Sprint Unlimited 2013: Kevin Harvick Set for Big Year Following Exhibition Win

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIFebruary 17, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick has dominated the Sprint Unlimited in recent years. The 2013 edition of the Daytona 500 exhibition race was no different, as Harvick controlled the track for 40 of the 75 laps and cruised to his third win over the last five years.

The win comes on the heels of an eighth-place finish in the Chase for Harvick in 2012.

Harvick benefited from a seven-car crash that resulted in several top drivers being relegated to spectators for the rest of the race. Still, he demonstrated some impressive driving while holding off aggressive last-lap surges from Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle.

It was Stewart’s aggressiveness, after all, that caused the early-race wreck.

Changes are also on the not-so-distant horizon for the 37-year-old veteran driver. Harvick, who has been with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) for all 13 of his career seasons in NASCAR, will leave for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

That has prompted some to question the success he can achieve while working through this transitional season.

Sports Illustrated writer Cary Estes labeled 2013 a “potentially awkward” year, considering the big upcoming changes.

When asked about the situation, Harvick downplayed any tension within the team and gave an outlook for his final season with RCR, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today Sports:

I don't think it's been that big of a deal. Our guys, they don't care. They just want to win…[We’re] going to have a helluva lot of fun racing, having a good time, doing our jobs…The atmosphere is great, honestly…Pride also comes in there pretty good, too. It's fun to prove people wrong.

If there was any tension building and if the doomsday theorists had any credibility, Harvick wouldn’t have cruised to victory once again at the Sprint Unlimited.

It could be just the start of Harvick “proving people wrong.”

Next season’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing has also garnered plenty of media attention. Not only will Harvick be proving people wrong, but he also will be trying to impress and assure his new team that there are greener pastures ahead following the transition.

An early-season confidence boost is a precursor for success, too.

In 2010, Harvick posted one of the best seasons of his career, coming in third in total points at the end of the Chase and finishing with three wins, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes.

A big year would certainly be a fitting parting gift from Harvick to the organization that has helped him grow into one of the top performers in the industry.