At age 44, Kevin Harvick is having one of the best seasons of his career. The driver of the No. 4 car has a career high nine wins with seven races left and just won two of the three races in the NASCAR Playoffs opening round.
Harvick is a +160 favorite (Odds via William Hill Sportsbook) to win his second Cup Series title ahead of Denny Hamlin at +250. There have only been three seasons in Harvick's 20-year career where he didn't win a race and since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, he's won 35 times. On top of that, he's finished in the top 10 in 72.2% of starts since 2014 and finished in the top five in more than half of his races.
As Martin Truex Jr. said earlier this season: "He's the envy of the garage right now."
CBS Sports caught up with Harvick to discuss his dominant season as well as a variety of other topics ranging from Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin teaming with Bubba Wallace as their driver to what tracks he'd like to see added to the schedule in the near future. That conversation is below.
CBS Sports: We've been watching you race for a long time, but you've never been as jacked up as you were after your most recent win at Bristol. What led to the outpouring of emotions?
Harvick: "Honestly that started before the race. We've gone through so many races and you kind of get used to that silence in the racetrack with no fans there. We slowly had some fans come back but that vibe that was in the crowd at Bristol was just something that we hadn't had in a long time and I was jacked up getting in the car. The race obviously went well and we were able to win the race and the crowd was very into it after the race too which got me very into it. So it was a good feeling to have that enthusiasm and excitement because, let's be honest, we're going through just a weird time and day-to-day kind of wears you out on what tomorrow's going to bring and everything changes. This many people are sick, that many people are sick, you can go here, you can't go there, and just, there's so much change and uncertainty with everything in the world right now. I've been away from that for a while and that excitement and enthusiasm was fun to enjoy."
CBS Sports: You have nine wins on the season for the first time in your career. Jeff Gordon won 13 races back in 1998, that's the modern era record. Is that a number you think you can pass with seven races left?
Harvick: "I doubt it and I say that just because it's just that time of year where everybody is on top of their game and things are at a high level. It's so much different as you look at when Jeff was winning those championships and Dale Earnhardt. It's much different now just because of the way that the playoff format is. I'm not saying that we're not capable of doing that, it's just there's a number of things that would have to come together over seven weeks to win over half the races and I think as you look at everything that we've been fortunate enough to experience this year, I just don't know that you would want to expect that. I think for us we're obviously taking it one week at a time and things have gone well and trying to focus on the task at hand. 13 is a big number and a big ask to win over half the races over the next seven weeks."
The modern-era record for most wins in a NASCAR season belongs to @JeffGordonWeb & Richard Petty with 13.@KevinHarvick has a single-season career-high 9 wins.— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) September 23, 2020
Can Harvick match that number with 7 races left? Here's what he thinks...⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/HiUP5o8Ca9
CBS Sports: You're 18 wins away from tying Dale Earnhardt on the all-time wins list. What would it mean to you to be able to accomplish that?
Harvick: "Look, I don't know if you're ever going to, you might experience something like this again, but you might not. You could go through years of not winning a race so I think right now obviously that's a great goal and I think as you look at my career and the next several years and try to add up all those wins and hopefully you can even win a race but I've learned that things can switch so quickly. I think the conversation of people that have been around so long in this sport and the conversations that have come up over the past year, and the last two years honestly, of the names that are on that win list and just being around not only Dale Earnhardt, but you look down that list and just the drivers that have meant so much to this sport and it's an honor just to be around them. Hopefully we have a chance at that but you just never know in our sport so hopefully we can just keep up a decent pace and see where it all falls in the end."
"You look down that list and just the drivers that have meant so much to this sport and it’s an honor just to be around them."— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) September 23, 2020
Kevin Harvick discusses his place on the #NASCAR all-times wins list and the possibility of passing Dale Earnhardt, who is next up. pic.twitter.com/xRyxntcLfo
CBS Sports: One guy we've seen this year is Kyle Busch, who hasn't been able to find Victory Lane. He finished second to you at Bristol and afterwards made some comments regarding Joey Logano, some of the lapped drivers and also went on to say he would be eliminated in the next round. What do you make of the whole Kyle Busch situation?
Harvick: "It's definitely a scenario that I've been in before a number of times and I think as you mention Jimmie Johnson and you talk about his winless streak and the things that have happened and you look at Kyle Busch, who has won so many races throughout the years and is so good at what he does, in a great organization. It's a reminder that we need to enjoy where we're at right now and enjoy it week to week because you just never know when that momentum is going to stop and when things are going to change and when you're going to be on the other side of being competitive. Look, those guys have had a lot of bad luck on Kyle's side. They've been in position to win a few races. Obviously they haven't run like they have the last few years but that's just really the way that this thing goes. Sometimes you can do no wrong, sometimes you can't do anything wrong and things just go your way and sometimes you're so competitive that you put yourself in position to win time after time and they add up but you just never know when those situations are going to be like that and when the next time is going to be and how your car is running doesn't always dictate where your finishes are going to be. Sometimes you just go through those streaks of bad luck, so it's a great reminder to enjoy what we're doing. We've experienced that before. I experienced it to another level before I came to SHR so I definitely don't take for granted the things that we're doing because you don't have to look far to see people that are experiencing the other side of it that have been great for so long."
"It’s a reminder that we need to enjoy where we’re at right now and enjoy it week to week because you just never know when that momentum is going to stop"— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) September 23, 2020
Kevin Harvick discusses Kyle Busch's winless season and says the 18 team has had some bad luck in 2020. pic.twitter.com/R7l4z8QvWX
CBS Sports: Kyle Busch was one of the drivers you were concerned about getting hot before the playoffs. There's also Denny Hamlin. Besides those two, is there anyone you have your eyes on that could pose a challenge in the championship race?
