Kevin Harvick at peace with Darlington disappointment, life in final NASCAR season

Kevin Harvick moved on pretty quickly from the misfortune that might have cost him a chance to win the Southern 500 last weekend at Darlington while also placing him at risk of elimination in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Running second, crew chief Rodney Childers called him down pit road with 59 laps remaining in the attempt to undercut leader Tyler Reddick. In racing vernacular, an undercut is calling a second-place car to pit road a lap sooner than the leader in the hopes that one lap of fresher tires would be enough to overtake the leading car, and it’s a generally successful strategy.

Because the success rate is so high, Reddick and crew chief Billy Scott attempted to immediately counter with a last-minute turn down pit road themselves. But it was too late, and Reddick effectively slowed right in the middle of the corner, leading to laps down Ryan Newman spinning out in Turn 4. That led to a caution right as Harvick reached the commitment line, the caution coming out a split second before Harvick crossed it, meaning that taking fuel and tires would result in a penalty.

Harvick and Childers had about 10 seconds to determine if their pit stop would be legal, choosing to take their tires fuel and tires, but they were too late. The caution came out before they crossed the commitment line and they were penalized to the end of the longest line for the ensuing restart.

It was the worst possible luck because if they had made the commitment line, they would have restarted with fresh tires and the lead. They finished 19th on a night where they should have finished no worse than fifth.

Harvick also left Darlington two points below the playoff elimination cutline with two races remaining in the first round.

“I never even watched it,” Harvick said. “It was done. I was three… two… one… light’s on. From that point, I just go down pit road and do what you’re told and go from there. It is what it is. I never even looked at it.”

Harvick drove back home that night, since Darlington less than two hours away from the Charlotte area and wasn’t even afforded the chance to think about it. He has two young kids, Keelan (11) and Piper (5), and they were very talkative on the ride home.

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“They are just oblivious to the impact of things that go on, and literally, as soon as I get out of the car and walk into the motor home, even when I’m mad and trying to process everything… all the sudden I just went into a different world,” Harvick said. “I know it’s not the fancy, great story that everybody’s looking for, but it’s the way my life operates.

“It’s switch on, switch off. I think that makes it better. It’s better for me, personally and mentally, and it’s a way easier way to process things. But, yeah. We drove home, listened to them talk about whatever they did during the day and that was that.”

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In the same vein, Harvick isn’t ruminating on what could be a winless final season at the highest level. He isn’t especially bothered if he doesn’t compete for a championship in his final season beyond next weekend at Bristol.

The 2014 champion has 60 Cup Series wins and is 47 years old, mentally prepared for the next stage of his life, one that involves a FOX Sports broadcast career while guiding Keelan up the racing ranks himself.

Whatever happens, happens.

“I think for those who have been here every week know that I’m pretty at peace with everything,” Harvick said.

Even last weekend, the Southern 500, and a chance to advance.

“Well unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of races in my lifetime and that’s what I try to explain to our young kids: You better figure out how to be a good loser,” Harvick said. “Even if you’re really good, you might win 10 percent of your races. So, it’s just part of it. It’s not, ‘Well, somebody had it out for you,’ or ‘You should have done this or that.’ Sometimes, it’s just the way it works. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when you’ve been around it for a long time, you go about your business.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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