
Jimmie Johnson for the lead. That spun
Gordon down the order, and Jeff wasn’t
backward at coming forward on pit road
afterward. The threat of elimination from
the Chase was enough, it seems, to fire
up even Kenseth and Gordon, who are
typically NASCAR’s model citizens.
It’s a special guy who
can get Jeff Gordon
this mad; Special K
is that guy. Their
collision left Jeff with
too much to do in the
at Phoenix. Despite
four wins this season,
JG was eliminated
from the Chase.