Kevin Harvick was one the most dominant drivers in NASCAR at the start of the 2011 season. He suffered a blown engine in the season opening Daytona 500, but had three wins by the end of May. But Harvick has been struggling as of late, notching only one top 10 finish since Daytona in July. Now everybody is wondering what is happening to the Budweiser 29 team.
Harvick has just run poorly for the last month and a half. He finished sixth at Watkins Glen, but outside the top 10 at Michigan, Bristol, Indianapolis, and New Hampshire which are all tracks that Harvick runs really well at historically. His struggles have come at one of the worst times possible since there are only two races remaining until the Chase for the Championship begins at Richmond International Raceway on September 10th.
NASCAR discovered yesterday in an oversight that Harvick had actually clinched a Chase spot on Saturday at Bristol via the wild card, but the team's performance on Saturday proved to be the exact opposite of Chase-worthy. He started 15th, but gradually slid backwards to eventually finish 22nd one lap down. Harvick warned the team over the radio that he was on the verge of having a "meltdown" if things did not improve immediately.
At Michigan two weeks ago Harvick had pit troubles throughout the race. It led to the firing of Richard Childress Racing's pit crew coach Matt Clark.
Harvick is not the only driver at RCR struggling. Clint Bowyer sits 12th in points, 22 points out of a Chase spot. Paul Menard has fallen to 20th in points and out of a wild card spot. Jeff Burton has struggled all season long and sits 24th in points with only one top 10 finish on the season. No RCR cars even finished on the lead lap Saturday night at Bristol. But Harvick's struggles are the biggest concern for the organization given his current position in the points standings and the success he had earlier this season. For RCR to have a chance at a championship this season, the 29 team has to perform to the peak of their abilities.
One theory to explain Harvick's troubles is that he is too concerned with Kyle Busch. The two drivers have made it very clear that they do not like each other numerous times. Their rivalry resumed this past Wednesday in the truck race at Bristol when Busch had a run-in with Kevin Harvick Incorporated driver Elliott Sadler and culminated with Harvick calling Busch a "douchebag" on an Atlanta radio station this morning. Some people feel that Harvick is too concerned with what Kyle Busch is doing, rather than ensuring that he gets himself the best finish possible. It is a good theory, but it does not explain all of RCR struggling at the same time.
Right now there is no explanation for Kevin Harvick's struggles, but it is obvious that RCR and the 29 team need to find a solution as quickly as possible to have any chance at run for the championship.