The landscape of NASCAR just underwent a surprise, seismic shift. ESPN.com's Marty Smith is reporting that Kevin Harvick will be joining Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth team starting in 2014.
Although all the parties involved are not speaking, ESPN.com reported that multiple sources indicated Harvick signed a multi-year agreement. Harvick will remain in the No. 29 for Richard Childress Racing through 2013. The plan, according to ESPN.com, would involve Harvick, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick all driving Chevrolets for Stewart-Haas.
Stewart, naturally, played it coy during his press conference. "Well, it's actually Dale [Earnhardt] Jr.," he smiled. "And Marty Smith is actually going to be in the fourth car ... I will tell you this, when we have something to tell you guys, we'll tell you. I've always said that. You guys can throw darts, but when we have something to tell you that's different than what we've got going on, we'll obviously tell you."
This move instantly vaults Stewart-Haas into the elite level of teams, though how competitive Stewart (and, for that matter, Patrick) will be in 2014 remains to be seen. However, Harvick has proven to be a reliable driver with a history of Chase finishes, if not necessarily championships.
"I'm looking forward to finishing out this season on a strong note with RCR and continuing to build our program going into the 2013 season with the ultimate goal of winning a championship," Harvick said on Friday at Phoenix. "Anything beyond that, once I know what my future plans are set I'll let you know."
This year-in-advance move is reminiscent of Kasey Kahne, who agreed to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 all the way back in 2010. At the time, he was still driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, but jumped to Red Bull as a holdover measure.
What will be interesting is if Harvick will remain in the 29 for the entire 2013 season. These agreements-in-advance have a way of starting up sooner than expected, with lame-duck drivers leaving (or being pushed out of) their seats earlier than anticipated. We look forward to Richard Childress' reaction to all this.