On the plus side, he's had the best seat in the house for two of the best championship runs in recent memory. But alas, all that's meant is that he's come in third two seasons in a row, first to the Jimmie Johnson/Denny Hamlin duel in 2010, and then to the Tony Stewart/Carl Edwards showdown in 2011.
Regrets? He's got a few. But he knows exactly what he needed to do: combine his 2010 and 2011 Chases into one mutant Cup-winning hybrid.
"We were very consistent in '10, we were very inconsistent in '11," Harvick said. "We had speed in '10, but we didn't have that speed in '11. You've got to have the capabilities in your car of speed like Stewart had last year, so you can have a couple bad races ... You can overcome consistency with wins." (Carl Edwards nods sadly in agreement.)
Interestingly, Harvick noted that clinching a Chase berth so early (by winning races early in the season and effectively locking up at least a wild-card berth) almost certainly did more harm than good. Harvick initially said the team "sat on its hands," then reworked the statement to suggest that maybe the 29 team tried to get a little too tricky and didn't stay focused on the kinds of goals and techniques that win races. In a likely-not-unrelated note, there's a new crew chief atop the box this season for Harvick.
Oh, and one other note: Regardless of how much tweaking NASCAR does to try to prevent 2x2 racing at Daytona, "tandem is still going to win the race," Harvick says. So there you have it.
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- Kevin Harvick