It wasn’t as if Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were performing poorly, as they have been the highest ranked team in the series standings without a win for most of the season.

Still, while Harvick’s team had faced several obstacles this season to reaching Victory Lane – including some self-inflicted – Harvick said he still approached each weekend with the belief that he and his team had the capability to win.

On Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the No. 4 team finally found a way to pull out the elusive first victory of year, using a late-race pit strategy to get up front and then hold off Denny Hamlin in a last-lap fender-banging battle.

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“Honestly, I’m excited that we won, but it doesn’t really – we won’t have a different meeting than if we didn’t win. We won’t have different conversations. We won’t treat each other any differently,” Harvick said.

“It really doesn’t change anything. I mean, honestly, this is what we’re supposed to do. This is what we get paid to do. And it’s our job, and we expect it. We expect to go out and win races.

“I’ve said this for several weeks now, now it’s almost a game of how do we fix it, how do we get to where we need to be, and how do we put ourselves in position to try to win a championship.”

Chasing the checkered flag

While the victories in themselves are important in many ways – Harvick is now locked into the 16-driver Cup series playoff grid for one – sometimes the chase for the win can be just as rewarding.

“Sometimes those years are more fun – more fun in the end. They aren’t more fun in the middle just because of the conversations, but the satisfaction that comes out of turning things around is sometimes more rewarding just because of the fact that it takes a lot of people to do it,” he said.  

“Like you really have to step back and realize that I can drive the car, but there is no way that I can do anything close to the amount of work that goes into putting these cars into production on the race track, changing things. I’m just a small, small sliver of it.

“But I can tell you, confidence is never anything that we will lack.”

Confidence also comes through learning and this year’s new aero package has tested drivers and crew chiefs more than ever before.

Making the right call

It also affects the decision-making and a perfect example is crew chief Rodney Childers’ late-race pit strategy call to remain on the track while most of the other lead-lap cars pit for at least two new tires.

“Sometimes that’s hard to believe that we’re going to restart here with 42 laps on our tires and the guy behind us has got sticker rights (sides) on and we’re going to outrun him,” Childers said. “That’s hard to imagine at times, but this year has been crazy like that.

“Some of it’s just trying to get some confidence and learning about this package and what you’ve got to do to win races.”

Finally grabbing a victory this season should once again cement the No. 4 team as a legitimate championship contender.

While teams like Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports already have multiple wins, Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing organization may be primed to join them.

“We legitimately think we can win every race, and we’ve had the cars and the speed to do that with leading laps,” Harvick said. “Mentally that’s just the attitude of the whole team.”