From 1989 to 1997, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California used its full, 12-turn road course, which featured a sweeping sequence of turns called “The Carousel.”
The Carousel, part of the full Sonoma layout originally unveiled when the track opened in 1968, plunges from turn four down through turns five and six and navigates a more than 200-degree radius turn before dropping onto Sonoma’s longest straightaway from the turn-seven hairpin.
NASCAR first utilized the full 12-turn road course during its first Pacific Coast Late Model Division race at what was then called Sears Point Raceway in 1969 and on through numerous Cup Series, West Series, Southwest Series and Truck Series events until 1997. Since 1998, NASCAR had competed on a shorter, 1.99-mile configuration that bypassed The Carousel by connecting turns four and seven and calling it “The Chute.”
The full track is back for 2019 and only three active NASCAR drivers have experienced The Carousel at Sonoma Raceway.
Kyle Busch drove a Legends car there in 1998 and Jimmie Johnson drove it once in a driving school.
But Kevin Harvick may have the most “experience.”
Harvick started 31st and finished 35th, completing only 18 of the 50 laps in the 1995 Budweiser 200 NASCAR Southwest Tour Series race. He was driving the No. 55 Foster’s Freeze Chevrolet, which had engine problems early in the race.
The event was conducted on May 6, 1995 and it’s interesting to note where everyone was 24 years ago. Harvick’s team co-owner Gene Haas was continuing to build Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America but hadn’t formed a NASCAR team, yet.
Harvick’s other team co-owner Tony Stewart just started his successful quest to the win the United States Auto Club triple-crown, which meant winning the title in the sanctioning body’s Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget divisions.
Crew chief Rodney Childers was highly successful in karting, driving for a factory team with which he would win two national championships and three state championships.
Who knew that all four would come together years later to form a championship team?
Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at this weekend’s SaveMart 350k at Sonoma, and he’ll do so with Mobil 1 technology on board as a sponsor and technical partner.
Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.
It’s been a long time since May 6, 1995. “This is how we do it,” by Montell Jordan was the No. 1 song, gas was $1.14 a gallon and Seinfeld was No. 1 on television.
But no one knew on May 6, 1995, that Haas, Stewart, Harvick and Childers would form one of the great teams in the long history of the NASCAR Cup Series.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Why do you prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?
“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993, when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car, and for the regular races we would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”
Does your strategy change at Sonoma with the additional of The Carousel?
“I was in the simulator last week and got lost a couple of times – forgot where to turn. It is a lot different than I remember it from 1995. I told some of the guys in our organization that the last time I was there and ran this particular course, the course we have been running wasn’t even there. There was a mountain in the middle of the racetrack. A lot has changed. Running that portion of the racetrack, the lap time is longer and there are some different corners to deal with and, from (turn) 3B all the way through four, through The Carousel and the exit of it and what is a different turn seven than the one we have been racing, which was actually turn five. It depends how you count the corners. I love the fact, and honestly this was a conversation that Marcus Smith and I had at lunch one day and I asked why we don’t just run The Carousel and how cool it would be to throw it back. An hour later, he told me he talked to his guys and they were looking into it. Next thing you know we are running The Carousel. I love the fact they are changing it up. I think Watkins Glen could do the same thing. It seems like SMI is more aggressive in these types of situations with changing things up and trying new things and doing things more on the edge of not knowing what the outcome is going to be. As we have seen with the Roval (at Charlotte) and with the changes at Sonoma, to my knowledge I have never seen ISC do anything to their racetracks like SMI has done to several of their racetracks to try and improve the racing. I don’t think they are as worried about the life of their asphalt as they are the quality of the race. We have just seen them make a lot more aggressive changes in the things they have done on the SMI side.”
Mobil 1 Racing Team Report
Round 16 of 36 – Save Mart 350 – Sonoma
Car No.: 4 – Mobil 1 Ford Mustang
PR Contact: Joe Crowley, True Speed Communication (704) 875-3388 ext. 808 or Joe.Crowley@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: Mooresville, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Robert Brandt
Hometown: Mobile, Alabama
Spotter: Tim Fedewa
Hometown: Holt, Michigan
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Front Tire Changer: Shayne Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois
Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Mike “Shrek” Morneau
Hometown: Oxford, Maine
Gas Man: Evan Marchal
Hometown: Westfield, Indiana
Jackman: Stan Dolittle
Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina
Windshield: Matt Custer (also serves as interior mechanic)
Hometown: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Road Crew Members:
Truck Driver: Rick Hodges and Stephen Mitchell
Hometowns: Raleigh, North Carolina and Woodville, Ohio, respectively
Engineers: Dax Gerringer and Billy Keubler
Hometowns: Gibsonville, North Carolinaand Saline, Michigan,respectively
Mechanic: Richie Bean
Hometown: Bradford, Vermont
Tire Specialist: Jamie Turski
Hometown: Trumbull, Connecticut
Shock Specialist: Michael McCarville
Hometown: Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Mechanic: Allen Mincey
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Sonoma Notes of Interest:
· Dynamic Duo: While this isHarvick’s 19th year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s his sixth with crew chief Rodney Childers. Since joining forces at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2014, Harvick and Childers have combined to produce 22 points-paying victories, a victory in the non-points-paying 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, 22 poles, 99 top-five finishes and 137 top-10s while leading 8,952 laps. They won the 2014 championship, finished runner-up in the 2015 title chase to champion Kyle Busch, finished eighth in 2016 and third in 2017 and 2018. The team has qualified for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway four times in the last five years.
· Harvick has career totals of 45 wins, 28 poles, 196 top-fives, 346 top-10s and 13,378 laps led in 661 starts.
· His most recent Cup Series win came 18 races ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov. 4, 2018).
· His last Busch Pole came four racesagoat Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (May 10, 2019).
· Sonoma Numerology – Harvick has one win, six top-fives, nine top-10s and has led a total of 95 laps in his 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Sonoma. His average start is 15.4, his average finish is 13.1 and he has a lap-completion rate of 99.9 percent, completing 1,988 of the 1,989 laps available.
· Harvick at Sonoma since 2014 – The combination of Harvick competing at Sonoma in SHR equipment is impressive. In his last five NASCAR Cup Series starts at Sonoma – all of which have come with SHR – Harvick has one win, three top-fives and four top-10s. And of the 95 total laps Harvick has led at Sonoma dating back to his rookie year in 2001, 85 (89 percent) have come with SHR despite only five (29.4 percent) of his 18 Sonoma starts being with SHR.
· Laps Led: Harvick has led 8,952 laps in 195 races since joining SHR in 2014. That’s an average of 45.9 laps led per race.
· Points Position: Harvick arrives at Sonoma fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 539 points, 75 markers behind leader Joey Logano.
· Two Wins: Harvick has competed in two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races at Sonoma. In 1998, he started third, led only one lap and took the victory. In 2017, he started sixth, led 26 laps en route to victory.
· Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: Harvick is in his third year as the co-host of Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio channel 90. The show debuted March 28, 2017 and airs on Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on the 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.
· 106 and Counting – Harvick scored his 100th career win in NASCAR’s top three series when he won the Cup Series race at Las Vegas in March 2018. He now has 106 total victories after his most recent Cup Series win in November 2018 at Texas – 45 in the Cup Series, 47 in the Xfinity Series and 14 in the Truck Series. Only three other drivers in NASCAR history have passed 100 wins in NASCAR’s top three series: Richard Petty, David Pearson and Kyle Busch.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!