Kevin Harvick in prime position

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012

Kevin Harvick is the only driver in the Sprint Cup Series to have finished among the top three of points the past two seasons.

Not Jimmie Johnson. Not Tony Stewart or even Carl Edwards.

He is in perhaps no better position to win his first series championship.

That quest will begin today when qualifying for the front row of next Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway gets underway at 1 p.m.

"I think from a mental aspect, this is the best chance. I never really realized how much an effect it takes on you with all the things you have going on, on the outside that frame of mind that you are able to put yourself in is much more relaxed," Harvick said.

"We made a lot of changes to try as an organization to take ourselves from finishing third to win the championship. I feel like we may go out and it all may just crumble, but with what we have underneath us we feel like this is the best opportunity that we have built for ourselves over the winter."

There isn't much Harvick hasn't accomplished in NASCAR.

He's won numerous races in all three national series - Cup, Nationwide and Truck. He has two championships in what is the Nationwide Series, two owner's championships in Truck with Kevin Harvick Inc. and has victories in the sport's two biggest Cup races, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

The glaring hole in an otherwise stellar resume? The Cup title.

Numerous changes this year - both professional and personal - might well determine Harvick's chance to complete the resume.

He and his wife, DeLana, are expecting their first child in July. Their decision to have children played a large role in deciding to forgo fielding Nationwide and Truck teams from the KHI organization.

Harvick's Cup team also made offseason changes, including crew members and a crew chief in Shane Wilson, with whom Harvick won the 2006 Busch Series title at Richard Childress Racing.

Harvick hopes the changes, combined with his experience of the past two seasons, will form a recipe for even bigger success in 2012.

"We were very consistent in 2010. We were very inconsistent in 2011. We had speed in 2010, we didn't have the speed we had in 2010 in 2011. I think you need a combination of those two things," he said.

"You have to have the capabilities in your cars of speed like (Tony) Stewart had last year so that you can have a couple of bad races (and then) you can go out and knock out a couple of wins.

"I think if you have that speed in your car and that capability, no matter how bad a day you have a couple of races, you can go out and overcome consistency with wins."

The changes to his Cup team; the expansion of his family; the decision to end his role as a team owner - all of those have made for a much different offseason for Harvick.

"At first it was hard to really understand what you were supposed to do. We have been so used to getting up in the morning and going to work," he said.

"For us this winter was more about how to relax and take care of yourself, work on the house, go on vacation and really use the offseason as what it is meant for. I'm excited to get back at the track and excited where our life is headed."

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