Kevin Harvick has had rocket ships in the 2014 season consistently being near the front — that is when his cars aren’t failing catastrophically.
After a back-to-back “take it to the garage” finishes the past two weeks, with failed front hub and a blown engine, is it time for the No. 4 Stewart Haas Chevy team to dial it back a notch to make sure Harvick can make it to the checkered flag?
That’s a tough one. After winning at Phoenix a few weeks back, he’s pretty much guaranteed into the new Chase format. Every one of the four different drivers that have won so far in 2014 have noted that it really changes their season, their attitude and even a little bit of pressure.
None of those teams are likely to go into conservative mode and cruise around and around, but rather to help teammates, as well as themselves later in the season — crew chiefs already known to push the envelope of physics, endurance and rules are likely to experiment and push in new and different ways.
Not to take anything with his trio of teammates of Stewart Haas, but Harvick has been the most consistent running thus far, even with the two catastrophic failures. While they’re all contenders, Harvick’s success and strategies have obviously been shared with the No. 14, 10 and 41 teams. Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick had their best finishes of the season so far at Bristol, and in part, that has to be from the No. 4’s successful setups and fast cars.
So the short answer is the No. 4 team is unlikely to change what they’re doing — unless there’s a negative for their team: sponsors complaining, costs of wrecked/dying race cars, etc., or the confidence or attitude of the driver. While all could happen, the fast cars and great results of the team when they do complete the race make the risks worth it.
Till we get near to the Chase this fall, expect Harvick and his freaky fast team to continue to build the notebook of setups, experiments and envelope pushing. So until we get there, enjoy the ride. I’m pretty sure the No. 4 team is.