Notes of Interest
● As Kevin Harvick chases a fourth NASCAR Cup Series victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in Sunday’s Goodyear 400, Rheem will promote its Chasing a Cure campaign to support cancer research by adding a touch of pink to Harvick’s No. 4 Rheem Ford Mustang. On the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR, the pink-and-black design Harvick will sport at Darlington is a throwback to the liveries Harvick ran in October 2011 and October 2012 when Rheem first launched its Chasing a Cure campaign. In the 2022 edition, the primary beneficiary is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with the No. 4 Rheem/Chasing a Cure Ford Mustang serving as a call to action for fans to support pediatric cancer research by visiting StJude.org/Donate. Meanwhile, Rheem’s Heart of Comfort program will donate $25,000 to St. Jude.
● Darlington also serves as a milestone for Rheem. America’s No. 1 water heating brand and major air conditioning and heating manufacturer is commemorating its 15th year in racing, and the Goodyear 400 marks its 500th race as a NASCAR sponsor.
● Darlington marks the second of three races where Rheem is the primary partner for Harvick and the No. 4 team in 2022. Harvick carried Rheem to a 12th-place finish in its debut with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) on March 6 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After Darlington, Harvick will drive the No. 4 Rheem Ford Mustang again Sept. 11 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
● The pairing has reunited Rheem with Harvick, a relationship that began in 2007 when Harvick won the Daytona 500 in dramatic fashion, beating NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin for the victory by .02 of a second in a frantic, green-white-checkered finish. It led to Rheem serving as a primary partner for Harvick’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team, Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI), in 2008. Rheem’s debut with KHI came on May 2, 2008 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway where Harvick finished second in the Lipton Tea 250. Harvick delivered Rheem its first victory as a primary sponsor on Feb. 27, 2010 when he won the Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas. Rheem aligned as a primary partner with Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2011 and stayed with him through the 2013 season before Harvick joined SHR in 2014.
● Darlington is known as “The Track Too Tough To Tame” but Harvick has tamed the venerable 1.366-mile oval three times. The 46-year-old racer from Bakersfield, California, owns two Southern 500 victories (2014 and 2020) and one win in the track’s 400-mile race. In fact, Harvick enters Darlington with an impressive record – he hasn’t finished outside the top-10 since 2012. How long ago was that? “Gangnam Style” and its music video by South Korean singer Psy went viral in 2012, four years before the social media app TikTok became reality.
● That’s a long time, but not nearly as long as Darlington has been around. The 2022 season marks the track’s 72nd anniversary, with the egg-shaped oval having hosted 121 NASCAR Cup Series races. The first came on Sept. 4, 1950 and it was the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt. Johnny Mantz drove his Plymouth to the win with an average speed of 75.250 mph and the race took 6 hours, 38 minutes and 40 seconds to complete. Juxtapose that with Harvick’s win in the 2020 Southern 500. His Ford Mustang had an average speed of 132.256 mph and the race finished in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 26 seconds.
● COVID-19 stopped racing in its tracks in 2020. After the checkered flag dropped March 8 at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR went on a 10-week hiatus as the world grappled with the scale of a pandemic not seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919. NASCAR had to navigate a brave new world, and the sport was one of the first to return to action when racing resumed May 17 at Darlington. It was a welcome surprise, as one version of NASCAR’s hypothetical return featured a start date of Oct. 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a stretch of 30 races in 64 days that would wrap with three straight races at Phoenix… on Jan. 1-3 of 2021. In a time of great uncertainty, seeing sports’ return with NASCAR pacing the field proved both prideful and poignant. Harvick never let off the gas even as the season ground to a halt. He focused on all the little details that go into wheeling a 3,400-pound racecar around tracks faster than 39 of his competitors. The result? After finishing second March 8 at Phoenix, Harvick one-upped that result by winning in NASCAR’s return to racing May 17 at Darlington.
● That win on May 17, 2020 at Darlington was Harvick’s milestone 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory. Harvick led 159 of the race’s 293 laps to secure his 11th straight season as a Cup Series winner. His career win total now stands at 58, which puts him 10th on the all-time Cup Series win list. Next on the all-time win list is Kyle Busch with 60 victories.
