by Ryan Isley
Dale Earnhardt won seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (formerly Winston Cup Series) titles in his career. You can probably go ahead and make that seven and a half now.
You have to think that Earnhardt played a hand in Kevin Harvick winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this past weekend with a win at the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. There are just too many factors to ignore that the hand of the man known as “The Intimidator” was on the steering wheel of Harvick’s No.4 Chevrolet as he maneuvered his way through the race and into victory lane.
First, the obvious:
Kevin Harvick is the man who stepped in and took over for Richard Childress Racing following the crash that took the life of Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick made his first career Sprint Cup Series start in the next race and ran 35 races at the sport’s highest level that season, finishing ninth in the standings. He also ran a full season in the Nationwide Series, winning the championship.
And now, the not so obvious:
Is it a coincidence that after driving for Richard Childress Racing for the first 13 years of his Sprint Cup career and not winning a title, Harvick went and won a title in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing? Maybe. But I prefer to think it is more than a coincidence. In fact, it wasn’t just Harvick who couldn’t win for Childress. The last championship that was won by a car in the Richard Childress Racing stable was in 1994 – driven by Earnhardt.
Also with the Childress connection, add in that a Richard Childress driver used an Earnhardt-like move to push his way into the Championship Round, as Ryan Newman shoved Kyle Larson up the track in the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 to beat out Jeff Gordon for the final spot in the championship. That move was probably performed by Earnhardt himself just so Richard Childress Racing would have a driver in the championship for Harvick to beat.
But why would it be so important to Earnhardt that a driver from Childress was in the championship to lose? Easy…revenge.
Earnhardt wanted to make Richard Childress and his racing team pay for bringing the No.3 back into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season. The last time the number saw action in a Sprint Cup Series race until 2014 was the day Earnhardt was killed. Earnhardt not only had to be irked by the number being reinstated, but he really couldn’t be happy that it went to someone like Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon.
When all was said and done, it was just time for Kevin Harvick to finally win a Sprint Cup Series championship. And he had the perfect guy in Earnhardt to watch over him and make it happen.