Originally created 04/24/06

Happy Harvick now looks to return to winning team



AVONDALE, Ariz. - Kevin Harvick's love-hate relationship with Richard Childress Racing is back at the love stage. Winning Saturday night's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway apparently helped mend some fences.

After posturing for a change for two years, Harvick said he now hopes to return to the same racing organization that took the late Dale Earnhardt to six of his seven Nextel Cup Series championships. Talk of him joining Toyota next year suddenly has gone silent. After spending nearly two years belittling the team, Harvick said he doesn't want to leave.

"Like I have said numerous times, there is a seven-year relationship here and I have a lot of friends on this race team. We have been through a lot of pretty traumatic situations," Harvick said moments after passing Greg Biffle with nine laps to go and driving away to a 200-yard victory.

"I believe that everything will work in the right direction and that is what I want."

In the past four races, Harvick has finished no worse than seventh. He's improved from 23rd in the point standings to ninth.

Harvick started 13th at the one-mile track and spent most of the race positioning himself for a late-race charge. Biffle led 151 of 312 laps, but his Ford ran out of gas two laps before the finish. Mark Martin led 111 laps, and his Ford ran out on the final lap. Biffle wound up 16th; Martin 11th.

Everyone, including Harvick, was on the verge of running out of gas. Harvick said everyone else slowed down so much, all he had to do was keep a steady pace to work from fifth to Victory Lane in the final 40 laps.

"I was sweating the gas, but it didn't sound like (the crew) were sweating the gas," Harvick said. "I just wanted to make sure. We ran out of gas here last year running fourth."

Tony Stewart wound up second while Matt Kenseth was third. In the process Kenseth took the lead in the Nextel Cup Series point standings.

The rest of the top 10 included: Carl Edwards in fourth, Clint Bowyer in fifth, Kasey Kahne in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in seventh, Bobby Labonte in eighth, Jeff Burton in ninth and Jeff Gordon in 10th.

Bowyer and Burton also drive for RCR, giving the team three spots in the top 10.

"You understand that things can't just happen over night," Harvick said. "Sometimes I get frustrated because I don't like to loose and probably didn't approach things the correct way. I think maybe that helped get us to this point. Sometimes you have to take a stance."

A driver more known for his tantrums and openly criticizing his race team now is happy with his position at RCR.

"Everything is good right now, from my personal life to life on the race track," he said. "For whatever reason, I am more relaxed this year and Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and all the guys are more relaxed. It is working and we aren't going to complain."

Winning has a way of soothing a lot of ill will.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.