● Among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers, Harvick leads the following categories at Darlington:
● Most starts: 28 (tied with Kurt Busch)
● Most top-fives: 12 (next best is Denny Hamlin with 11)
● Most top-10s: 17 (next best is Hamlin with 15)
● Most laps led: 812 (next best is Hamlin with 744)
● Most laps completed: 9,370 (next best is Kurt Busch with 9,311)
● Note: Hamlin leads the series in wins at Darlington with four, while Harvick stands alone with three wins.
● Who are the all-time leaders at Darlington? Check out these eye-popping statistics:
● Most starts: 65 by Richard Petty
● Most wins: 10 by David Pearson
● Most top-fives: 25 by Petty
● Most top-10s: 34 by Petty
● Most laps led: 2,391 by Petty
● Most laps completed: 17,120 by Petty
● Note: The 17,120 laps completed by Petty translates to 23,434.11 miles, almost equal to the equatorial circumference of the Earth (24,901 miles).
● Harvick has proven immensely consistent at Darlington outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. The Bakersfield, California-native has made 16 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Dover, finishing among the top-10 nine times, with a best result of third in September 2017. Harvick has also made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Darlington, with a best result of fourth in March 2002.
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Rheem/Chasing a Cure Ford Mustang
Darlington marks the 500th race where Rheem has served as a sponsor on a car in a NASCAR race. You’ve represented Rheem since 2007 when you won their debut race – the Daytona 500. Talk about your longevity with Rheem and how it’s appropriate that in 2022 when they’re celebrating their 15th anniversary, their 500th race comes at one of the most historic tracks in NASCAR.
“I think the biggest thing about Rheem is they really utilize the sport in ways that it was utilized 20 years ago. With their hospitality program and the amount of dealers and people they bring to the racetrack, it’s really kind of the way I was brought up in the sport and how you maximize a sponsorship. Five hundred sponsored races is something that’s really spectacular, and obviously it’s working for their customers. That relationship goes back a long way, and having a lot of the same people involved makes that a lot of fun to be able to go through this part of my career and have them on the car and realize the commitment they’ve made to the sport. The people have continued to show up and they’ve continued to support it and that makes you feel valuable. Rheem sees the value in NASCAR and they continue to use that to their benefit.”
You participated in a Goodyear tire test at Darlington back in early March. How did it go and did it provide a purview of what you can expect when you’re there with nearly 40 other cars?
“I think Darlington is going to be fun, and we learned a lot at the test. Goodyear has a good tire that wears all four tires out, which is something we haven’t really seen so far because the left-side tire’s been pretty conservative. Darlington is just a tough racetrack, right? Still, it had a lot of fall-off and I think that’ll be fun, but it’s definitely going to be a full day’s work.”
Will tire management be the theme for this year’s race at Darlington?
“Tire management has always kind of been there, though it’s less than it used to be because of the stages and the way that you pit now. You only have to run 30 or 40 laps on a set of tires, so you don’t have to manage them the way you used to have to manage them.”
Do the composite body panels of the NextGen car make running the high line at Darlington a little more appealing, to where you can rim ride a bit and be more aggressive because there is no sheet metal to cut a tire down, or is that a bit of a myth?
“It’s not as bad as it used to be, but the wheels, you have to be really careful in how hard you hit the wall because it’ll break suspension parts. We saw that at the test. You hit the wall wrong and it’ll snap those A-frames.”
You have three wins at Darlington and a series-best 812 laps led in 28 career starts. How satisfying it to have that kind of success at a track that’s so notoriously difficult its nickname is “The Track Too Tough To Tame”?
“It’s been a lot of fun to have been able to win there a few times now. Darlington is one of those historic racetracks that everybody loves going to because of the fact that it’s forever tied to the guys that used to race there with the same shape of the racetrack. It may be a different surface, but it’s the same racetrack that they raced on in the 1950s. It’s a unique place to go race and a place that has so much history in our sport.”
Is there a particular key to your success at Darlington?
“Yeah, don’t hit the wall!”