Kevin Harvick: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent INovember 28, 2011

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick was the spoiler during the final laps that would at last get Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his new team back to Victory Lane. Junior Nation held their collective breath, only to see Harvick take the checkered flag.

At the spring race in Martinsville, it appeared Earnhardt would win the race after 99 attempts since his last Cup win in Michigan during 2008.

Harvick charged to the front with four laps remaining, knowing his win would hit straight in the heart of Junior's fans.

With mixed emotions, the driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet knew a win is a win, even if it does come at the cost of taking it from the eight-time most popular driver in NASCAR's top series.

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte is the longest race on the schedule, and this year, it was a fuel mileage battle in the final laps.

On the last lap, coming out of the last turn, Harvick had the fuel to pass Earnhardt in his No. 88, who had taken the lead as others sputtered. Then Earnhardt too ran out of fuel and finished seventh.

Harvick and his team, Richard Childress Racing, had a strong year. He garnered four total wins, with the other two coming at Auto Club Speedway and Richmond.

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In addition to the wins, his statistics showed nine top five and 19 top 10 finishes, with an average finish of 11.5

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 19:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolset, speaks to the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2011 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, Harvick finished third in the point standings. In 2010, he was a contender for the championship, but not in 2011, when it came down to the final Chase races.

Harvick announced that he was closing Kevin Harvick Inc. at the end of this year. The operation started by he and his wife, Delana Harvick, was started a decade ago to field trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The teams have been merged into Richard Childress Racing, who is cutting his four-car stable of Cup teams back to three.

Gil Martin has been Harvick's crew chief for the No. 29, but he will be assuming duties as the director of team operations for the upcoming season.

The new crew chief for the No. 29 is Shane Wilson. Wilson is no stranger to Harvick, having taken him to a landslide win of the 2006 Nationwide Series title. He was the crew chief for Clint Bowyer's Cup team this past season.

It is highly possible that Brad Keselowski may find one lump of coal in his Holiday stocking for beating Earnhardt at the STP 400 in Kansas, where the driver of the No. 88 finished second.

Harvick and Keselowski both won races fair and square, despite Earnhardt being so close to ending his winless streak that has now reached 129 races.

Harvick really isn't a Grinch, even in the eyes of Junior Nation, but Christmas would have been a lot happier if Junior had pocketed a win in 2011, though he still has reason to rejoice about his season.

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