Harvick makes it 2-for-2

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One thing Kevin Harvick hasn't been so far at Daytona:


If the past five days are any indication of how things will go this year in Harvick's lame-duck season at Richard Childress Racing, this split will be the most successful divorce in history.

Harvick made it 2-for-2 Thursday, winning the first Budweiser Duel qualifying race. He started the Daytona proceedings with a victory in the Sprint Unlimited all-star race Saturday night.

"We like to be the lame-duck underdog," Harvick said, joking. "That's what we're shooting for. Really, we've just got to keep a level head and not get too high and keep doing what we've done."

Two different cars and two different situations for Harvick, but the same result at the end for the man who was supposed to suffer through a miserable transition season before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

Lame hasn't entered the picture. Want to know who was lame? That would be Danica Patrick. She started on the pole, didn't lead a lap, quickly fell back and never was a factor, finishing 17th in the 23-car field.

"I learned some things," Patrick said. "But I feel I need to go to Harvick's bus and learn from him. He's got it figured out here."

Harvick will start directly behind Patrick in the Daytona 500. Maybe that will help.

Patrick played it safe Thursday after falling back early, keeping the car clean and saving her pole spot for the Daytona 500.

Harvick, on the other hand, went for it and it worked. Now he's a clear favorite to win the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career.

Here's a bit of bad news for Harvick. No driver has won all three events at Daytona in the same year.

Harvick will need to make history -- like proving a lame-duck team can get it done and even win a title.

It's a little early to make a prediction for 2013 off two victories at Daytona in races that don't count for much, but the No. 29 Chevrolet team looks like a committed bunch of guys who aren't concerned about next year.

"I don't see them slacking at all." Kasey Kahne said about Harvick's team Thursday. "I think they'll be one of the teams to beat all season long."

Harvick said all of the talk of turmoil between him and Childress is way overblown.

"By the end of last year, all the drama was over," Harvick said. "The emotional side of it was gone. We both agreed to put all our effort into this season."

And Harvick emphasized all things are positive with crew chief Gil Martin and the team.

"Gil and these guys don't care," Harvick said about his eventual exit. "They just want to win races. Whether a driver leaves tomorrow or is here 20 years, their job is the same. It's all about pride. We have a lot of pride."

Lame duck doesn't enter into it, but here's something else that was lame Thursday: the first 35 laps of the race.

Remember how your kindergarten teacher made you line up perfectly to go to the lunchroom? That pretty much sums up what happened on the track for those 35 laps.

Then it was wake-up time. Harvick made his move and briefly showed the fans some real racing.

"I saw the 99 [Carl Edwards] was making up some ground down low," Harvick said. "We weren't out there to run 10th. I felt it was time to make something happen. I slid down in front of the 99, then four or five other cars pulled out. We were able to get all the way to the front and change the complexion of the race."

Things didn't go so well for Edwards a little later. Denny Hamlin got loose up by the wall with eight laps to go, slamming into Edwards' right-rear quarter panel and turning the 99 Ford into the wall to trigger the only wreck of the race.

Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith also were involved in the accident. Edwards, who has wrecked four cars at Daytona in the past month, and Bayne will go to backup cars and start in the back for the 500.

For Harvick, it doesn't seem to matter what car he drives here. He's living up to his nickname, Happy. That hasn't always been true. Harvick has shown his surly side at times when things didn't go his way.

What changed? Easy. The addition of Keelan Harvick.

Harvick is a dad for the first time at this Daytona 500. He put his baby boy in the car before both races this week, a little good-luck charm that will continue Sunday.

"For me it just adds balance to my life," Harvick said of Keelan's presence. "I come to the track more relaxed and more focused. I don't get as wound up about things. If I have a bad day and reach that moment where I'm about to say something stupid, I see his smiling face and it changes everything."

Nothing lame about that.