Where will Harvick be next season?

by Monte Dutton

Kevin Harvick can be a free man at the end of the 2010 season if he so chooses.

That might be a tough call. Harvick, who has never driven in the Sprint Cup Series (or its predeces- by Monte Dutton sors) for anyone other than Richard Childress, has the right to leave the historic team.

As of Harvick’s second-place finish in the Auto Club 500, he is leading the point standings, and his teammate, Clint Bowyer, ranks second. Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona. If his success continues, he might not be inclined to leave RCR.

Though wisely reluctant to talk about it, Harvick relishes the options he will have.

“I’m going to do my job, and that’s to drive the car and the rest of it,” he said in Fontana, Calif. “There are so many unknowns this year. What’s going to happen when we switch to the spoiler? I think that’s going to throw a whole monkey wrench in there.”

NASCAR officials are expected to replace the wings on the backs of cars with spoilers, most likely in late March.

The results of the first two races suggest that the engines built in a consortium between Childress and EGR (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) are the most powerful in the sport. Jamie Mc- Murray won the Daytona 500 with such power under the hood, and Harvick and Jeff Burton from RCR finished second and third, respectively, in Fontana.

Harvick downplayed the engine angle and preferred to talk instead about the spoiler.

“You’re either going to be really happy or really sad,” he said, “because it’s going to be really hard to turn it around [i.e., make a change] 10 races into the season.”

Still, it’s so far, so good, for Harvick, who didn’t win an official race in 2009 and failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

And, yes, he’s happy with the power under the hood of his No. 29, Shell-sponsored Impala.

“They [the engines] are really reliable, they make a lot of power and they’re constantly pushing forward,” said Harvick. “In our competition meetings, we honestly don’t even talk about engines anymore because they’re just such a non-factor for us. They just keep clicking along and do a really good job.”

In short, Harvick’s current situation might be a tough one to leave.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

Kevin Harvick started off his 2010 season with a Bud Shootout win for Richard Childress Racing (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)