● Event: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard (Round 24 of 36)
● Time/Date: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 15
● Location: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
● Layout: 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course
● Laps/Miles: 82 laps / 200 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 15 laps / Stage 2: 20 laps / Final Stage: 47 laps
● TV/Radio: NBC / IMS Radio Network / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard marks the debut of Unibet as a primary sponsor of driver Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing. Unibet is a part of the Kindred Group, one of the top online gambling operators with business across Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The Unibet brand is building on its years of European experience in the responsible gambling and player sustainability field and extending that mindset to its U.S. operations, with motorsports being a key platform. Unibet will return to the No. 4 car as a primary partner Oct. 31 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
● Unibet is doubling down on Harvick at Indianapolis by also sponsoring him in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. Harvick is making his third and final Xfinity Series start of 2021 and he will again drive for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the No. 99 Unibet Ford Mustang. Of Harvick’s 348 career Xfinity Series starts, 13 have come on road courses. He has finished in the top-10 every time. In fact, his worst finish is merely a seventh-place drive at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 12, 2006, and in that race, Harvick still managed to lead 19 laps. He has 10 top-five finishes highlighted by two wins – Aug. 4, 2007 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and Aug. 11, 2007 at Watkins Glen.
● The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard is the sixth of a ground-breaking seven Cup Series races to be held on road courses in 2021. From 1988 to 2017, there were only two road courses on the schedule – Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Watkins Glen. The Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval was added in 2018, giving the series just three road-course venues. The initial 2021 schedule doubled that tally with Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course all being added. And when COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the series’ planned stop earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway was put in its place, serving as the series’ second race of 2021.
● Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has made a total of 47 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 20 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, three at the Charlotte Roval, two on the Daytona road course, one at COTA and one at Road America. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 10 top-fives and 24 top-10s with 195 laps led.
● When Harvick scored his first road-course victory at Watkins Glen in 2006, he had to beat his current team owner to do it. Tony Stewart – the “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing – had won the past two NASCAR Cup Series races at the seven-turn, 2.45-mile road course and was poised to capture a third straight win as he was leading Harvick with four laps to go in the 90-lap race. But Harvick, who had already led once for 24 laps, passed Stewart on lap 87 as the two drag-raced down the frontstretch and into turn one. Harvick held onto the lead despite Stewart in his rearview mirror, earning a margin of victory of .892 of a second.
● Harvick’s second career road-course win also had a connection to Stewart. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he gave Stewart-Haas Racing its second straight victory at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. The winner in 2016? None other than Stewart. It ended up being his 49th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory as Stewart retired from NASCAR racing at the conclusion of the season.
● Harvick’s last road-course win was his first in a Ford. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he became the 83rd different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race behind the wheel of a Ford. Harvick has now won 23 Cup Series races with Ford, which makes him one of only 13 drivers to win 20 or more races with the manufacturer. He is currently tied with Rusty Wallace and Carl Edwards for 11th on the all-time Ford win list.
● Harvick has four road-course wins outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. Two came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 and Watkins Glen in 2007 – and two were in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – Sonoma in 1998 and Sonoma in 2017. Harvick’s K&N Series win at Sonoma in 1998 was three years before his Cup Series debut on Feb. 26, 2001 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang
For 20 years you’ve driven through the tunnel and into Indianapolis Motor Speedway knowing that you would be racing on the oval. This year when you arrive at Indy, you’ll be racing on the road course. What will that be like?
“For me, driving through that tunnel and understanding the history and everything that comes with racing on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is something that I always look forward to. I can’t imagine driving backward on the frontstretch and driving the road course in the infield. It’s an oval thing for me. When you look at the oval and you look at the history of the racetrack and everything that comes with that – some guys may not have grown up like that, so some people will have a much different opinion – but for me the oval just holds a huge place in racing and it holds a huge place in the things that I look forward to every year. I remember the first time I pulled in there for a test in 2001 and you roll into the racetrack and you think, ‘Man, I just accomplished everything in my childhood dreams, rolling into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.’ Getting to go out on that racetrack and hearing the echoes of the cars through the grandstand is something that I’ll never forget, standing there on the front straightaway. I’m sure I’ll get over it as we start to get into practice and realize it’s just another race but, for me, it’s going to be a difficult hurdle to overcome.”
