Kevin Harvick doesn't see window closing on his Cup title chances

Kevin Harvick has no plans to stop racing as long as he's competitive and winning races. Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- Kevin Harvick didn't bristle, but he certainly challenged a suggestion of why he might have more focus going into the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Realistically, how many more opportunities will Harvick have to win a NASCAR Cup series title? The 42-year-old can't have that many years left of racing, right? So it would make sense if he realizes that his chances to win his second Cup title are dwindling.

Not so much, Harvick says. Five of the past seven champions have been at least 37 years old when they captured the title. The only two under 37 were Brad Keselowski, who was 28 in 2012, and Kyle Busch, who was 30 in 2015.

"Everybody wants it to be young, but it hasn't been a young man's game as far as winning championships in a long time," Harvick said. "I guess Jimmie Johnson; he won so many of them he had to be young at some point when he won them.

"I don't understand why you couldn't be competitive -- Mark Martin was competitive in his early 50s."

That led to this conversation:

You probably are only going to have about three more chances?

"Why is that?" Harvick said.

You're probably not going to race more than five more years?

"Why?" Harvick said.

I just don't see that in your future.

"Yeah, but why would you quit if you're still competitive and winning championships?"

So you could have eight more chances to win championships?

"Why not?" Harvick said. "I feel like my lifestyle and family and everything is in a good place, and I don't think from my lifestyle standpoint that I'm missing so much at home that I would want to take myself off the road.

"The more experience that you have in this sport, the better off you are. From a physical standpoint, I feel good in a race car."

Harvick looks at other drivers in their 40s who have retired and sees they have had physical or lifestyle reasons they dealt with to want to stop racing Cup on a weekly basis.

Harvick, who has competed full time on the Cup circuit since 2001, then knocks on the wooden desk.

"Right now, you don't have to put that conversation into what you're doing when you talk about how long you're going to race," Harvick said about himself. "I can't answer the question of how long you're going to race.

"I definitely would tell you I don't feel like there is pressure to make it happen now. You expect to have another opportunity. Everybody does."

There's no reason for Harvick to stop racing, said his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.

"What has he ever shown that would make anybody think he's not capable of doing that anymore?" Bowyer said. "He damn sure shows me every time he's at bat that he's capable of winning races and winning championships.

"And until that day is over, I'd say you'll see Kevin Harvick stepping up to the plate."

If he can continue his current pace and current performance level, Harvick might have a few more opportunities than most to win titles. He is the only driver among the 16 in the playoff field who has made it out of the first two rounds in each of the four years of the format in which playoff drivers advance with a win and the remainder of the spots are determined by points.

"Adapt and survive -- it's really just a survive-and-advance type of formula," Harvick said. "Our team has done a good job when we've been down of being able to step up and win in the right circumstances four or five times.

"That's been the mindset from the very beginning: Try to win because that's the golden ticket to make yourself move on to the next round."

Bowyer said Harvick practices what he preaches.

"He's focused beyond belief, he's talented beyond belief and he's confident beyond belief," Bowyer said. "Those are deadly combinations in anything in life, and our sport is a great example of that.

"He's got a good team. ... In the face of adversity or pressure or anything else, he can stay focused and keep his eye on the prize and get the most out of any situation they throw at him."

Harvick has made it to Homestead three times. But he has won it "only" once, in its first version in 2014.

"I don't think anybody really knew what to expect in the beginning, and it's developed you have to have won the race [at Homestead] every year so far," Harvick said. "2014 was obviously a situation where we were able to win the race."

Harvick feels this year has more mimicked 2015, a season when he dominated but Kyle Busch had a better car and better race than Harvick in the championship-determining event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In 2016, Harvick didn't make it out of the semifinal round. In 2017, he didn't run dominant during much of the year as the team had made the transition from Chevrolet to Ford.

"Every year has played a role into learning about who we were as a team, gaining more experience," Harvick said. "Obviously we won it the first year. The second year, we felt like we should have won it and didn't based upon the season, and in 2017, we didn't have the expectations to even be there.

"I would lean on experience just because of the fact our group has been together -- we've won, we lost and getting there is the hardest part."

Because the team is tied for the lead in playoff points with Kyle Busch, Harvick feels his group can continue what it did during the regular season as far as preparation each week.

Last year after the win in June at Sonoma, the team focused solely on getting better with the playoffs in mind. This year, it's just working on the natural progression of making the cars better week to week.

Harvick also feels his team is seasoned enough and has been in the limelight enough this year that the focus on it during the playoffs shouldn't have much of an impact.

"Our team has been a major focus from a media standpoint, from a fan standpoint," Harvick said. "Not having to flip the switch on those guys with cameras and media -- not all of a sudden have all that noise and questions to answer. They've answered them and been part of the noise all the year.

"In the past, it hasn't really been that way. They have a much better mental preparation and mental focus going into the playoffs."