Harvick to keep options open for 2007
by Pete McCole

January 30, 2006

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Kevin Harvick answers reporters questions at the RCR shop recently
Pete McCole

Kevin Harvick says he plans to take the “wait and see” approach before sitting down with team owner Richard Childress to discuss his future behind the wheel of RCR’s no. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet.

During the annual media tour held last week in Concord, N.C., Harvick said he and Childress plan to sit down in April and see where they stand.

But Harvick has the upper hand, and he knows it.

''Our position right now is favorable,” a smiling Harvick told the assembled media.

As a free agent, Harvick could be a much sought after driver for many teams in 2007, and even more so for Toyota, who will join the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch series next season.

Toyota plans to field six cars in 2007 with Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Red Bull. Even after taking Waltrip and BDR driver Dave Blaney out of the equation, that still leaves Toyota with four driver seats to fill.

And a lot of money to spend to fill them.

At least one high profile driver was taken off the free-agent market late last week when Roush Racing agreed to terms on a multi-year contract extension with 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth.

Harvick, whose contract with Richard Childress Racing expires at the end of the 2006 season, did little to quell the rumors during the media event last week, but he at least came prepared to deal with the reporters questions.

“I've been preparing for that question for three days, since the (Toyota) announcement," Harvick said. "We've kind of agreed to sit down in April and just kind of evaluate where things are. I'm not going to rush into things and do things I don't want to do.”

Childress made no qualms about his position in the matter – he wants to keep Harvick in the fold.
"Kevin's contract is up, and I'm sure Toyota will make a run at him. Toyota will make a run at a lot of drivers," Childress said. "But I want Kevin to stay here. We have a chance to win a championship with him. We have a good friendship, so I want what's good for Kevin, too.
"But good drivers like Kevin are hard to come by.”
Harvick has been reluctant to sign a new contract with the team and has even criticized the team’s performance over the last two seasons, particularly when it comes to the team’s engine program.

The team has failed to make the Chase for the Nextel Cup in the last two seasons, something Harvick will be the focus of the team’s effort in 2006.

“I think right now we are in the same frame of mind about our goals, and our goals are to go out and get the season going out good and make the Chase,” said Harvick. “All the rest of it, the paper stuff, is something that's not high on the list right now.”

Harvick has driven for RCR since 2001, when he was thrust from RCR’s Busch Series team into the driver’s seat of the GM Goodwrench Chevy following the death of Dale Earnhardt. Harvick went on to score two victories plus rookie of the year honors in the Cup Series as well as winning the title in the Busch Series.

In 178 career starts in NASCAR Nextel Cup competition, Harvick has five wins, four poles, 30 top-fives and 66 top-tens, all while driving for Childress.

“He already sees enough of changes and sees what we’re wanting to do with his program,” Childress said. “We’ll try to get it done by April on both of our terms. Maybe we can get it done sooner.”

Harvick’s decision weighs heavily not only on the effects for RCR, but for his own ownership interests as well. Harvick currently fields two cars in the NASCAR Busch Series and one truck in the Craftsman Truck Series for his own race team, Kevin Harvick Racing.

“There's a lot of things that are part of the equation," Harvick said. "You're looking at three race teams and a Cup and Busch team at RCR. The driver side of it, the owner side of it, it's all one package."

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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