AVONDALE, AZ — Both Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are free agents at the end of next season. Do the foresee this situation a year from now being the end of a 36 race farewell tour or do they intend to make a comeback in 2024?
“I don’t know. You know, I think everything is kind of kind of a moving target at this point,” Harvick said to a group of reporters from the Phoenix Raceway media center on Saturday afternoon. “For me I just I just want to have fun, you know, as we go forward and enjoy it and you know, there’s just there’s a lot to consider for 2024. So, you know, I’ll sit down after we get done with this week and start to worry about what all that looks like so that it doesn’t put anybody in a bad spot.”
Reports are that Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t expecting him to come back for 2024 but I get the notion too that he may not end up anywhere and could test retirement.
What about Truex Jr.? It took him months of mulling on whether he should return or not for next season. It wasn’t until Nashville in the last weekend of June that he made the decision to come back on a one-year deal. Would he do another one-year deal for 2024 or walk away?
Some would say his lengthy time to make a decision could be seen as a distraction. So would he want to expediate the process next year?
“You know, I mean honestly for me I didn’t ever feel like it was a distraction,” he admits. “And I’ll make sure that it’s not for my team as well, because I feel like that’s where I have the most impact. You know, so I think for me, it’s all going to be just I’m not a big planner. I don’t like to plan too far ahead. I don’t want to talk about what I’m doing in the year and a half.”
Truex said that he’d take it as it comes and goes but he genuinely thinks that this team is a winning team and that if they can clean some things up in the offseason then they can come back here next November fighting for his second championship.
“You know, I just want to take it as it comes and I know you know the reason I came back is because I knew we could win at any single weekend,” he continued. “And I’m like, I can’t stop yet, we’re too good. You know, I mean not saying that in an arrogant way, but I just feel like any weekend we just show the wind still and I’d hate to date and not take advantage of that. After all leaders struggle, like you mentioned earlier. So hopefully, like I said, we can get the ball rolling next year early and be more consistent and we’re having fun and winning races again, and that’ll be it’ll make decisions a lot easier. As long as everything else comes together and there’s a lot of things that need to come together to make these deals work. So no idea at this point in time, but excited for you know, obviously coming back next year and hopefully doing some great things.”
Truex said that he can point to a number of times that they had a race winning car. It was just that they didn’t execute to get the job done. In saying that, he some would wonder if they would move on from James Small and bring in a new crew chief to propel this team back.
Truex doesn’t foresee that happening. He doesn’t think any changes would occur and hopes that they don’t. He likes this team the way that it is now and feels like there’s nothing concerning to break it up.
“I mean I love the team I like we’ve got a great bunch of guys we just need to get some things figured out, some pit road issues we need to figure out you know, some simulation issues,” he said. “You know, there’s going to be some changes with the cars this offseason need to get on top of that obviously, probably really see where that kind of puts us you know, short tracks and road courses, obviously been really rough and really tough for us this year. And we need to figure those out as well. So lots of look to work on it. And car for sure. Next year is a lot of this new year and it all starts over and anything can happen.”
As far as him personally, he says that his mindset never changes, it’s the same every weekend. While a win would be nice, it’s not just going to magically make things great again for his team. They need to be more consistent on a weekly basis.
“I think for me, my mindset is the same every weekend,” he says. “And that’s what keeps you hungry, keeps coming back keeps you motivated. You know, I’ve had years where I knew we were showing up, you’re gonna have a chance to win. So from that standpoint, I mean, it really wasn’t that difficult. It was more of that by the end of the week and you’re like, Okay, frustrated again. We didn’t get it done. Now we gotta go back and start over. And try to get it done next week.
“So there’s always light at the end of the tunnel that we can get it done because I know we can you know we I mean two weeks ago at Homestead we have shot when there you know and so just kind of be more consistent. We got to take advantage of opportunities when they arise and not make as many mistakes as we did including me. You know, I made my share of mistakes this year as well so I mean I need to work on that and make sure I don’t do it again. So as a whole we just need to work on all those little details. And like I said hopefully understand these cars better for certain tracks and have a better overall car on certain tracks compared to some of our competitors.”
In Harvick’s case, he feels like he’s a completely new driver at this point of the season compared to where he was at the beginning. This new car completely changed him which gives him reason of optimism in 2023.
“It’s drastically different,” he told me of himself as a driver now compared to earlier this season. “Yeah, you know, I think as you look back at the first race, you know, being very tentative to downshift the car going into corners and the way that you use the throttle and how far you drive it in the corner and what you’re looking for in the car is drastically different than then what you look used to look for. So it’s been a it’s been a steep learning curve, but it’s the new norm.”