There was plenty of news during the 2012 edition of the annual NASCAR media tour, but perhaps none was bigger than the announcement that Kevin and DeLana Harvick, arguably the most popular couple in NASCAR racing today, are expecting their first child in mid-July.
No matter how well Harvick fares this season, his leap into fatherhood will far outshine any on-track successes or failures he experiences, and NASCAR Ranting and Raving congratulates the Harvicks on the impending arrival of their bundle of joy.
After the two finest seasons of his career, however, Harvick is poised to take another leap: from Sprint Cup driver to Sprint Cup champion.
Indeed, before Tony Stewart won three of the last four races, the Chase of 2011 seemed to be shaping up into a battle between Harvick and old nemesis Carl Edwards. A crash in the sixth race at Talladega shelved his hopes, though, and he was ultimately a distant observer to the epic duel between Stewart and Edwards for the championship.
A year prior, he far-and-away dominated the circuit in total points scored, but was unable to overcome another Jimmie Johnson Chase Juggernaut.
If Harvick couldn't pull off the title in 2010 or 2011, what makes him the favorite this year, you might ask?
For one, he will be strictly a driver in 2012. The competitive operations of Kevin Harvick Incorporated ceased at the conclusion of the 2011 season, and this will be the first time since 2000 that he will be able to focus soley on driving race cars - from a competition standpont, of course.
He has already proven to be one of the most talented drivers in the garage, capable of winning on any type of track, and taking the day-to-day pressures of running a race team off of him will make Harvick as potent as he has been in his Sprint Cup career.
Add on top of that the extra motivation fatherhood will no doubt give him and the powerful No. 29 Chevrolets he will wheel for Richard Childress, and the ingredients are there for one of the most dominant seasons our sport has seen since Jeff Gordon's three-consecutive 10-plus-win seasons from 1996-98. Consistency has been his hallmark in the past two seasons as well, and he could just as easilly win the title by top-fiving the field to death, with a handful of wins thrown in.
Regardless of how he goes about accomplishing it, however, it will be Harvick who assumes his place at the head table in Las Vegas this December, alongside his lovely wife and a five-month-old child.