Harvick Readies For His Last Short Track Race of 2017

Kevin Harvick
 Kevin Harvick is heading to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the First Data 500 for the first of three races of the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. He will have a crisp, cold new look with Busch NA on the hood of his No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

Busch Beer’s non-alcoholic branding shows Busch’s commitment to promoting the responsible enjoyment of Busch products and encourages smart-drinking choices. Race fans attending Martinsville Speedway for the First Data 500 can enjoy Busch NA and other Busch family products at the midway and from select vendors throughout the track.

Harvick advanced to the Round of 8 following an eighth-place finish last Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. The good news for Harvick is that his second-place qualifying effort at Kansas will carry over to Martinsville and allow the No. 4 team to claim a coveted, prime pit stall for this weekend during the enhanced, two-day format.

The .526-mile paperclip-shaped racetrack is the shortest on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit while its low banking and tight corners provide some of the closest and toughest competition on the schedule.

Due to the tight quarters, a racecar rarely finishes a race at Martinsville without a tire mark on the door or a few dents in the sheet metal.

What makes it maddening for competitors is that they can race to the front of the field and stay there throughout the majority of the event, only to get shuffled back on a late-race restart if they wind up in the outside lane.

Harvick and the No. 4 team suffered that very fate at Martinsville in April 2016, when he started 19th, raced to the front and led 72 laps before being stuck in the outside lane on consecutive late-race restarts, ultimately finishing 17th.

But the madness of Martinsville can work to a driver’s benefit, as well. Harvick found that out in April 2011, when he started ninth, led just six of 500 laps and beat runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by .727 of a second.

Martinsville is one of only three Cup Series venues where Harvick has yet to score a top-five finish since joining SHR in 2014 – Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other two. He may be looking for his first top-five at Martinsville since joining SHR, but he has shown speed and consistency at the Virginia short track with three top-10 finishes and 265 laps led in his seven Martinsville appearances since the start of 2014.

One of the most important things to watch for this weekend at Martinsville will be stage points, which can be scored early in the race. Harvick scored 41 stage points and two playoff points in the Round of 12 to help offset a 20th-place result at Talladega.

Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing, the current points leader entering the Round of 8, holds a 52-point advantage over Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied for fifth in the standings. Kyle Busch has a 25-point cushion over the fifth position, and Brad Keselowski has a nine-point advantage.

While Harvick has raced up front and scored five stage wins this year, he is still in search of his first Cup Series race win at an oval track this season. A win this weekend at Martinsville would secure his position in the winner-take-all, Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway and give him a shot at his second Cup Series championship.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch NA Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Where do you want to be at Martinsville to help you avoid trouble on the racetrack?

“I think the best position to be in at any racetrack is in the lead. You want to be in control of the race and try to get yourself in a position to where you can have a good, clean restart and have as much clear track, especially at Martinsville, just for the fact that there is so much pushing and shoving on the restarts to get to the bottom lane that you want to try to be as far forward as possible.”

 

What do you expect to see in the transition from Talladega to Martinsville?

“Well, I think everybody is unhappy at this particular stage of the year because the intensity level is so high. You know that, whether that moment was good or bad, it could have been the moment you could win or lose the championship from. You see that intensity with a lot of guys. I think right now you just have to approach it as, whatever you have to do to get the best finish for your team, is what you have to do at this particular point. The goal is to get to Homestead and we have three races to do that.”

 

With rain in the forecast for Sunday, how will that change things up?

“It’s a very complicated weekend looking at all the different scenarios that you have going on, because last week in qualifying also set your pit stall selection for this weekend at Martinsville. So our qualifying from last week at Kansas has already set the pit stall selection process for this week. Now you’re going to go up there and try to qualify well, which you always try to do, especially at Martinsville. But now we are looking at the possibility of rain on Sunday morning. Usually when there is rain at Martinsville, we just figure we’ll go up there and race on Monday, but now they have lights. So, if it does get delayed, we may have to run at night. The biggest issue with that is, all of our practice will be run on Saturday. So we’ll get up there late morning on Saturday and run our first practice. Trucks will have been on the track on Friday. It’s going to be a cool weekend up there, which typically means that the track won’t have a lot of rubber on it because the track won’t take a lot of rubber if it’s cold. We tested there a few weeks ago and it was a little warmer and there was rubber everywhere. There is a lot to digest on Saturday and Martinsville is a pretty finicky racetrack when it comes to temperature and rubber on the racetrack. If it does rain on Sunday morning and you don’t get to qualify, that’s not the biggest deal. The biggest deal will be how long does it rain and are you going to race at night. We’ve all never made one lap at night. You don’t really know what to expect. There might be some guys who have run Late Models there, but they’ve never raced there at night, either. It’s very interesting that this all comes at this particular point in the year. You just have to try and take everything in and balance it all as best you can.”

