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Has Kevin Harvick (at age 43) Lost A Step?

LewTheShoe

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I hesitate to post this topic at all, because it could all change quickly, maybe Sunday at Pocono. But what the hell... let's roll.

David Smith has spent a lot of time in recent weeks writing about Kevin Harvick, first at Motorsports Analytics, and then for The Athletic. He has pointed out that Harvick's #4 has been the absolute fastest car at three points races plus the All Star Race. Smith's speed metric is termed Central Speed Ranking. He divides each race into quarters, and ranks cars by green flag lap times, after removing speed anomalies due to crash damage or mechanical problems.

For the year as a whole, the #4 car has been the second fastest overall, behind Kyle Busch's #18, which also has been the absolute fastest at three individual races. For the record, the ten fastest cars in 2019 have been:
Top-5: Busch, Harvick, Logano, Keselowski, C.Elliott.

6-10: Truex, Bowyer, Hamlin, Larson, Blaney.

Smith also makes the point that Harvick's shortfall in results this year is primarily on the driver, not the crew chief (strategy) or the team (execution). In the five years since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Harvick has always been at or near the top of the scale in passing stats... but for 2019 so far he ranks in the bottom 10 for position-adjusted passing efficiency. That's a dramatic change... if we accept 13 races as enough data to give a good reading. That is more meaningful than chucking your pit crew under the bus for a botched pit stop... which the #4 has had also.

In one article, Smith makes pointed mention of Harvick's age, 43 years, tied with Jimmie Johnson as Nascar's graybeard. For comparison, the next in age are Newman 41, followed by Bowyer and Kurt Busch at 40. It is a significant difference, IMO.

In another article, Smith talks about reviewing data traces and seeing that Harvick has a distinctive driving style... partially rolling out of the throttle when others lift completely... thus less time *off* the gas, more time with *partial* gas. Smith concludes that Harvick has been very successful that way, but the 2019 rules package has rendered that advantage moot because of the prevalence of WFO flat-foot driving.

Both of those reasons... advancing age and driving style... are not gonna get any better. But maybe 13 races is too little to judge. Maybe the down cycle ends this week at Pocono. What do y'all think?
 

gnomesayin

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That is interesting that Smith's data apparently shows that the #4 has been very fast in terms of pure pace. Yet it sure seems to me that SHR have lost a step relative to their performance in 2017 and 2018. They still run well, but thus far cannot match JGR and Penske the way they have in previous recent seasons.

As for Harvick, I wouldn't feel comfortable judging yet. If they were still racing with the low downforce rules, I doubt he would be 'struggling', and every driver who dominated during that period has my respect for their skills.

He has made his disdain for this year's package relatively clear from the start for anyone reading between the lines. Is he lacking some fire and confidence currently due to frustration? Beats me, but the mental side of the sport is probably under-analyzed.

Age does catch up to everyone, and adjusting to major changes also gets more difficult.
 

ReturnTrip

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I don't think Kevin and Rodney will have another season like '18 again as that was one for the ages. Early on people were comparing it to 1998 Gordon. SHR overall seems slower than last year, or at least their advantage at the big tracks is gone. Harvick was driving Miss Daisy at some of those races last year it looked so easy. I'm sure they'll get three or four wins and have a strong playoff run, which is usually what Harvick does.
 

AuzGrams

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I'm not buying it other than SHR isn't quite up to speed. They looked good with the All-Star package.
 

Greg

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Maybe he has lost a step, maybe he hasn't, time and mortality catches up with everyone eventually.
But they still have good speed, they are just not as good with passing and maintaining good adjustments late in the race. I still think there is still time and the capability to correct everything and regain the previous form.

What I really think is that they are just not as good with the current or new rules package. Harvick likes an early apex or getting off the throttle sooner which is good at saving tires to achieve great long run speed. But it is not as good with low horsepower momentum depedence. The new rules package has also increased the traffic on Harvick's inside preferred lane choice, and it has made passing more difficult for him (again all of this is just my subjective opinion).

