Harvick's win in Martinsville was his second in a week. (Michael Levitt/LAT photo)
Veteran crew chief Gil Martin (NEAR LEFT), who has been with RCR since 2000, has been a steadying influence on Harvick, who's a notorious hothead on the team radio. In the old days, if Harvick's car wasn't to his liking or if he had a bad pit stop, it might derail him. Not anymore. That change has been a key to his success behind the wheel the last two seasons.
“What happens is he gets the opportunity to vent because the car is terrible and he needs to vent,” says Martin. “I think in the beginning when he would do that, we would somewhat take it to heart and take it personal, and now we just continue to let him vent! We go about our business and decide what we are going to do at the next pit stop, what we'll change next. We feel good about it and so does he, so it works out good in the end.”
“If things didn't go right, we brush it off when we get on the airplane and go home and come back the next week with a fresh attitude,” explains Harvick. “Gil does a very good job there. He's very good with the guys and if you have a bad day or I say something wrong it doesn't become a bigger deal than it needs to be. They understand I'm emotional and they don't want me to not speak my mind or hold it in. They want me to get it out and get it over with and move on in the race and that's it. It's a good chemistry and a good balance between everybody.”
So having conquered that communication issue, Harvick is now one of the most feared finishers in NASCAR. And following his last-gasp passes for the lead at Fontana and Martinsville, he's even earned the nickname of “The Closer.”
“My dad always told me the pay window didn't open until the checkered flag was flown, and we survived and raced off of what we won each week,” he says. “We were always around at the end and would take advantage of other people's mistakes. I guess it's just the way I was taught to race. You have to be around at the end to win these races.”
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the June 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.