- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

SONOMA, Calif. | Kevin Harvick arrived at Infineon Raceway convinced the longest drought of his Sprint Cup career can end this weekend on the winding California road course.

His statistics say otherwise.

His last Cup points victory was 86 races ago, dating back to the 2007 season-opening Daytona 500. He’s a skilled road racer but has been hit-or-miss on Sonoma’s scenic course.

More important, he’s in the middle of a pretty horrendous season.

“You go up and you go down, but obviously, it’s been the worst year that I’ve ever had racing, period,” Harvick said Friday before practice at Sonoma.

He’s not exaggerating.

Through 15 races, Harvick has just a pair of top-10 finishes and ranks 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings. His streak of three consecutive years in the Chase for the championship will most certainly come to an end this season, one year removed from last year’s fourth-place finish in the final standings.

That’s so far from the success Harvick is used to, even during the down years at Richard Childress Racing. Just how bad are things for Harvick? He has led just nine laps all season.

“Kevin is frustrated. He’s used to contending for wins and being fairly secure in the Chase,” teammate Jeff Burton said. “He’s had a year to this point he would rather forget. He’s concerned about it.”

Everyone at Richard Childress Racing shares the concern because the problems aren’t exclusive to Harvick, the longtime star of Childress’ four-car organization. Instead, the entire lineup is struggling, and Childress is in danger of failing to place anyone in the 12-driver Chase field.

Burton is 12th, clinging to his spot by three points on David Reutimann. Clint Bowyer, since peaking earlier this season at second in the standings, has plummeted to 16th. Casey Mears, in his first year with Richard Childress Racing, is 21st.

Childress had early season struggles with Harvick and Mears, so in late April he swapped their entire crews in an effort to stop the slide. Instead, Burton and Bowyer have struggled since the swap; Harvick and Mears have yet to show steady improvement.

“It’s just been one of those things where the whole company has been off,” Harvick said. “We can get one car to work on a particular week, and the rest of them run in the back, so that part is frustrating. But it’s just kind of the way it’s been all year.”

Because Harvick has never been one to sit silent when his race cars aren’t running well, it’s widely believed that this down season is testing his patience. He has already weathered two downturns at Richard Childress Racing and seems destined to ride out a third turnaround in seven seasons.

But if he’s at the end of his rope, he’s not letting on. He played coy Friday about Richard Childress Racing’s issues, directing questions to the boss.

“It’s not my job to figure out what is wrong. You give all the input that you can back, and then it’s out of my department,” he said. “Ask Richard what’s wrong. He’s the only one who can answer this.”

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