LOUDON, N.H. — Kevin Harvick was stuck in a rut after so many empty seasons chasing a championship with Richard Childress Racing.
“When you show up to the same desk for 12 or 13 years, you’re like, ‘Man, I need a new desk,’ ” Harvick said.
More like a new team.
So Harvick will swap the car, get a new work address, even change his number.
Just toss him a cooler – he’s keeping the beer.
Harvick will take his Budweiser sponsorship with him when he makes his long-awaited move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Harvick will have Budweiser on the No. 4 Chevrolet as the primary sponsor for 20 races in 2014.
“It was just me needing to rejuvenate myself,” Harvick said Friday.
Harvick’s move had been brewing since he made the decision last year to bolt the RCR team that hired him in 1999. He’s made the most of his lame duck season, with two wins and eight consecutive top-10s in the No. 29 to park him in fourth place in the points standings.
For many reasons, including a close friendship with Tony Stewart, Harvick is set to move on.
So is Ryan Newman.
Harvick’s arrival means one driver in the SHR stable had to go. Newman’s time is up after this season. Stewart, Harvick and Danica Patrick will drive the SHR entries next season.
“We’re not ready to expand to a fourth team,” Stewart said. “That’s what’s made this a bittersweet day. I’m bringing in another one of my friends to the organization, also knowing that I’m losing a friend at the end of the year. … This was a business decision.”
Newman has won three Cup races in five seasons with SHR after leaving Penske Racing following the 2008 season. Stewart told Newman in a 20-minute conversation Wednesday night that he was out.
“I do not know what my future holds. I have no idea,” Newman said. “That’s something that weighs on my shoulders. I have a little homework to do. I can’t say I’m happy with how everything unfolded.”
Newman, 16th in the points race, could fill the empty seat at RCR. Kurt Busch, who drives for Furniture Row Racing, is a potential candidate along with Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon. Childress has Paul Menard and Jeff Burton under contract. He could just replace Harvick or add a fourth car.
Busch, whose team has a technical alliance with RCR, simply said he has “irons in the fire” for next season.
Childress is openly grooming his organization for his grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, who are currently competing in NASCAR’s lower national levels.
Harvick and Patrick are attractive to SHR because they bring the guaranteed sponsorship dollars needed to fund rides in the Cup series. Budweiser also will sponsor Harvick at the Budweiser Duel during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Budweiser will serve as a major associate sponsor for the remaining races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. Harvick did not know if sponsors Jimmy John’s and Rheem would join him at SHR.
Harvick has represented Budweiser since 2011. Bud has been a staple in the Cup Series dating back to its sponsorship of Terry Labonte’s No. 44 Chevrolet at Stratograph Racing in 1983. Budweiser has celebrated a championship and nearly 60 wins in NASCAR’s elite division with the likes of Darrell Waltrip, Geoff Bodine, Bill Elliott, Kenny Schrader, Ricky Craven, Wally Dallenbach, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Harvick.
“We didn’t want to go through our fourth driver in seven, eight years and build up new equity with a new driver,” Blaise D’Sylva, vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing, Anheuser-Busch, said. “Kevin’s done a great job during that space.”
D’Sylva said Childress put some “very attractive” offers on the table to remain with RCR. But, after surveying NASCAR fans and Budweiser drinkers, the company found there was as a strong, successful connection between the driver and the brand. So they’ll stick with him.
“He been a winner and he has shown an amazing level of commitment to the brand,” D’Sylva said by phone.
Harvick has 21 Cup wins, 96 top-fives and 198 top-10 finishes in his career. He’s been with RCR in the Cup series since he replaced Dale Earnhardt after his fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. He’s made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship the last three seasons.
But the inconsistency and inability to win a Cup title with RCR had been frustrating for Harvick, and led to a revolving door of crew chiefs on the No. 29 the last several years. As Harvick went winless through the first 34 points races last year, it made sense to look around even though his contract ran through 2013.
“It was just something that we knew we wanted to do and we left it up to our people to try to make it all work,” Harvick said.