Monday morning NASCAR recap: Harvick gets statement win at Richmond

Streeter Lecka

Kevin Harvick sends message in come-from-behind Richmond win.

Up until Saturday night Kevin Harvick's season had been one of frustration and more about what it could be than it actually was.

While many of the characteristics needed to score good finishes were there something was still amiss, and heading into this past weekend, the No. 29 team had posted just a single finish inside the top 10.

Contrary to his reputation as "The Closer," Harvick's 2013 season thus far had been defined by his inability to, well, close.

Numerous times this year the 29 car would be in the hunt.

However, as the race moved to its conclusion, maintaining that favorable track position became a challenge. And with each passing race where good finishes slipped through their fingers, the testiness became palpable.

A week ago at Kansas Speedway, Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin exchanged heated barbs following a slow pit stop late that dropped Harvick back down the running order.

Harvick vented about the state of his team while Martin told his driver to do his job without complaint.

With Harvick already announcing his departure from Richard Childress Racing, it was easy to think that the 29 team was coming apart at the seams. In spite of everyone's continued assertions that the focus and desire was there, by all appearances this was the definition of a lame-duck season.

That storyline was flipped, however, when in dramatic fashion, Harvick reverted back to the driver his competition doesn't want to see in their rearview mirror in the final laps.

Lining up seventh on what was going to be a green-white-checkered restart, Harvick, using dogged determination and his trademark ferocity -- along with four fresh tires -- powered his way to the lead before a single lap had even been completed.

All of a sudden, a season that was viewed as lost has become very much alive.

"We've had speed and we were frustrated," Harvick said in the aftermath of his 20th career win. "I think all of us were frustrated, not just myself and Gil, but I think everybody on our team. You can talk till you're blue in the face that your car is running good.

"People like you (media) guys look at the results on Monday and the points, and they weren't where we thought we should be. I think a win goes a long ways."

Maybe Harvick, Martin and team owner Richard Childress were right all along.

Despite a future guaranteed to be apart, the bonds of friendship were too strong to let Harvick's final season with RCR be awash in controversy, disappointment and resentment.

Ever since his decision became public five months ago that this was his final year driving for RCR, Harvick has maintained he isn't thinking about the future. There is simply too much invested in the present to shortchange all the hard work and sacrifice that he and his team have put in through the years.

"It doesn't feel like it's any different than any other year has been, other than you know at the end of the year everybody knows what's going on," Harvick said. "It takes too much work to be mad because at this point you're racing week in, week out, you're testing, trying to relay the information.

"I know everybody makes a big deal out of what you're going to do next year. . . . But, man, next year is so far away right now that you're week‑to‑week."

So now that we know this won't be a lame-duck season, the question now is whether this is a championship winning season or at least some facsimile of one?

With a win secured and ranked ninth in points, Harvick appears on his way to making a fourth consecutive Chase appearance and his sixth in the last eight years.

"I think we got a great shot of winning that championship this year," Childress said. "We just got to be there at the end of the day.

"They're not easy to win, championships aren't. But that's the one thing I want to accomplish. This could be the year."

The team has found its swagger again in a classic short track duel under a full moon.

If there is a lesson to be learned in Harvick's Richmond victory, it's not to doubt the resolve of an organization that is determined to end its partnership not in dissension, but in triumph.

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