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NASCAR Season Preview: Kevin Harvick

Photo credit: Paula R. Lively (CC-GEN)

#29 Budweiser/Rheem/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing

Born: December 8, 1975

Home: Bakersfield, California

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: After posting three wins, 26 top 10s, and a third place points finish in 2010, it looked like there was no way that Harvick could be as strong in 2011. Scratch that – while Harvick only had 19 top 10s last year, he matched the third place points finish and even scored one more win.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: A post-race pit road incident with Kyle Busch at Darlington landed Harvick on NASCAR’s naughty list. And while he spent the first half of the Chase either first or second in points, a 32nd place finish at Talladega knocked him down to fifth and effectively ended his championship hopes.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The #29 team has never been this consistently strong on a year to year basis with Harvick behind the wheel. In the past, strong seasons have usually been bookended by weaker ones; back-to-back third place finishes mark the first back-to-back top five points finishes for this team since the late Dale Earnhardt finished fourth and fifth in the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The only threat to that could be the separation of Harvick and crew chief Todd Berrier, who left to crew chief Bobby Labonte at JTG Daugherty Racing. Shane Wilson, who crew chiefed former teammate Clint Bowyer’s #33 car last season and has scored multiple Chase wins in his career, will take over.

During the January media tour, Harvick announced that he and wife DeLana are expecting their first child this season. Fatherhood may make Harvick even stronger – judging by its rejuvenation of Jeff Gordon’s career recently, it may aid his focus and help ease his temper. Combine that with the folding of his Nationwide operation into Richard Childress Racing, and Harvick may be as focused as he’s ever been in 2012. In fact, he may finally add a Sprint Cup to his other driver and owner’s championships in lower-tier series.

– Chris Leone

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