That's not an excuse, Harvick has to figure it out and adjust. The rules are always the rules, and drivers have to figure it out, or suffer a performance loss, along with fighting the biological clock.
 

ChexOrWrex

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Driver age and talent plays less a part more than ever. If the car isn't set up, there’s nothing they can do.
 

Team Penske

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In another article, Smith talks about reviewing data traces and seeing that Harvick has a distinctive driving style... partially rolling out of the throttle when others lift completely... thus less time *off* the gas, more time with *partial* gas. Smith concludes that Harvick has been very successful that way, but the 2019 rules package has rendered that advantage moot because of the prevalence of WFO flat-foot driving.

Both of those reasons... advancing age and driving style... are not gonna get any better. But maybe 13 races is too little to judge. Maybe the down cycle ends this week at Pocono. What do y'all think?
I don't think it is the age thing, 43 is still young enough however 46 and up could be a factor.
I am going with the car. As was mentioned, his style of driving the corners gave him an advantage just as the type of races in the chase gave JJ the advantage. I also the car advantage is what gave JG such great success and although he was a great driver, the change in car stopped him from winning championships.
Harvick has a great career in the booth ahead of him and that could be affecting his ability to make the changes he needs to step up his driving.
Kyle Bush is still the best driver in Nascar but the car is also giving him fits.
 

hidesert cowboy

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here is the difference no one mentions. last season the 4 car was a bunch faster than other cars at times and in particular races they won. There were times harvick was 3-4 tenths faster than the rest of the field. This didn't show because harvick minded the gap and didn't run as hard as he could have in some of those races. if you have a car that much faster even the 55 year old mark martin could win in it. I do think once a driver gets past 40 its going to have a huge effect on how they drive. So has harvick lost a step, of course. BUT harvick has driven for lots of teams, he has a great knowledge of the cars, He even knows the business of the sport as well. He makes up for that lost step with knowledge
 

sdj

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here is the difference no one mentions. last season the 4 car was a bunch faster than other cars at times and in particular races they won. There were times harvick was 3-4 tenths faster than the rest of the field. This didn't show because harvick minded the gap and didn't run as hard as he could have in some of those races. if you have a car that much faster even the 55 year old mark martin could win in it. I do think once a driver gets past 40 its going to have a huge effect on how they drive. So has harvick lost a step, of course. BUT harvick has driven for lots of teams, he has a great knowledge of the cars, He even knows the business of the sport as well. He makes up for that lost step with knowledge
Plus after a while, knocking the wall down and being run into numerous times over the years gets to you also. Just ask Jeff Gordon.

I truly believe Harvick still has the burn and ability to win every race.
 

Ventisca

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Lol this thread made me giggle

We all know Harvick is 1 win away from going on a tear.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
Yup, that's the way I felt about Jimmie last year. Poor Jimmie :(...

Harvick needs a post-blade win, imho. But the 4 Team has shown speed, and even with the stumbling their season can get turned around with one Win -- just like for every other winless team.

That's what makes this format fun to watch, even though it upsets some fans...
 

DaBiff1618

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Let’s see, Harvick was leading at Kansas before something broke and had the all star race won before his pit crew happened. He’s not as dominant as last season but he’ll get on a tear pretty soon. He reminds me of Logano last season
 

Ventisca

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Let’s see, Harvick was leading at Kansas before something broke and had the all star race won before his pit crew happened. He’s not as dominant as last season but he’ll get on a tear pretty soon. He reminds me of Logano last season
I hope so. Ford needs SHR to step up and stuff the momentum those JGR Toyota's keep building. Harvick/Childers was a go-to team -- so would like to see them close out one of these races. Penske can only do so much...
 

AndyMarquisLive

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Everybody on the track uses the same rule book
Certain drivers and teams run better under certain packages.

