|Harvick: Ready to walk?|
Smith cites “Multiple NASCAR industry sources” in saying that Harvick will honor the final season of his contract with RCR, before jumping to a fourth SHR Chevrolet the following year, joining team co-owner Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick in the team’s Sprint Cup Series stable.
Harvick declined to comment directly on the report today, telling Smith, "I'm looking forward to finishing out this season on a strong note with RCR and continuing to build our program going into the 2013 season with the ultimate goal of winning a championship. Anything beyond that, once I know what my future plans are set, I'll let you know."
Stewart has said repeatedly in recent seasons that his ultimate goal is to expand his Sprint Cup operation to the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four cars. He and partner Gene Haas have been prevented from doing so in the past by lack of sponsorship.
Harvick has never driven for a team other than RCR at the uppermost level of NASCAR. In 2001, he replaced the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in a newly numbered #29 Chevrolet; the cars earmarked for Earnhardt’s possible eighth championship run. He claimed an emotional victory in only his third start with the team, and has 18 career Sprint Cup wins; all with Childress.
He spoke critically of the team near the end of his previous contract in 2010, but ultimately chose to remain with RCR after receiving assurances of improved performance. This season, his Budweiser-sponsored Chevrolet qualified for the 10-race Chase, but has struggled badly, currently standing 11th in points, 101 behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Only Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has amassed fewer points in the Chase, after missing two races with a concussion.
SHR spokesman Mike Arning told Smith, “if Kevin Harvick is available (in 2014), that's something the team would have to look at. Any team in this garage would do the same. They have the infrastructure to accommodate a fourth team, and if everything aligns properly, it's something they'll do.
“If a driver the caliber of Kevin Harvick is available, it's something they would pursue."
While not commenting directly on the report, Stewart told SBNation’s Jeff Gluck, “When we have something to tell you guys, we'll tell you. I've always said that. So you (media) guys can throw darts and when we've got something to tell you that's different than what we've got going on, we'll obviously tell you."