Although 2014 was only nine years ago, the world is very different than what it is now in 2023. Especially in the world of sports. Barack Obama was in the middle of his second term as President of the United States. The New England Patriots had just won their fourth Super Bowl. “I Believe that we will Win!” Sound familiar? This was the motto and the chant for the US Men’s National Soccer Team for the 2014 World Cup. This was also the motto of the #4 Stewart-Hass Racing team in the NASCAR Cup Series. The team was headed by an experienced Cup Series driver who started calling Stewart-Hass Racing home in 2014. That driver was Kevin Harvick. Last time on Championship Seasons, we discussed the start of the dynasty for Jeff Gordon and the Rainbow Warriors. This is Championship Seasons: Kevin Harvick.
Originally from Bakersfield, California, Kevin Harvick was a part of Richard Childress Racing’s Busch Series team in 2000 before his debut in the Winston Cup Series. It would be a great rookie season for Harvick in the Busch Series with three wins and Rookie of the Year honors. For 2001, Harvick was slated to run the #2 in the Busch Series again, but that all changed on February 18th, 2001. Kevin Harvick was thrust into the spotlight suddenly after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. The black #3 was switched to the white #29 for Harvick for his debut race at Rockingham. Just three weeks later, Harvick would win his first Winston Cup Series race at Atlanta, edging out Jeff Gordon. If anyone had doubts about the talent of Kevin Harvick, those doubts were out the window now.
In August of 2003, Harvick went on to win the Brickyard 400, the first of three in his career. This would be the biggest win for Harvick until 2007. In 2007, Harvick started the season by winning the biggest race in NASCAR. In a photo finish, edging out Mark Martin to the finish, Harvick would win the 2007 running of the Daytona 500. This is when the dry spell would start for Harvick. From the 2007 Daytona 500 to the Spring of 2010, Harvick wouldn’t win any races. 2011 and 2012 were better seasons for Harvick, but 2013 was the decisive year in his Richard Childress Racing career.
From RCR to SHR:
On January 22nd, 2013, it was officially announced that Kevin Harvick would part ways with Richard Childress Racing at the end of the 2013 season. It was also announced that Harvick would join Stewart-Hass Racing starting in 2014, but the sponsors or car number weren’t officially confirmed. On July 12th, 2013, it was officially announced that Harvick would replace Ryan Newman at SHR with the #39 switching to the #4. It was a mutual agreement between Harvick and Childress that it was time for Harvick to move on a different path for his career. With RCR, Harvick had been in a position to win a championship several times but fell short every time. This was the beginning of a new era for Kevin Harvick.
The Early Portions of the Season:
Even in pre-season testing, Harvick could tell that the 2014 season was going to be special. In the 2014 Daytona 500, Harvick was in a prime position to win the event but got caught up in a last-lap wreck. He would finish in 13th position at Daytona. The following week in Phoenix, Harvick and the #4 team would be flat-out dominant. With 224 laps led on the day, Harvick had his first win of the season, and his first with SHR. After his win in Phoenix, this began a very weird stretch for Harvick. Starting at Fontana and ending at Texas, Harvick would have finished 36th or worse in that five-race stretch. In each of those races, Harvick would not only have one of the fastest cars but would lead the most laps. It was very apparent to the whole field that Harvick and the #4 team were very fast.
At Darlington, Harvick dominated the Southern 500 for his second win of the season after a last-lap pass on Dale Jr. Later in May, Harvick had the chance to win his third Coca-Cola 600 in four years, but a poor pit stop with 250 laps left cost Harvick a shot to win. Over the summer, Harvick went relatively quiet. That in no way means that Harvick wasn’t fast. If Harvick was finishing in the Top-5, he was finishing in the Top-2. From Dover in June to Richmond in September, Harvick finished in the Top-5 four times, three of which were in the Top-2. None of the Top-2 finishes were wins. From Dover to Richmond, Harvick posted an average finish of 12.57. By the time The Chase rolled around, Harvick was the #6 seed. Soon, Harvick would show them not to count them out.
