By JENNA FRYER (AP Auto Racing Writer)
11 hours ago
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- As rumors swirled that Kevin Harvick planned to leave Stewart-Haas Racing, he took Kasey Kahne aside and promised him he wasn't after his job.
The speculation turned out to be baseless.
Harvick said Friday that SHR held a two-year option on him that the team always planned to exercise. Ultimately, his contract was restructured and announced this week as an extension.
It finally put to rest rumors that Harvick planned to jump ship and replace Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports. The reason the idea was even debated is because Harvick has a long relationship with Chevrolet, but SHR is moving next season to Ford. Hendrick is Chevy's flagship team.
''It got so out of control, I actually went to Kasey Kahne and I said, 'Look man, here's what's going on,''' Harvick said. ''I told him, there's not been one person to call me from your organization. I want you to have the trust in your team, I want you to believe in your team, and I want you to keep working on the things you're working at. Here's what I'm doing, here's what I see, here's how it is going to go.''
Kahne confirmed on Twitter that Harvick spoke to him at Phoenix, the third race of the season and two weeks after SHR announced its move to Ford.
''Pretty cool of him,'' Kahne tweeted.
Kahne has struggled the last two years and is increasingly being mentioned as a driver that could be on his way out at Hendrick. Knowing Kahne is trying to turn around his results, Harvick thought it would be best to relieve him of an additional pressure.
''I thought it was important for him to know where his organization stood and that the rumors and things were never even talked about,'' Harvick said. ''I felt like that was important because I knew there was a lot of pressure on that side of things.''
Harvick on several occasions this season downplayed any discussion that he wanted out at SHR, where he won his first Sprint Cup title in 2014 and was runner-up last year. One of the best manipulators in the garage, Harvick has been known to play it coy to his benefit.
But he didn't need leverage with SHR, and didn't have an option to leave now, anyway. So when a report surfaced again this week that he had been offered Kahne's ride, he bristled on social media. Harvick explained Friday that the rumor was a distraction to the SHR employees and his No. 4 team.
''Just some crazy rumors, however they got started, they got started,'' Harvick said. ''I don't mind getting in the middle of some of these games. Unfortunately, it just turned into a spiraling, out-of-control rumor.''
In explaining his contract process, Harvick said he never even spoke to another organization. He's closely tied to crew chief Rodney Childers, who has guided Harvick to nine wins since they were paired at SHR in 2014.
This contract should take the 40-yearold driver into at least 2020, and he doesn't have any idea at this stage if he'll walk away then or sign another deal.
''You hear too many guys talk about retiring too soon and you see Mark (Martin) do it until he's 50,'' he said. ''It's way too much fun right now being competitive and having fast cars. You feel like you are making up for lost time. It will have to be pretty painful at the end of this one to say I am done because I'll be in my mid-40s. I'm not going to commit to quit too soon.''