Har­vick seeks to end sea­son of trou­ble with cham­pi­onship

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JENNA FRYER

Kevin Har­vick has al­ways fol­lowed the path that best suits him, even when it cre­ated un­nec­es­sary chaos for him and his race team.

He picked fights with fel­low com­peti­tors in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion – Har­vick grabbed Greg Bif­fle by the throat, jumped on the hood of Ricky Rudd’s car, used moves learned as a high school wrestler to toss aside Carl Ed­wards – and showed lit­tle care for con­se­quences.

Then he be­came a fa­ther and learned to chan­nel his anger.

“If I was jump­ing over the hood of a car right now, went into my house, had a 6-year-old … do you know how em­bar­rassed I would be to walk in the front door and an­swer that ques­tion, ‘Hey, dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ ” Har­vick said. “Then it would get more em­bar­rass­ing as you take him to school, drive through the car­pool lines to see his teach­ers that are all watch­ing, as well.”

Har­vick re­mained calm a week ago when a flat tire nearly de­flated his re­mark­able sea­son. He has eight vic­to­ries this year, tied with Kyle Busch for most in the Cup Se­ries, but a cheat­ing vi­o­la­tion cost him his au­to­matic berth into Sun­day’s cham­pi­onship race. Har­vick and the No. 4 team had to re­qual­ify at Phoenix, and that early tire prob­lem could have ended his bid.

But he kept his com­po­sure, lis­tened to in­terim crew chief Tony Gib­son’s in­struc­tions and sal­vaged a fifth-place fin­ish that put him back in NASCAR’s cham­pi­onship field. Har­vick cred­ited the growth he’s had dur­ing an 18-year ca­reer that has him el­i­gi­ble for a sec­ond Cup ti­tle.

Ev­ery­thing Har­vick has worked for this year will be de­cided in three hours Sun­day. But if the race doesn’t go his way, it won’t ruin the sea­son.

“You want to win the cham­pi­onship be­cause ob­vi­ously you think it would be ic­ing on the cake with ev­ery­thing that you’ve ac­com­plished,” Har­vick said. “But it’s just not that easy. There’s noth­ing that’s go­ing to dev­as­tate us to the point of not be­ing able to func­tion any more, but to go along with ev­ery­thing we’ve done this year, it def­i­nitely would seem fit­ting to add that to the year end.”

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