For Stewart-Haas Racing and the team's No. 4 driver, Kevin Harvick, reverting back to old rules is a welcome change.
"I feel like we're in a way different spot than we were last year," Harvick said. "I don't think any of us were very excited about the rules package and the way 2018 ended for us because we felt like we were in a good position to win a championship."
In January, NASCAR announced rule changes for the 2020 season. The changes were primarily aimed at reducing downforce and increasing driver input on short tracks and road courses. The rules feature a return to those implemented two years ago, and a shift away from a massive package overhaul last season.
What Harvick likes about the latest set of rules changes, he said, is how they will impact short-track racing. The 2020 package includes "significantly smaller spoilers, splitters and other aerodynamic devices," according to NASCAR. It will affect six short tracks, including three tracks where Harvick won races under similar rules two years ago.
"For us, going back to that 2018 style, with the short spoiler and the short splitter, (helps)," said Harvick, who finished third in points behind NASCAR Cup Series winner Kyle Busch and second-place Martin Truex Jr last season. "There are still some differences we'll have to adapt to, but from a short track standpoint I feel like we should be better with this particular package than we were with last year's package."
Harvick finished last season with four wins and 15 top-five finishes. In 2018, despite the same third-place finish, he notched a whopping eight wins and 23 top-five finishes. (For comparison, Busch finished one point under Harvick with one less top-five finish that season.)
Running better on those short tracks could give Harvick and the No. 4 car the bump necessary to put them in contention for first place this year, especially given the unpredictability of the longer races.
"The superspeedway races are a challenge in general," Harvick said. "We've run well, but we haven't finished very many of them over the last couple years."
Of Harvick's eight wins in 2018, two were at short tracks where he did not win last year -- in Dover and Phoenix. With crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm for a seventh straight season, the experienced No. 4 team will be looking to regain those wins this year.
"I want to be competitive throughout the whole year and to win races," Harvick said. "The championship is tough. Obviously you want to do everything you can to put yourself in a good position."
Changes to the short track package could help the No. 4 Ford Mustang do just that.
"That style of rule was very good for us in 2018," Harvick said. "So from a mental standpoint, for everybody, I think we're in a lot better spot this year."
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