 

Busch NA Racing Team Report

Round 33 of 36 – First Data 500 – Martinsville

At-Track PR Contact: Ryan Barry, True Speed Communication (704-500-1553, Ryan.Barry@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kevin Harvick

Hometown: Bakersfield, California

 

Crew Chief: Rodney Childers

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Car Chief: Robert Smith

Hometown: Whitewater, Wisconsin

 

Engine Builder: Roush-Yates Engines

Headquarters: Moorseville, North Carolina

 

Engine Specialist: Robert Brandt

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama

 

Spotter: Tim Fedewa

Hometown: Holt, Michigan

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Justin White

Hometown: Lynnville, Tennessee

 

Front Tire Changer: Eric Maycroft

Hometown: Algonquiin, Illinois

 

Second Gas Man: Marc Wulf

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

 

Front Tire Carrier: Matt Holzbaur

Hometown: New Egypt, New Jersey

 

Windshield: Matthew Custer

Hometown: Bedford, Pennsylvania

 

Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith

Hometown: Concord, North Carolina

 

Jackman: Stan Doolittle

Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Mike “Shrek” Morneau

Hometown: Oxford, Maine

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Rick Hodges and Stephen Mitchell

Hometowns: Raleigh, North Carolina, and Woodville, Ohio, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Dustin Keath

Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania

 

Shock Specialist: Mike McCarville

Hometown: Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada

 

Engineers: Dax Gerringer and Billy Kuebler

Hometowns: Gibsonville, North Carolina, and Saline, Michigan,respectively

 

Mechanics: Richie Bean and Allen Mincey

Hometown: Bradford, Vermont, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida,respectively

 

Fuel Runner: Chris Clayton

Hometown: Modesto, California

Chassis Information – Chassis No. 4-884:
Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Busch NA Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-884 in the First Data 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-884 made its debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it won the pole, led 12 laps and finished eighth. It also won the pole in its second appearance at Atlanta Motor Speedway in August, when it led 195 laps and finished 19th. It won its third appearance at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October, when it started seventh and led 162 laps. Harvick won the Bass Pro Shops NRA Bristol Night Race in August 2016, when he beat runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the finish line by 1.933 seconds in. It has scored two wins, six top-two finishes, eight top-fives and 11 top-10s in 12 NASCAR Cup Series starts.

 

Martinsville Speedway Notes of Interest:
· Earning It Since 2014: Harvick is in his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. Since joining forces in 2014, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 13 victories, 14 poles, 64 top-five finishes and 94 top-10s; led 6,627 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016.

 

· Points Position: Harvick arrives to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the First Data 500 ranked fourth in the driver standings with 4,017 points after his eighth-place finish Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

 

· Playoff Qualifier: Harvick clinched his position in the 2017 playoffs when he scored his first Cup Series win of the season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June. He started 12th, led 24 laps and had more than a five-second cushion when the final yellow flag waved to end the race under caution.Harvick and the No. 4 team scored one race win and three stage wins to account for eight playoff points. They finished fourth in regular-season points to pick up an additional seven points to earn the sixth seed for the 2017 playoffs. The No. 4 team scored two additional stage wins at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October for two playoff points.

 

· 11,000 Laps Led: Harvick led 149 laps at Charlotte to become just the 17th driver in Cup Series history to surpass 11,000 laps led for his career. Johnson, Busch and Matt Kenseth are the only active drivers to accomplish the feat. After leading 37 laps last weekend in Kansas, Harvick now sits at 11,053 laps led for his NASCAR Cup Series career.

 

· Testing Martinsville: Harvick and the No. 4 team participated in a NASCAR open test at Martinsville Speedway Oct. 10 and 11 in preparation for this Sunday’s First Data 500.

 

· Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville: The First Data 500 will mark Harvick’s 33rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville. Harvick has one win, three top-five finishes and 14 top-10s at the half-mile oval. The 41-year-old driver has led 628 laps, has an average starting position of 14.6, an average finish of 16.2, and has completed 97.9 percent (15,691 of 16,034) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

· Harvick in the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville: Harvick has made 17 starts in the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville. Harvick has two poles, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has led 595 laps, has an average starting position of 8.1, an average finish of 11.6, and has completed 97.1 percent (3,846 of 3,960) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

· On The Pole: Harvick has scored four Cup Series pole awards in 2017 – three coming on 1.5-mile racetracks. He scored his first of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph. His second of the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when he made a lap at 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. His third came at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. The most recent came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he posted a lap of 27.669 seconds at 177.730 mph.

 

· All-Time Wins List: Harvick’s win at Sonoma in June was the 36th of his Cup Series career, which ranks him 22nd on the all-time wins list. His next Cup Series win will move him into a tie with Bobby Isaac for 21st on the all-time list. Among active drivers, Harvick ranks fourth behind leader Johnson’s 83 career wins, Busch’s 42 and Kenseth’s 38 wins.

 

· Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 36 wins, 164 top-fives, 303 top-10s and 21 poles in 606 career Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s race at Martinsville.

 

· Personal Announcement: On Tuesday, July 11, Harvick kicked off his SiriusXM Radio show “Happy Hours” by announcing that he and wife DeLana are expecting to add a daughter to their family around the first of the year.

 

· Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: On March 14, Harvick announced that he will hostHappy Hours on SiriusXM Radio. The show debuted March 28 and airs on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. ET, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on his sport and life outside the track. Harvick and co-host Matt Yocum take calls from listeners and give NASCAR fans a unique view on the driver’s life and interests when he is away from the racecar.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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