Formally known as The Chase, now known as The Playoffs, the 2014 season was the debut of the new knockout-style points system throughout the 10 races of The Chase. For the first round of The Chase, Harvick posted a very strong average finish of 7.0. Heading into Kansas, the first race of the second round, Harvick easily had the dominant car. He was poised to get an automatic advancement into round Three of The Chase. That was until Harvick made an unscheduled pit stop with 53 laps to go, which handed control of the race to Joey Logano. Another win had slipped through the hands of the #4 team. The team looked at the next race, Charlotte, as another great chance to win. Once again, Harvick would have the dominant car leading 162 laps on the night.
This was Harvick’s third win of the season and an automatic advancement into the third Round of The Chase. With a rough start to the third Round for Harvick, he looked at Texas and Phoenix for good points days. After a fifth-place finish at Texas, Harvick was still below the cutline entering Phoenix. Harvick was going to have to win at Phoenix if he were to make it into the Championship Four. That’s exactly what Harvick did. Harvick once again dominated at Phoenix, much like he did in the Spring. He led 264 of the 312 laps on the day. The stage for the Championship Race was set. November 16th, 2014, at Homestead Miami Speedway. The Championship Four for 2014 was set. Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick.
A Magical Night in Homestead:
From 2002 to 2019, Homestead played host as the last race for the NASCAR season. Currently, Phoenix serves as the Championship Race. For most of the 2014 Championship Race, it was dominated by Jeff Gordon. For the drivers who were in Championship contention, it was a fight between Harvick and Hamlin. As the laps started winding down to 30 laps to go, Hamlin was in control of the Championship. With a late race caution for a hard crash for AJ Allmendinger, this is when things started to shift in Harvick’s favor. There’s a saying in racing, “Cautions breed Cautions.” After several late race restarts, a caution would fly with 15 laps to go with Hamlin in the lead and Harvick back in seventh. For the restart with nine laps to go, it would be Hamlin and Newman on the front row with Harvick in fifth.
Hamlin would clear the pack out of turn two, but Harvick shot out of a cannon on the restart, and he made his way up to second. Finally, Harvick would take the lead back with seven laps to go. Then, another caution came out. This set up a restart with Harvick and Newman for the final restart. Harvick would get a great restart and never looked back. Kevin Harvick would go on to win the 2014 Cup Series Championship in walk-off fashion. Harvick celebrated this win and Championship like it was his last, that’s because it was. The 2014 Cup Series Championship would be the only of Harvick’s career. Kevin Harvick wrapped up the 2014 season with 5 Wins, 20 Top-10 Finishes, 14 Top-5 Finishes, an average finish of 12.92, 2,137 Total laps led, and 2 DNFs on the season. An absolutely dominating season for Harvick.
4EVER A Champion:
Earlier this year, Kevin Harvick announced that he would be retiring from full-time racing in the Cup Series after the 2023 season. Currently, Harvick has one race left in his career, that being Phoenix. The same racetrack where he has won at the most. Harvick has not had the farewell season he was hoping he would have. With an average finish of 14.91 and being eliminated from the Round of 16 in the Playoffs, it has been a rough few months for Harvick and the #4 team. But there is one thing that is not deniable, that is Kevin Harvick has always played a huge role in the sport of NASCAR. He will be remembered for not being afraid to speak his mind or never backing down from a challenge. At Richmond in 2003, Harvick made it known that he would never back down from a fight.
That was because Harvick and the man they called “The Rooster,” Ricky Rudd, got into a confrontation after the race. That was the reputation that Harvick would carry for years of his career. But after his 2014 Championship Season, something changed within Harvick. He became more competitive than ever. Even with just the one Cup Series Championship, Harvick is one of the most successful drivers in history. With 60 Cup Series wins, the 2014 Cup Championship, two Xfinity Championships, and 47 wins, as well as 14 Truck Series wins, he has made his legacy for a hall-of-fame career. However, Harvick is not stepping away from the sport entirely. He will join the FOX broadcasts for the sport starting in 2024. It has been a legendary career for Harvick, he will forever be a Champion.