Harvick: "I don't think you can narrow it down to anybody at this point. As you look at the way the schedule lays out, it's much different than it has been in the past and you look at this round and obviously Las Vegas is a very different scenario because of the fact that it's a worn out racetrack, we're going out there and it's very hot. There's just a lot of things that come into the different styles of cars that you race and who's good where and who's been good, and who's not been good on those styles of racetracks but then you flip that over and we go right to Talladega where anybody can win, and anybody can crash and anybody can have a good finish. So there's that, and then you go right to the (Charlotte) Roval where you have good road racers and decent road racers. In this particular round there's just a number of things that you have to factor in that have a number of different ways that it could work out because there's so many unknowns. So I think you have to take that round by round because you don't really know who is going to have the momentum and who you're going to be racing against and where we're going to be and what the struggles we're going to have and where our good places are going to be so that's the reason that we really try to take it week by week because in this particular scenario you could be racing anybody and anybody can get hot at any particular time and the racetracks are just different styles of racetracks with the way that the clusters have worked out with the different types of cars and racetracks that we're going to."
CBS Sports: You did mention the different types of tracks. We know we're going to Nashville next year and we're likely headed to Circuit of the Americas. What's a track you'd like to see added to the schedule before you retire?
Harvick: "That's a great question. I think as you look at the racetracks across the country there's so many things that factor into what makes a good NASCAR race right? You could look at a number of the different short tracks across the country but the things that come with those short tracks are just, they just don't make it possible to have our event there because it takes so many things outside of the racetrack to make those events happen: the number of grandstands obviously in the stands and right now I guess that's a little bit irrelevant just because of the amount of people that we can let into the racetracks but I think as you look at our sport in general there's obviously a lot of things that are getting ready to change. When you look at the schedule changes that are most likely coming out. When you look at the new car coming in 2022. So I think for me I really enjoyed when we went to, I think one of the places that we're missing the most is Montreal. I really enjoyed the trips that I took up there. I kind of flew in and flew out and raced, never got to really enjoy the city or anything like that but the enthusiasm that comes from those race fans up there is contagious just like it was at Bristol and it was always a great race, always a full house. I think when you look at going into Canada, we have a lot of race fans up there. That was always a great event. I liked when we went to Mexico City. I think going outside and doing those types of things it opens up budgets, it opens up race fans and I think in order to be where you want to be you're going to have to run more road courses, you're gonna have to in order to get more international, you're going to have to go into Canada and Mexico and do some of those events. I don't know if you could narrow it down to one racetrack. I definitely liked when we went to those different countries to do events."
CBS Sports: Michael Jordan is in with Denny Hamlin, making Bubba Wallace their driver for 2021. What do you make of that whole situation?
Harvick: "It's great for the sport and I think when you look at the dynamics of just really the whole team with Denny, Michael and Bubba and everything that that announcement has already brought to the sport from an attention standpoint. People are paying attention to our sport. I think you've just seen the tip of the iceberg with what's going to happen with that deal."
CBS Sports: Kevin Harvick management represents Ty Dillon, who is currently driving the No. 13. Jordan and Hamlin bought that team's charter, meaning Dillon is looking for a ride next season. What update can you give us on that search?
Harvick: "Obviously there's a lot of things that are happening in our sport right now. There's a lot of things that are happening later in the year right now compared to when they've happened in the past so I think as we work through Ty's situation, just trying to find a good situation for him where he wants to go and what he wants to do and there's a number of things that are late moving pieces that you have to navigate during this time of year. I think Bubba held the keys to that situation as to his situation needed to happen first and now all of the other pieces will start to come together as you go through the next month or so."
Kevin Harvick, whose management team represents Ty Dillon, provides an update on Dillon's silly season.— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) September 23, 2020
Harvick said Bubba Wallace's situation needed to happen first and now all the other pieces will start coming together over the next month. pic.twitter.com/G5Cl3ckZrL
CBS Sports: The big ride still available is the 48. Perhaps Dillon could wind up there, who knows. The other two names we've heard are Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. In your mind, who is the best fit to replace Jimmie Johnson?
Harvick: "That's going to be tough obviously. The thing that's going to be the hardest to replace for Jimmie is not really even his results on the racetrack, it's Jimmie Johnson off the racetrack right? When the day is good or the day is bad he always says the right thing, always does the right thing. Everybody in the organization enjoys working with Jimmie. Obviously he's been just a huge piece of NASCAR and the way that things have gone. So having to kind of change the way that goes for the next guy that comes into that car is going to be difficult. I know for me that was the most difficult thing when jumping in Earnhardt's car. You work with those people and they have a way that things went and as the driver you want things to go your way, you want to do things a certain way, you're not the same person. There's a number of things that will come with that dynamic. As far as who is the best person, to replace him I think that depends a lot on the dynamics of the situation with the crew chief and the organization in itself so your guess is as good as mine."
CBS Sports: Tony Stewart, your boss, said if he had to pick between Jones or Larson he'd pick Larson. Is that the same train of thought for you?
Harvick: Like I say, there's just a lot of dynamics that come with it. It's not just as easy as picking a driver based on whether they could just drive. There's so many different pieces that come with the sponsorship side of it and the organizational side of it. There's just a number of things that happen way beyond just being the driver."
Harvick will look to punch his ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs as the Round of 12 begins this Sunday at Las Vegas.