Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Kevin Harvick back at Charlotte to defend Coca-Cola 600 title

CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin "Happy" Harvick has lived up to his nickname this season, and he hopes the good times with new team Stewart-Haas Racing roll on tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Harvick heads into Sprint Cup's Coca-Cola 600 coming off a win and three top-10 finishes in the past four races. He was in position to win last week's All-Star Race until a slow final pit stop caused him to finish second at Charlotte. Now he seeks his third win in four years in NASCAR's longest race. Harvick won the 600-miler at Charlotte in 2011 and 2013, and he said he believes he has another shot with his new No. 4 Chevrolet.

"The first minute that I was in that car, I haven't quit smiling," Harvick said. "It's been so refreshing and so much fun to be part of that every day."

Harvick, who won 23 races in 13 seasons for Richard Childress Racing, said there's something different and special about his new team, led by crew chief Rodney Childers. He praised Stewart-Haas, too.

"The bottom line is the organization from a whole has given us every resource that we have asked for," Harvick said. "You never talk about money. It's just, 'What do you need, and how do we get it for you?' "

Harvick broke through early to dominate the Profit on CNBC 500 in March at Phoenix for his first win with his new team, then went through growing pains with four finishes of 36th or worse in his next five events. Things turned around last month at Darlington when Harvick outran Hendrick Motorsports stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson for the victory in the Southern 500 and hasn't slowed since.

Harvick credits much of the success to Childers, recruited by Stewart-Haas after two years as a crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing. Childers and Harvick have connected over their desire to win, not just on race day but during every practice session, tire test and pit stop. "They all want to win and race for championships," Harvick said, "and when you put (those) kind of people together with that determination, everybody pushes everybody else."

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