Kevin Harvick unfazed by Stewart-Haas' future with Ford

ByBob Pockrass ESPN logo
Friday, February 26, 2016

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kevin Harvick spent part of Friday morning working with JR Motorsports. He's driving an Xfinity Series car for the team this weekend, and for him it appeared business as usual in a Chevrolet working with an affiliate of Hendrick Motorsports.

He then went to the Sprint Cup garage to his full-time ride for Stewart-Haas Racing, also an affiliate of Hendrick Motorsports.

If anyone knows how to handle lame-duck situations, it's Harvick. It leaked in November 2012 that he would leave Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season. The fact that SHR has announced it would leave Chevrolet for Ford after 2016 didn't seem to affect Harvick in his routine at Atlanta Motor Speedway, except for reporters following him through the garage -- even waiting outside a bathroom -- to see whether he was upset over the move as a driver who has driven a Chevrolet his entire Sprint Cup career.

Harvick said last month that he and wife, DeLana, work in five-year plans. The next five-year plan starts next year and has him driving all the way through 2021.

Will that plan include SHR, or does it change after the announcement Wednesday?

"My focus is the same as it has been since I started racing -- it is to go out and win races and championships," Harvick said in a brief interview as he walked between the Xfinity and Sprint Cup garages. "You've just got to follow along with what your organization thinks is best. I think they have the same interest in mind that I do -- and that is to compete for wins and championships."

Harvick said he would be foolish not to be committed to his team and crew chief Rodney Childers. He won the Sprint Cup title in 2014. He finished second in 2015. He has led 4,431 laps with eight wins, 19 second-place finishes and 38 top-5s in 73 races with Childers.

Most SHR contracts have appeared to be three-year deals with an option. If SHR picks up the option, it would take Harvick through 2017.

Harvick, when asked whether he should be considered a free agent after this year, said he is not.

"My contract? I haven't even asked," Harvick said. "I just assumed it was all sealed up and done. I assume so. ... I think there's options and things in there."

Working with JR Motorsports was no different Friday than in the past, he said.

"I've been in this position with RCR and changing jobs and won four or five races and made the Chase," Harvick said. "Nothing different."

When Harvick talked, he didn't mention the word "Ford." He probably can't since he has a personal services deal with Chevrolet. Although he has pitched Chevrolets for 16 years as a Sprint Cup driver, assuming he stays, he'll have to pitch something else.

Other drivers have made the switch without much problem. Carl Edwards had strong ties to Ford before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and becoming a Toyota driver at the start of last year.

"I always felt really close to Ford," Edwards said. "With the switch to Toyota, I saw a different way of doing things. ... Their involvement is different. I'm sure Chevrolet is different than that."

The SHR move will affect Hendrick Motorsports with it losing the chassis-purchasing and engine-leasing business that SHR had with Hendrick. A four-car Sprint Cup engine package for engines and personnel support -- which likely tops $100,000 a race per car -- possibly ranges from $15-20 million.

"They are Chevy-powered, Hendrick powered engines and Hendrick chassis right now," Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnsonsaid. "We are going to continue to work hard and honor the contracts and give Rick [Hendrick] the time to figure out how to bring in some more revenue.

"If it's supplying engines and chassis for other teams, bringing in more sponsorship to keep everything where it's at, we've got some time to figure all that out, which is cool."

In the past five seasons, SHR has won two championships (2011 with Tony Stewart, 2014 with Harvick), while Hendrick has won one (2013 with Johnson). SHR will build its own chassis and get its engine from Ford supplier Roush Yates Engines when it makes the switch.

That means both SHR and Roush Yates will need more personnel. Hendrick hopes to keep the workforce it has.

"It's certainly not fun to be beat by your own equipment, but at the same time it has helped motivate us in a lot of ways," Johnson said. "We know that we have been getting outrun by our own stuff.

"It's helped us, maybe find a direction in where to work a little easier. [The news] is still so new, and we still have this year to finish out, that I guess my mind hasn't gone there yet and how it's going to be different."

Stewart, in the announcement Wednesday, said he expects some of the dynamics to change as far as the team's relationship with Hendrick. But he also believes SHR can stay the course with a strong run in Chevrolets this year.

"Our partnership with Ford doesn't start until next year and we're excited about it, but this year we're still a Chevy team and we're still committed to going out and doing everything we can to win races and a championship for them," Stewart said. "That's what we do."