By admin | February 17, 2013
By Richard Allen
It hasn’t exactly been a well kept secret that Kevin Harvick intends to leave Richard Childress Racing at the end of the 2013 season to join Stewart-Haas Racing. And with that being so well known, many have labeled the Bakersfield, Calif. native as a ‘lame duck’ for this season.
On Saturday night when Harvick drove to victory in the Sprint Unlimited at the Daytona International Speedway, he called out those who had applied the term that is frequently used in politics to describe an office holder who is about to be replaced by someone else. In racing, the term has become part of the modern-day vernacular to describe a driver who has either decided to leave his current team at a later date or who has been told he will be leaving at a later date.
“Pride also comes in there pretty good, too,” Harvick told reporters of his crew’s attitude during his Sprint Unlimited press conference. “It’s fun to prove people wrong.”
The driver later went on Twitter to further make his point. “Well well the lame ducks win!!! Great way to start the year!!!”
But before anyone gets too excited and decides to discard the lame duck label from around Harvick’s neck, it must be considered that success in Daytona offers no guarantee of success throughout the remainder of the schedule. As a matter of fact, history is littered with examples in which the opposite has proven to be true.
Just last year, Kyle Busch made two of the greatest saves in recent memory on his way to victory in the race now known as the Sprint Unlimited. The rest of his season proved to be a disappointment. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver only won one points paying Sprint Cup race and failed to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The 2011 winner of the Sprint Unlimited was Kurt Busch. He did go on to win two races that year and make the Chase. But, he also got caught on camera in the midst of a vulgar tirade during the last race of the season and “mutually agreed” with team owner Roger Penske to part ways. His career has been less-than-spectacular since.
Harvick himself won this All Star event in 2009 and 2010. While he did go on to have a good year in 2010, his 2009 campaign was the worst of his Sprint Cup career as he did not win a points paying race and managed only nine top-10 finishes.
And finally, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Sprint Unlimited in his first season driving for Hendrick Motorsports back in 2008. That season, he won one race on a fuel mileage stretch and placed 12th in the standings. 2008 actually served as the beginning of a tail spin for him that lasted for four years.
The bottom line is, Harvick has proven that he can win a short, made-for-television race on a restrictor plate track. But he has not proven that his status as a lame duck won’t have an impact on his 2013 season. The history recounted above shows that winning this one event guarantees nothing in terms of a full year.
Kevin Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team may go on to have a great year filled with race wins and a championship. However, their relative weakness of last season does not indicate that such will be the case. And no, winning the Sprint Unlimited does not prove that his lame duck label can be discounted.
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