Somebody’s going to win the title, so why not Kevin Harvick?

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If Kevin Harvick had tweeted a GIF of a bull running through a crowd before the 2017 playoffs, many people probably would have laughed.

It’s really hard to play the bull when the best in the crowd can just outrun you.

With just 567 laps led in the regular season this year, Harvick didn’t display the bull-type strength he had in 2016 when he led 1,211 laps going into the playoffs and posted a tweet of the bull to show his attitude toward the next 10 weeks.

But Harvick finds himself back at Homestead-Miami Speedway for a shot at the title after his absence last year. This isn’t his championship year of 2014, when he won five times and led 2,137 laps, or 2015 when he won three times and led 2,294 laps, coming up short in the final laps.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has two wins and 850 laps led this year following a strong semifinal round at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. So what is he this year if not the bull?

“I don’t even know what type of attitude I have right now,” Harvick said after his Nov. 5 victory at Texas Motor Speedway that launched him into a spot among the four finalists Sunday at Homestead. “You know what I mean? We’ve been trying to be so thorough on everything that we’ve done.

“I felt like … I took a very aggressive approach into Martinsville, from the time we got on the racetrack until the time we left. That worked out. I feel like when you can be on offense, you can be aggressive, you can do a lot more things than you can when you’re backpedaling, trying to capitalize on somebody else’s mistake.”

Harvick plans to play offense Sunday, a feeling he hasn’t had for much of the year as the team struggled with the transition from Chevrolet to Ford, not to mention the Toyotas’ surge since the summer. The Toyotas of Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch enter as the favorites, ahead of the Fords of Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

“We beat the fastest guy in town last week [at Texas],” Harvick said about passing Truex for the win. “It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been [leading laps]. We are right now.”

That transition in manufacturer also includes SHR manufacturing all of its own chassis and suspension pieces. They do so much more in-house and have had to learn all their new computer simulation systems along the way.

“The general public doesn’t understand the amount of work and time and effort that SHR and the people from Ford have put into this,” Harvick said. “This could have been an absolute catastrophe.

“This is as gratifying to me as where we were in 2014, building a team, coming to a different organization [from Childress], changing jobs, all that. This is as gratifying.”

But, but, all those laps led in 2014 and 2015 — this year just can’t compare.

“I’m way too old to keep looking at numbers,” Harvick said. “I just know I have a chance to get the same result with the championship, and that’s what we race for.

“The satisfaction and challenge of building something like we have is very rewarding.”

Crew chief Rodney Childers thinks it was just seven races ago, at the third race of the playoffs at Dover, where Harvick started to feel he had a car that reminded him of the 2014 and 2015 glory years, the ones where everyone went to the track and Harvick was among the drivers, if not the driver, to beat.

“I don’t know if I would call it the bull,” Childers said about his driver’s attitude. “He’s just laser-focused, does his job. But it’s really about giving him stuff to work with. His tool is the race car.

“If we don’t give him good tools to work with, he’s not going to do a good job. … I knew when we unloaded at Dover, he said it felt more like 2014, 2015. As soon as he said those words, I knew we had something that we were going to start being able to work with.”

Childers wouldn’t reveal what that meant. But he did say his team focused too much on the competition and not enough on the No. 4 car for much of the season. For the first time in four years, the team changed the shocks they used in an effort to find speed.

“I was never that way in 2014,” Childers said. “I was never that way in 2015. Really it comes down to a couple months ago [and saying], ‘Why are we complaining? We’re not going to fix their part. We’re not going to take downforce away from them. We’re not going to take horsepower away from them. All right, we’ve got to change what we’re doing. We’ve got to decide if we want to win races and race for a championship.'”

Harvick led 79 laps last year at Homestead and finished third. He didn’t test there — with no rubber on the track, he just doesn’t see the benefit when it comes to the finale and racing on the final day of a tripleheader weekend.

He feels he has a shot, possibly as good as any among the four finalists.

“The three best cars didn’t win the championship [last year],” Harvick said. “Two of them wrecked, Jimmie [Johnson] wound up winning the championship.

“You’ve just got to go down there and race. If we do like we did [at Texas], we should at least have a chance. That’s all you can ask for, is a chance, right?”

His boss thinks that way. Co-owner Tony Stewart just knows he sees a championship-caliber attitude in Harvick.

“I know Kevin, and I can tell watching his driving style, there’s something that field … [has] got something to be worried about,” Stewart said. “I’ve seen this man when he gets locked in like this.

“And he’s strong right now.”

And with a little bit of bull in him.

“I feel like we’re playing with house money and they let us hang around too long … and now your name and your team is back in the championship shuffle and it’s like [the others say], ‘Oh wait a second, we weren’t counting on having to race those guys.'” Harvick said. “We’re here, we’re confident, the cars are running fast. Somebody is going to win it, so why shouldn’t it be us?”

Source : http://www.espn.com/racing/nascar/story/_/id/21415417/nascar-kevin-harvick-feeling-bullish-heading-homestead

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