Getting into the 2022 NASCAR Cup Collection playoffs, Kevin Harvick had some momentum at his again and a few actual cause for optimism. He’d simply snapped a 65-race winless streak lower than a month earlier at Michigan Worldwide Speedway after which made it two victories in a row the next weekend at Richmond Raceway.
Despite the fact that Harvick didn’t start the playoffs because the championship favourite, he was arguably one in all about six or seven drivers with a professional probability to say NASCAR’s largest prize in November’s season-ending race at Phoenix Raceway.
That’s not going to occur, although.
Handicapped by a dismal end within the first two races of the Spherical of 16, Harvick wanted a spectacular consequence in Saturday night time’s elimination race at Bristol simply to achieve the Spherical of 12. However he completed 10th — effectively wanting the place he wanted to complete to advance — and left Bristol as one in all 4 unique playoff drivers now not in championship rivalry.
Though Harvick is underneath contract with Stewart-Haas Racing via the 2023 season, it’s laborious to not marvel at this level whether or not he — in his coronary heart of hearts — actually needs to proceed racing past 2022. The 2014 Cup Collection champion has had loads on his thoughts just lately, and most of it hasn’t been all that constructive.
However this didn’t simply begin just a few days in the past — or perhaps a few weeks in the past when he immediately turned extra vocal about problems with concern. Harvick has appeared lower than thrilled on a number of fronts for many of 2022.
Up subsequent are three the reason why Harvick ought to forgo the ultimate yr of his contract and announce that this shall be his closing season as a Cup Collection driver.
1. Kevin Harvick is previous his prime
It’s hardly a coincidence that Kevin Harvick has received simply two NASCAR Cup Collection races in two years. At age 46, he’s the oldest energetic full-time Cup Collection driver.
Historic knowledge suggests that the majority drivers go right into a statistical decline round age 43, if not a bit earlier. Though Harvick bucked this development as a 44-year-old in 2020 when he rang up a series-high 9 wins, his drop-off in efficiency since has been nothing lower than staggering.
Though he’s received extra races this season than he did in 2021, when he was shut out of Victory Lane for the primary time since 2009, his total stats haven’t impressed. Based mostly on his present tempo, he’ll end the yr with fewer top-five finishes than he’s recorded in any yr since no less than 2013. And even when he completed within the prime 10 in all seven remaining races, he’d nonetheless end the yr with fewer top-10s than he posted in every of the final seven seasons.
Whereas it may be tempting accountable Harvick’s decline on the Subsequent Technology Cup Collection automobile that debuted this yr and has created some rising pains for nearly each workforce, the fact is that his drop-off in efficiency began final season — with the outdated automobile that had been round since 2013.
No, the most important distinction between the Kevin Harvick who received 9 races in 2020 and the Kevin Harvick of 2022 is that this Kevin Harvick is 2 years older. And his abilities are clearly in decline.
Mentioned Harvick of his 2022 season after being eradicated from title rivalry over the weekend at Bristol: “Nothing has gone proper, actually.”
That quote — attributed to Harvick within the postrace transcript offered by Ford Racing — appears like a quote from a pissed off driver. And one who is aware of his finest days in racing are behind him.
2. Kevin Harvick doesn’t really feel secure within the Subsequent Technology race automobile
If there’s one factor Kevin Harvick has made abundantly clear previously few weeks, it’s that he’s not happy with the protection options of the Subsequent Technology automobile.
From accusing NASCAR of not eager to spend the cash it takes to make the automobile safer to claiming that the sanctioning physique hasn’t moved rapidly sufficient in addressing rising security considerations, Harvick has held nothing again in making his emotions identified and heard.
“The entire security factor is absolutely sort of second fiddle [to NASCAR] proper now — and I simply don’t suppose that’s truthful to the drivers,” Harvick throughout a recorded media availability at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 10. “I don’t suppose it’s truthful to the drivers, and we are able to debate all day, however debating isn’t actually fixing something.”
Harvick is one in all a number of drivers to lash out about just lately what they deem to be the brand new automobile’s insufficient security options, however he’s been probably the most vocal critic by far. A part of the anxiousness surrounding the Subsequent Gen automobile stems from the season-ending concussion Kurt Busch suffered in a qualifying crash at Pocono in July. And different drivers, most notably Denny Hamlin, have much more just lately handled soreness from impacts felt contained in the Subsequent Gen.
“I feel after I have a look at the automobile itself, it’s not rear impacts, it’s not entrance impacts, it’s not facet impacts, it’s all impacts,” Harvick stated at Kansas. “It doesn’t matter what [NASCAR’s] filtered knowledge says, it’s not what the drivers are feeling. And we want a louder voice.”
Together with being crucial of the influence drivers are feeling once they crash, Harvick has taken goal at NASCAR for not doing extra — sooner — to take care of the brand new automobile’s tendency to catch on fireplace for no apparent cause. Harvick’s automobile turned engulfed in flames in the course of the Labor Day Weekend race at Darlington, forcing him to bail out of the car and lose valuable championship factors regardless of not operating into something that ought to have triggered such an inferno.
Moments after escaping from the automobile unhurt, Harvick minced no phrases with regard to how he felt concerning the state of affairs, which NASCAR has since taken steps to repair.
“What a catastrophe, man — for no cause,” Harvick stated throughout a televised interview with NASCAR on NBC. “We didn’t contact the wall, we didn’t contact a automobile, and right here we’re within the pits with a burned-up automobile, and we are able to’t end the race in the course of the playoffs due to crappy-ass elements.”
The elements to which Harvick was referring aren’t elements provided by his workforce. They’re from an outdoor vendor assigned by NASCAR to supply groups with sure commonplace elements.
“If the groups have been in control of stuff like that, and the right enter was put in place, we’d have by no means had greater than two fires [all season] if the groups have been in cost for the entire discipline,” Harvick stated in the course of the Kansas press convention. “The groups would have collaborated and never been so gradual to react.”
All this begs the query: If Harvick feels unsafe and believes NASCAR hasn’t taken the right steps to deal with security considerations, ought to he actually proceed to race past 2022?
The reply is apparent. It’s no.
3. Kevin Harvick simply isn’t ‘Blissful’
The brand new automobile is hardly the one merchandise that Kevin Harvick — whose nickname is “Blissful” — has been sad about this season.
He’s provided less-than-flattering assessments of no less than two venues the place the Cup Collection competes and can compete as soon as once more in 2023: the Bristol dust observe and the street course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He’s additionally thrown his pit crew underneath the bus, with probably the most notable occasion coming in June at Sonoma the place he completed fourth and blamed a gradual pit cease for his failure to problem for the win.
“We should always’ve completed second on the worst,” he advised a bunch of reporters. “We screw up each week.”
These are fairly harsh phrases from a man who’s been round lengthy sufficient to know that workforce morale means every little thing in NASCAR. However in that second, Harvick clearly didn’t care.
If the veteran driver is really this detached to the emotions of his teammates — and he’s sad about future schedules and driver security and isn’t performing on the highest degree — he needn’t hassle sticking round for one more season.
To take action wouldn’t serve anybody effectively, particularly him. Nevertheless, transferring on on the finish of 2022 would open up a extremely coveted, last-minute seat for one more driver in 2023.
As a lot as Harvick might not suppose he’s prepared to hold it up, means worse than taking an early retirement is being fully depressing in your job.
And by all appearances, that’s Kevin Harvick as of late.
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