You might prefer the oval over the road course, but at least this year’s race has fans back in the grandstands.
“Our sport has done a phenomenal job navigating the whole COVID situation. As we’ve gone through a better part of this year having fans back at the racetracks with some sense of normalcy – that’s been a lot of fun. To see the enthusiasm from the sponsors to the fans and everybody else being back at the racetracks – it’s fun to see people’s faces again, and you can see who they are, and to have a conversation and stand around and talk and not have to be in a designated area to do this or that has been a relief. We’ve had some great crowds and our sport’s done just a great job in navigating everything.”
The Indy road course is one of seven road-course races this year. What are your thoughts on having so many road courses on the schedule?
“I’m good with the road courses. I think when you look at Road America, it was a huge success. That’s a great facility with a permanent road course that’s been there a long time. I grew up a Rick Mears fan wanting to race in the Indy 500, so not racing on the oval for me is a gut check. As a kid, that’s where I wanted to race and that was my dream – to race on the oval. As you look at road-course racing in general, it has become a part of our sport, and a very good part of our sport because of the fact that it gives us other opportunities to go to other facilities. When you look at COTA and you look at Road America, I think those were great additions to the schedule. Road-course racing is going to be a part of the Cup Series for a long time.”
How do you prepare for the road course at Indy?
“For us and our Unibet Ford Mustang, it’s drastically different preparation and, for me, it’s learning a new track, trying to make sure that before you go there you have everything memorized and doing the things it takes to be able to know where you’re going when you get on the racetrack. You just don’t have much practice in order to get everything figured out. All the transmission ratios and stuff are all locked in before you get there. So, hopefully, our simulator is working well and we get the lap times close and can get all the gear ratios and things like that figured out before we get there. But it’s a fair amount of preparation just because of the fact that you have to memorize the facility and you’re having to lock some stuff in before you even get to make a lap of practice on the racetrack. So, it’ll be interesting.”
One of the things that we used to see a lot of when NASCAR raced at road courses were ringers – road-course specialists brought in specifically for that race – but that’s really gone away in the last 10 years. Why?
“When I first came into this series, nobody wanted to go to Watkins Glen and nobody wanted to go to Sonoma, and then road-course racing became cool somewhere along the line. And I think as drivers – I know for me in 2003 – we really decided to put a lot of effort into our road-racing program and we were able to get much better at it than what we had been the previous two years. And as that progression happened, everybody started to get better at it, and the benefit of the road-race ringer kind of went away. It was more equal, and that little bit that the road-race guys had in road-race knowledge, they lost in car knowledge – not having the familiarity with the Cup car and how unique they are to drive.”
No. 4 Unibet Team Roster
Primary Team Members
Driver: Kevin Harvick
Hometown: Bakersfield, California
Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Car Chief: Robert “Cheddar” Smith
Hometown: Whitewater, Wisconsin
Engineer: Dax Gerringer
Hometown: Gibsonville, North Carolina
Engineer: Stephen Doran
Hometown: Butler, Pennsylvania
Spotter: Tim Fedewa
Hometown: Holt, Michigan
Front Tire Changer: Shayne Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois
Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Jeremy Howard
Hometown: Delhart, Texas
Jack Man: Stan Doolittle
Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina
Fuel Man: Evan Marchal
Hometown: Westfield, Indiana
Road Crew Members
Mechanic: Richie Bean
Hometown: Bradford, Vermont
Tire Specialist: Jamie Turski
Hometown: Trumbull, Connecticut
Engine Tuner: Robert Brandt
Hometown: Mobile, Alabama
Transporter Co-Driver: Rick Hodges
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Transporter Co-Driver: Stephen Mitchell
Hometown: Woodville, Ohio
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!