Richard Childress Racing
Harvick, RCR stress positives in final year together
February 10, 2013
Date: February 9, 2013
Author: Jeff Gluck
Gil Martin knew the question was coming before it was asked.
With Kevin Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing after this season, how could anyone expect the No. 29 team to contend for the title with a lame-duck driver in the seat?
The crew chief's expression turned to faux surprise.
"He's leaving?" Martin asked incredulously, keeping a straight face for a couple of seconds before cracking a knowing smile.
It's a story line that will likely hover over RCR all season: How will the organization fare with Harvick, its top driver, heading to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014?
In Martin's eyes, the change won't have the impact many observers think it will.
"Everybody is waiting for this team to blow up, for Kevin to blow up," he said. "I really think it's going to be quite the opposite. Everybody's got something to prove. A lot of people are trying to find the negatives in it, but I think we've got a lot more positives than negatives right now."
Positives? What positives are there in one of NASCAR's top drivers — a 19-time Sprint Cup Series race winner — leaving for another organization?
According to those associated with the team — including Harvick and owner Richard Childress — there's a great deal of motivation to remain united in the face of a move which could be a crippling blow to their season.
Harvick said his team didn't have anything to prove on the track.
"The biggest thing to prove is who you are as people," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Richard and the organization, and you don't want to leave a black mark on that. You want to (leave) with as much class and everything that comes with being as classy as you can. We're going to race."
The team has at least some evidence in its belief staying together won't be difficult. It has made it through several test sessions without so much as a hiccup in communication. The real challenge, though, could come during the season if RCR is unable to shake its two-year-long slump.
"The bottom line is the car has to run good," Harvick said.
RCR hired Eric Warren as its competition director in October, and driver Jeff Burton said the team's new philosophy under Warren's guidance should improve all three cars.
"I can tell you that the commitment to improve is there," Burton said. "It is a different philosophy; it's a different way of doing business than we have done it before. It's what I have believed in, and that is why I'm optimistic."
The biggest change, Martin said, will be the internal communication. "Everybody is doing basically the same foundation on all the cars," he said. "All the information is going to flow easier from team to team."
Harvick has been with Childress since he ran a Busch Series race for the team in October 1999. The two have clashed at times and had ups and downs — Harvick has threatened to leave the team before — but ultimately survived their differences.
"All I know is I want to have a long-term friendship with Kevin even after this is gone," Childress said. "With any of the drivers I've had in the past, I want to have great relationships with them.
"That's what this is about. Life's too short to keep carrying (a grudge)."
No matter what happens, Harvick said, this can't compare to RCR's worst time: Dale Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
"This isn't even close to what we approached in '01," said Harvick, who took over for Earnhardt. "When we look back at some of the behind-closed-doors stuff and all the scenarios and situations we had to go through ... this is a cakewalk."
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