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It's a Matter of Process for Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers

It wasn't magic or some new approach that broke their lengthy winless drought.


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Sixty-five races.

That was the number of starts between wins for Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team … not that anyone was counting … because they literally weren’t.

Old car.
New car.
It doesn’t matter.

One of the most successful pairings of the past decade never deviated from their routine over the past two seasons, no matter how challenging things got because that’s not what got them here in the first place.

Here being showing up to the race track every single week with the expectation that they should win even as the winless column continued to stagger since their last victory in the 2020 Bristol Night Race.

"I expect to win," Harvick said. "Maybe I'm over-confident. I don't know. I expect to win until the door closes. That's just the expectation that I have. I've always been that way and I don't know that I'll ever be able to turn it off until the door is closed, and you just don't open it back up.

"I'm just not wired that way."

His crew chief isn’t wired that way either.

Like, Childers knew it had been awhile but didn’t know it was 65 races until told by Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM Radio on Sunday after the race. He quantifies days as either good enough to win or not good enough to win and the actual results are largely noise.

"No one really changed a lick," Childers said. "Yeah we try to be perfect and we try to win, but when we don't, we don't have flames coming out of offices and people going crazy. It's really about trying to figure it out as a team and move forward from it. I think you've seen that the last couple of months.

"We've just kind of gradually got better, and honestly, that's been fun just learning this car."

Childers conceded he was the most stubborn one of the group, often leaning too far towards the tendencies of the previous car but making significant headway once he got beyond some of those ingrained habits.

The nuances changed, but the process itself didn't for Childers and those on his No. 4 team.

"When you've done this for 20 years, it's hard to get over that," Childers said. "I finally started to get over it, and hopefully that's a good thing, and we just kept moving forward."

And there has certainly been forward progress during the summer, Harvick starting to challenge for wins with greater regularity. His crew chief is getting a grasp on the Next Gen car and the driver is starting to come around too.

Harvick said the foundation of their approach during the losing streak is that no one on the SHR No. 4 team wanted to be the weak link. The driver didn’t want to let the team down, nor did the crew chief, over-the-wall crew or engineering squad.

It was a matter of accountability and putting the work in, and that includes Harvick trying to make a difference in the Ford Performance simulator. It’s a lesson he hopes his 10-year-old son picks up on this week, too.

"I think Keelan will understand more of what today means and how much work goes into it, because there are days that I'm up at 5:30 in the morning, and he will come down and say, 'Where are you going today?'

"I tell him I'm going to the simulator and he says he's going back to bed.

"He knows that it's not just show up on Sunday, win the race, lose the race, and come home. It's Tuesday sitting on the calls and talking about it. It's Tuesdays writing the notes."

Harvick says he takes 15 minutes off to shoot hoops with Keelan during his PE break but then it's right back to his own homework.

And nowhere in the schedule was a mark on the calendar that reads End Losing Streak at Michigan because that's not how this works.

"I know it sounds just routine, but it really is a routine," Harvick said. "I live off my schedule. I live off the next phone call and plan the next thing and just -- I pick up my phone in the morning and say, This is what I have to do, and I literally just start doing that.

"It's not like I'm going to plan the day: All right, we need to figure out how to end this losing streak. You know what I mean? You can't force those things."

It’s how Harvick and Childers won the 2014 Cup Series championship and 36 races since their pairing in 2014. It’s also how they plan to get back in the championship hunt this autumn. And again, there’s no date on the calendar that reads Win Two More Races to Make it To Phoenix.

Because, again, it doesn’t work that way.

"That's just the way this goes," Harvick said. "You just keep grinding away and start over again next week. Tomorrow will be just a start-over process for Richmond.

"I know it's boring, but that's just the way that you approach it, and that approach really started several years ago when we sat down and talked and said, 'Okay, how do we race like (Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and) the 48 every week? Really from that point on, it's been on.

"You prep the same way. It doesn't matter if it's a playoff race, last race, first race. How do you maintain that preparation level, and that's just how you plan?"

Childers has a plan for Richmond, and for Watkins Glen and for Daytona and then Darlington. Beyond that car prep approach that begins a few week in advance, there is no reason to start thinking about elimination rounds and Phoenix.

"Going to Richmond because that's been a good place for us," Childers said.

They came up short to Denny Hamlin and Chris Gabehart there in April. But the point is that the No. 4 team is too good and too experienced to count out. Childers has a notebook now.

"We are still learning so much every single week," Childers said. "You don't have this little folder after the race. You have this huge memory bank of stuff that you have gathered and things that you could have done different and things that you should have done to the car or setup-wise. It's really more about those deals.

"Every week we learn, and hopefully we're getting that a little bit better, and I this I that you guys have seen that. We just have to keep pushing and try to run with those guys and we have. If we can do that in the playoffs and be consistent and get through a round or two, we can make some noise."