The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang went winless in 2021, the first time since the 2009 NASCAR season, but he managed to complete an impressive comeback. Kevin Harvick went from a playoff afterthought to the best finish of the non-championship four drivers while Kyle Larson took home the title.
Harvick raced his way to an eighth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 7, marking his 27th top-10 at the one-mile track. This performance gave him enough points (2,361) to secure fifth in the final standings, ahead of Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano.
2021 was the second consecutive season where Harvick finished fifth in the season-ending standings. He also ended the 2020 season fifth while Chase Elliott, Logano, Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin fought for the Bill France Cup at Phoenix Raceway.
Harvick Entered the Playoffs With No Cushion
As a winless driver, Harvick entered the playoffs at the bottom of the 16-driver field. He had fewer points than Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, and Michael McDowell, but he quickly began making moves to remain in contention for a potential return to the championship four.
Harvick kicked off the Round of 16 with a fifth-place run at Darlington, an eighth-place finish at Richmond, and a second at Bristol. He moved on to the Round of 12 while Kurt Busch, Almirola, McDowell, and Reddick fell below the cutline.
The 2014 Cup Series champion nearly made it to the Round of Eight. He posted back-to-back top-10s at Las Vegas and Talladega. However, he crashed at the Charlotte Roval entering Turn 1 and fell victim to elimination with Bell, William Byron, and Alex Bowman.
While he could no longer contend for the championship, Harvick still continued to search for his first win. He added a fifth-place finish at Texas, a third-place run at Kansas, and the eighth-place at Phoenix. The only other race where he didn’t crack the top-10 was at Martinsville when he ended the night 12th overall.
Harvick Will Continue to Pursue Wins With SHR
The 2021 season came to an end with Harvick sitting outside of the championship four, but he will have another opportunity to get the No. 4 entry for SHR back into the playoffs. He will return to the organization after inking a contract extension in 2020.
The veteran driver told reporters on February 8, 2020, that he had signed a two-year deal with SHR that will keep him in the No. 4 through the 2023 season. Harvick’s deal was originally set to expire after the Phoenix race on November 7, 2021, but he expressed a desire to continue working with SHR.
Harvick was not the only key member of the No. 4 team to secure his future. Crew chief Rodney Childers also announced on September 19 that he had signed an extension with SHR for “years to come.” He did not provide further information about the length of the deal but confirmed that he will continue pursuing wins with Harvick.
The two men have worked together since the 2014 season when Harvick left Richard Childress Racing and moved to SHR. They kicked off the first year by winning five races and winning the Cup Series championship over Ryan Newman. Harvick and Childers have since added another 30 wins, including a career-high nine in 2020.