Alex Bowman, who is an average driver, is looking like a Hall of Fame talent right now. Denny Hamlin's having the best season he's had in years. Kyle Busch, who was Superman last time NASCAR tried a high downforce, high drag package, is piecing together one of the best seasons in the history of NASCAR.
 

AndyMarquisLive

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As for Harvick: He's also outperforming the other three drivers. In fact, the other three SHR drivers are about equal with each other.

Something's missing at SHR right now. If they find it, not only will Harvick go on a tear, but Suarez will start winning races, Bowyer will probably pick up a few wins, and Almirola will probably win a plate race.
 

Snappy D

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This thread..... while it makes you think. Nope nope and no. Harvick isnt washed, far from it. SHR is behind Penske as Fords and behind SHR, Penske and one could make a case for a resurgent HMS. I'd bet it all on Harvick being there at the end. He's at the zenith of his powers.... he's more formidable now than when he won the Championship in 14, the years he almost took down Johnson when driving for RCR ( Thats incredible if you think about that) and its mind boggling people forgot what he did last year. I'm not worried about the driver of that 4. His pit crew however......
 

hidesert cowboy

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As for Harvick: He's also outperforming the other three drivers. In fact, the other three SHR drivers are about equal with each other.

Something's missing at SHR right now. If they find it, not only will Harvick go on a tear, but Suarez will start winning races, Bowyer will probably pick up a few wins, and Almirola will probably win a plate race.
Suarez is a ride buyer. Don’t look for wins unless they happen by luck
 

FLRacingFan

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I'm blanking on what happened at Las Vegas.

Kansas, they started on pole and led a lot early on when conditions were most similar to what they qualified in. When the sun was down and the track was dark the HMS guys, Bowman and Elliott, found their way to the front. I think the #4 team just didn't keep up with the track here.

Dover - Truex started in the back. Once he got up front at the end of stage 2 it was over. No one was beating them over the final stage.

So, at least two of the three points races they were ranked highest in Central Speed I'm not sure they actually had the best car when it mattered most. They're obviously not as good as last year, which was a ridiculous season that's very hard to replicate. And HMS and Penske (who were better towards the end of last year anyways) have surpassed SHR for the time being, IMO.

The FOX guys used to fawn over Harvick's inputs at Atlanta and how different his style was from everybody else. Unfortunately, that sort of thing isn't too relevant anymore. The package doesn't showcase his skill set very well, other teams have made strides, but I don't think Harvick's abilities dropped hard enough over one offseason. Perhaps he'll adapt more over the summer, and hopefully the tracks heating up help as well. But I think they're a Round of 8 team at the moment and nothing more.
 

AndyMarquisLive

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Suarez is a ride buyer. Don’t look for wins unless they happen by luck
Suarez is a pretty good driver. He's on par with Almirola and just slightly below par with Bowyer honestly.

This package is a lot more car than driver, more so than previous packages. We're seeing a lot of average drivers run up towards the front now.
 

Charlie Spencer

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Suarez is a ride buyer. Don’t look for wins unless they happen by luck
Halfway through the 'regular season' and Suarez has 10% more points thsn That Jones Boy JGR had to have instead. He's also currently a Chase entrant; Jones is outside looking in.

Nothing wrong with buying a ride if you can back it up. And when did being able to bring a sponsor qualify as buying a ride?
 

AndyMarquisLive

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Halfway through the 'regular season' and Suarez has 10% more points thsn That Jones Boy JGR had to have instead. He's also currently a Chase entrant; Jones is outside looking in.

Nothing wrong with buying a ride if you can back it up. And when did being able to bring a sponsor qualify as buying a ride?
I think Jones is going to be the next Logano, in that, if he ends up out at JGR and with another team, he'll thrive. Something about that team and extremely talented young drivers not thriving there.

Veteran drivers seem to run well there - Kenseth, Edwards, Truex... but young drivers don't.
 

