Thursday, September 08, 2016

COMMENTARY: Harvick Was Right To Use Bully Pulpit

Stewart Haas Racing’s No. 4 Chevrolet team had a rough night Sunday at Darlington (SC) Raceway.

Driver Kevin Harvick claimed a second-place finish behind winner Martin Truex, Jr. in the Bojangles Southern 500, but only after overcoming the loss of 17 positions on pit road; 12 of them on a single stop when an air gun malfunctioned.

Harvick minced no words in expressing his unhappiness after the race, calling out his over-the-wall crew for what he claimed was a season of shoddy service.

“We had a great car," fumed Harvick in a terse, post-race media session. "The guys in the garage and at the shop continue to do a great job, (but) we continue to give it away on pit road. I'm over being a cheerleader. Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road and cheerleading hasn't been working. You've got to get after it on pit road and do your job.

"It's been this way for a few years and they've moved some things around, but it just seems like it's just week after week after week,” he explained. “(We) have a couple of good weeks here and there and every once in a while, (we) put together a day. But they just can't put together a whole race on pit road right now.

"We have championship cars and we're just mediocre on pit road.”

Harvick’s comments raised the ire of some NASCAR fans, and also produced a pair of personnel changes for Saturday night’s at Richmond International Raceway. Former Danica Patrick crewman Eric Maycroft will replace front tire changer Tim Sheets on the No. 4 squad, with Matt Holzbaur replacing front tire carrier Todd Drakulich. Sheets and Drakulich will move to Patrick’s No. 10 team.

Harvick's pit crew struggled
Harvick never been known to pull his punches, on or off the race track. Since being named to replace the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. at Richard Childress Racing in 2001, the California native has given his all behind the wheel, while demanding the same effort from his teammates.

He left RCR in 2013 after not receiving what he believed to be championship-caliber equipment, then backed up his decision by claiming the Sprint Cup Series championship in his first season with Stewart Haas Racing.

Sunday night, Harvick used his Bully Pulpit as a former series champion to expose – and ultimately solve – issues that threatened to cost his team a shot at a second Sprint Cup Series title. While his delivery may have left some observers cold, his point was spot-on.

“Kevin didn’t say anything that wasn’t true,” said SHR pit crew coach Joe Piette, Jr., the following day. “He didn’t say anything we haven’t already said to ourselves.”

Crew chief Rodney Childress concurred, saying, "We've got to do a better job from week to week on pit road." 

This isn’t Youth Tee Ball, where players get as many cuts as they need to bloop a base hit over the infield. This is professional sports – stock car racing at its highest level – where the difference between winning and losing is often measured in thousandths of a second. Over-the-wall crewmen for top NASCAR Sprint Cup teams command six-figure salaries, and for that kind of pay, they are expected to perform, every single time.

Not sometimes. Not most of the time.

Every. Single. Time.

Harvick: "I'm over being a cheerleader."
Passing the finest stock car racers on the planet once or twice is difficult enough. Passing them five or six times in 500 miles -- waging war repeatedly over the same lost pieces of real estate -- is virtually impossible, even for a driver as talented as Kevin Harvick.

Admittedly, calling out your teammates is not an ideal situation. But voicing concern behind the scenes – as Harvick has done for the last 25 weeks -- was clearly not working.

It was time to take more decisive action, before the start of the Chase. Before it was too late.

Harvick’s comments Sunday were no different than a driver saying, “our engine shop needs to find more horsepower,” or “we’re behind on our chassis set-ups.” It was a bold statement of fact; a warts-and-all assessment of a race team with a major competitive chink in its championship armor. And with just a few choice words in the Darlington Media Center, SHR’s problem was addressed, once and for all.

If you’re a starting offensive lineman in the NFL who gets pancaked three times in every quarter, you’re headed straight to the waiver wire.

If you’re a goaltender in the NHL with a 9.66 GAA, you’re headed for the minors.

And if you’re a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who has crashed out in eight of the last 10 races, you’re headed back to the Late Model Stocks.

Professional athletes are tested every week, and those who come up short soon discover that there’s a long line of talented, hungry youngsters waiting to replace them.

Harvick spent much of the 2015 season attempting to motivate and encourage his pit crew. Sunday, he stopped cheerleading and began lobbying for change.

The next 11 weeks will determine how it all works out.


  1. Harvick had every right to call his pit crew on the carpet.Every one else is performing their jobs to the best of their ability.If you cant get the job done step aside and let someone who will.

  2. Harvick is the driver.As Chocolate Meyers just pointed out. You got to keep the driver happy. And the change could work out and it could not work out. If it doesn't work out Harvick will look like an ass.

  3. Wrong. Calling our your team is counter productive, and by the way, when will the time come that someone on the team can call out Harvick for messing up on the track, or speeding on Pit Road, or even the times when he doesn't pull into the pits with the wheel straight, (which there have been rumblings that this happens).
    What happened to win as a team, lose as a team? A gun broke....should Harvick be called out when a shock breaks and causes him to wreck? It was a equipment failure. I know there was another slow stop, but this is the "team" that fought back at Bristol and won!

    1. Harvick calls himself out for speeding on pit road. He doesn't wait for the team! ;)

    2. Anonymous4:07 PM

      Fair enough, but I could argue that his speeding puts him back many more spots than a slow pit stop. And, I'm sure no one hated what happened more than that tire changer, even though it wasn't something wrong that he did, he just happened to be the one holding the piece that broke mid-stop.
      Finally, when Harvick speeds on pit road, spins, or makes any other mistake, no one is calling for a replacement driver for him, at least not publicly. It wouldn't be the "team" thing to do.

  4. I can agree with everything except his statements being public. His image as a leader who you would want to work for has been significantly diminished. Never throw your team publicly under the bus. He will never find great pit crew members who want to work for him now. If he felt he had to do something, change teams again if SHR cannot fix the problem.

  5. Anonymous3:07 AM

    You can call them out all you want in the confines of your workplace. I have yet to see public humiliation work, especially when this issue is not Kevin's first go at the rodeo...this issue seems to follow him wherever he goes...hmmmm.

  6. Dwayne in Memphis8:47 AM

    On one hand, "Happy" seems to be a misplaced moniker these days.

    On the other, he's absolutely right. If this were an NFL Offensive Line getting a QB crushed week after week, fans would be yelling for change. But since we have this "NASCAR is family" image to uphold, then never mind the paychecks, just accept under-performance.

    And disagree with what Kevin looks like if this swap doesn't solve a problem...he'll still look like a driver with a weak link in the pits. It's not a matter of public humiliation for the pit crew. I'm sure Kevin has been talking to the decision makers behind the scenes for quite some time. At some point, you quit complaining to a boss that won't listen, and you drop a comment to someone else.

    SO I don't think this is public humiliation for the pit crew, I think it's public humiliation for those upstream. Kevin finally decided to call THEM out by pointing out (again) the repeated failures of the pit crew.

    And apparently he finally got someone to listen to him about subpar pit stops.

  7. Anonymous12:07 PM

    It totally worked for the 48 team in 2010.

    The only reason I would question it was because it was a gun malfunction, but with this being a recurring problem I'm totally with Kevin on this. Its playoff time and things like this cant be happening at Homestead or any of the rounds for that matter.

  8. Anonymous3:22 PM

    The crew got him out in 2nd place on the last pit stop and he still could not win.

  9. What a race!!! Nice blog. I really enjoyed reading it. Keep posting.Carrie