Now that Kasey Kahne is signed, sealed and in transit to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kevin Harvick is the hottest free-agent-to-be commodity in NASCAR. However, it looks like he's off limits to teams like Joe Gibbs Racing or Michael Waltrip Racing.
"I think that's a good, fair statement," Harvick said when asked about sticking with Chevrolet for 2011.
Kevin Harvick Inc. has become the dominant Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series standalone team over the past few seasons and KHI runs Chevrolets. Given that very few big-name drivers run different car makes in the Nationwide Series, KHI would have to switch manufacturers if Harvick was to switch car makes in the Sprint Cup series. (Kahne is the exception, as he drives a Toyota part time for Braun Racing in the Nationwide Series) And given KHI's success, Harvick doesn't seem too inclined to make a switch at KHI.
So in that case, Harvick really has only one option outside of Richard Childress Racing, and that option is, drumroll please... Stewart-Haas Racing.
In his interview with Jay Hart this week, Stewart-Haas competition director Bobby Hutchens said that it was "probably 50-50" that SHR would be expanding to three teams next year.
However, as of now, that third car looks like it could be occupied by either Kahne or Mark Martin, as one of those drivers is going to have to find a place to go for 2011. (To read Hutchens' response to the Kahne question, click the link)
Could Stewart-Haas expand to four cars? Given that the Hendrick support pipeline doesn't seem to be drying up any time soon and if adequate sponsor funding could be found, why not? Early indications are that Budweiser is looking for another driver to sponsor in 2011, and Harvick could be the curmudgeony antidote to Brad Keselowski, the new Sprint Cup face of Miller Lite.
As Stewart and Hutchens know, many teams have struggled going from three to four cars, and SHR would be doubling the size of its organization by going to four cars.
But if you can find sponsors for Harvick and/or Martin or Kahne, then it sure seems like a gamble worth taking.