|Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR|
They say you need to lose a championship to win one; the same also applies to races.
When Kevin Harvick found himself against Jimmie Johnson for the win at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, the Bakersfield, Calif., native was determined it wouldn’t end the same way it did a year ago at his home track - with Harvick hitting the wall and Johnson running off with the victory.
On the final lap, Harvick made his move: he got up on the bumper of the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet just enough to make Johnson loose and give him more speed than he wanted. It wasn’t a dirty move, it was gutsy – and Johnson admitted afterward that he would have done the same thing if in Harvick’s position.
And so Harvick claimed his first win at Auto Club Speedway. The implications are many. Harvick redeemed himself for last year’s loss and beat fellow California driver Johnson to do it. The win helped Harvick finally climb out of the points hole he's been in since the engine failure at Daytona, and he now sits 9th in the standings. Harvick also made the statement that his run for a title didn’t end last year – the Richard Childress Racing driver and his No. 29 team have their sights set on the championship again and are in it to win it.
Sunday’s Auto Club 400 also marked a personal milestone for Harvick: it was the first time he was up against Johnson for the win and came out on top. After the race, Harvick explained how he used lessons learned from last year’s race to defeat Johnson this year. I couldn’t help but think that if losing a race helped Harvick win one, perhaps the same lessons can be used to win a championship.
Here’s a look at what Harvick said and how they could apply to wrestling the title away from Johnson:
1.) Learn from your mistakes.
With the field as competitive as it is, any mistake can cost you, especially in the championship hunt. Fellow 2010 title contender Denny Hamlin may have been the prime example of this. In hindsight, the call to not come in for fuel earlier at the fall Phoenix race is where the No. 11 team lost the title. Things went downhill for the team at Homestead, where a poor qualifying effort put Hamlin in the back of the field. While charging to the front in the opening laps Hamlin spun out and never recovered.
To be the best you have to beat the best. And the only way to do that is by not making mistakes.
|Victor Decolongon/Getty Images for NASCAR|
This race one year ago is what helped us win today, by being patient, not taking yourself out of the race, having something there at the end until it was time to go,” Harvick said.
This year was different. Harvick’s not one to be satisfied with a good points day, so him accepting second was out of the question. But he is one to push the boundaries and go for the win; it was just a matter of pacing it and timing the move right.
Harvick’s come-from-behind moves aren’t that different from Johnson, who became a factor in the later part of Sunday’s race and often shows up when it matters most. Patience can win you races and doing it on a consistent basis can win you a championship.
“Those guys are five-time champions, won a ton of races.We feel as a team we can race right with 'em, but so does everybody else. There's a lot of other guys that think the same thing, but nobody's beat them in five years. We've just got to keep chipping away at it,” Harvick said.