LewTheShoe

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There is a member here who often derides Daniel Suarez as a "ride buyer." He's not a ride buyer, because he and his family have no wealth, no rich friends, no magic connections. He has attracted sponsorship from a large Mexican consumer corporation by virtue of being the best and most promising stock car driver from Mexico. You know... attracting sponsorship the old fashioned way.

For nearly 20 years, Telmex/American Movil has used motorsports to market and promote its products. Their goal is to sell more, make more profit. It's the same as the Coca-Cola Family or the Gillette Young Guns. Imagine a large, prominent company that integrates racing into its business plan. Yeah, we hate that. Let's make up derisive comments to post about a company like that. SMH.
 

hidesert cowboy

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I'm blanking on what happened at Las Vegas.

Kansas, they started on pole and led a lot early on when conditions were most similar to what they qualified in. When the sun was down and the track was dark the HMS guys, Bowman and Elliott, found their way to the front. I think the #4 team just didn't keep up with the track here.

Dover - Truex started in the back. Once he got up front at the end of stage 2 it was over. No one was beating them over the final stage.

So, at least two of the three points races they were ranked highest in Central Speed I'm not sure they actually had the best car when it mattered most. They're obviously not as good as last year, which was a ridiculous season that's very hard to replicate. And HMS and Penske (who were better towards the end of last year anyways) have surpassed SHR for the time being, IMO.

The FOX guys used to fawn over Harvick's inputs at Atlanta and how different his style was from everybody else. Unfortunately, that sort of thing isn't too relevant anymore. The package doesn't showcase his skill set very well, other teams have made strides, but I don't think Harvick's abilities dropped hard enough over one offseason. Perhaps he'll adapt more over the summer, and hopefully the tracks heating up help as well. But I think they're a Round of 8 team at the moment and nothing more.
you are making my point, having the best car when it matters. harvick could simply mash the gas last year. he would mind the gap so as to not stink it up too bad. I think that is one thing we have been seeing the last couple years, also if you look at practice speeds etc. you see there is quite a bit of difference in speeds compared to previous years. this year I have seen 3-4 tenths between the pole and a guy in say 6th or 7th place. That is quite a difference in speed compared to other recent years. to sum it up, harvick doesn't have the speed to simply mash the gas and run off from people like last year.
 

kyle18fan

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Certain drivers and teams run better under certain packages.

Alex Bowman, who is an average driver, is looking like a Hall of Fame talent right now. Denny Hamlin's having the best season he's had in years. Kyle Busch, who was Superman last time NASCAR tried a high downforce, high drag package, is piecing together one of the best seasons in the history of NASCAR.

Harv just needs a new spoiler, something similar to the one he had tremendous success with :pbjtime:
 

Kiante

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There is a member here who often derides Daniel Suarez as a "ride buyer." He's not a ride buyer, because he and his family have no wealth, no rich friends, no magic connections. He has attracted sponsorship from a large Mexican consumer corporation by virtue of being the best and most promising stock car driver from Mexico. You know... attracting sponsorship the old fashioned way.

For nearly 20 years, Telmex/American Movil has used motorsports to market and promote its products. Their goal is to sell more, make more profit. It's the same as the Coca-Cola Family or the Gillette Young Guns. Imagine a large, prominent company that integrates racing into its business plan. Yeah, we hate that. Let's make up derisive comments to post about a company like that. SMH.
Bravo, I'm glad someone mentioned that. To get the attention of Carlos Slim is no laughing matter. Saurez, Sergio Perez (F1), and Estaban Gutierrez (F1 and IndyCar) all earned attention of Slim to sponsor them to the next level. It was all earned, not given.
 

AuzGrams

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It can happen at any time. Just ask Jimmie. He had 3 wins by the 1/3 mark in 2017 and has been irrelevant since.
I dont disagree with your point but those were some fairly flukey wins by the 48 in at least 2 of them
 
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