Notes of Interest
● Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCH® Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has made 796 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, with 128 of those starts coming on short tracks. And of his 60 Cup Series wins, eight have been on short tracks, with Richmond accounting for four of those victories. Harvick scored his first Richmond win in September 2006, his second in September 2011, his third in April 2013 and his fourth last August. His August win, however, was Harvick’s first with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Despite being winless in his 16 prior starts at Richmond as a member of SHR, Harvick remained stout. He had three runner-up drives, nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, and only one result outside of the top-15.
● Harvick joined SHR in 2014 and has since recorded 37 of his 60 career NASCAR Cup Series wins, the most recent of which came at Richmond. In the Federated Auto Parts 400 last August, Harvick started 13th and drove into the lead for the first time on lap 334. He wound up leading twice for 55 laps, including the final 48 where Harvick legged out a margin of .441 of a second over second-place Christopher Bell.
● Harvick’s win last August at Richmond gave him 29 top-10s at the .75-mile oval, the most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Next best is Kyle Busch with 27 top-10s. Who is the all-time leader in top-10s at Richmond? None other than “The King,” seven-time Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty. He earned 41 top-10s at Richmond in 63 career starts.
● Harvick has led 15,944 total laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, with 1,235 of those laps coming at Richmond.
● The Richmond 400 will mark Harvick’s 44th NASCAR Cup Series start at the Virginia short track. His first start at Richmond came on May 5, 2001. That race was won by SHR co-owner Tony Stewart, who beat then three-time champion Jeff Gordon by .372 of a second. Harvick finished 17th in what was his 10th career Cup Series start. Eleven of the 43 drivers in that race have since been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – Stewart, Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Ron Hornaday Jr., Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte.
● Harvick is the winningest NASCAR Xfinity Series driver at Richmond with seven victories. Kyle Busch is next best with six wins. Harvick finished among the top-10 in all but six of his 21 career Xfinity Series starts at Richmond.
● Harvick has also competed at Richmond in the NASCAR Truck Series and in IROC. He has made five Truck Series starts, the last three of which saw him finish second (2001), second (2002) and third (2005). And in his lone IROC start in 2004, Harvick finished fifth.
● GEARWRENCH is the No. 1 worldwide professional-grade mechanics’ hand tool brand, and the 90T reversible ratcheting wrench set is a prime example of its innovative tool lineup. GEARWRENCH flips the competition in this category by allowing users to engage a forward or reverse position without having to flip over the wrench. And with a 15 degree offset box end, there’s still plenty of clearance for one’s hands and knuckles. They’re the same ratcheting wrenches used by SHR, and they’re available in a 16-piece metric set and a 14-piece SAE set. Each wrench features color-filled markings, with molten orange for metric sizes and black for standard sizes.
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang
We just came out of a bump-and-bang race on the road course at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where some of the new-to-NASCAR drivers – Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Jordan Taylor – were surprised at how much contact there was out on the racetrack. Is there a driver code when it comes to competing in these races?
“Well, the driver code is not what it used to be when I first started – when you would run into the back of somebody on a restart and lift their tires up off the ground because the nose was only 8, 9, 10 inches off the ground. It was much different then because there was a race etiquette that Ken Schrader and Bobby Hamilton and Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin made sure that you understood. Usually, it came in ways of not being able to get your lap back when the caution came out. They would race you back to the yellow (flag) if you weren’t doing things appropriately on the racetrack. You also have to remember that the consequences were much different without the SAFER Barriers and the things that had happened at that particular point of time. You’re talking about hurting guys in a pretty serious way. The cars were less durable than what they are now, so a lot of times when you had stuff happen and you roughed people up and you were being rambunctious and it ended their day, it was looked upon as careless behavior and the car wasn’t able to handle it. Today, I really see it at the go-kart tracks. The things you currently see on the racetrack are exactly how all of them are taught to race. They’re taught to block, they’re taught to race in the rain, they’re taught to run into you and they’re taught to gouge on the restarts, and that’s just the way it is. It’s just a different upbringing as far as how you teach them to race compared to how I was taught to race, and there are a lot more situations where everybody has the resources and cars to get to the racetrack than putting your car together on a week-to-week basis where if you didn’t finish, you didn’t get to go for a few weeks. It’s a much different era of racing than what it used to be.”
This current-generation car does seem to be a little more forgiving than the previous-generation car when it comes to beating and banging. Those composite body panels don’t cut tires like the sheet metal of past cars used to. Does that give drivers a green light to lean on one another a bit more?
“You still have to be careful. Front-to-rear is fine with the foam and everything in the back of the car, but you still have to take care of the racecar. You still have a little more leeway than what you used to. You just don’t want to hit the wheels really hard because those parts will break.”
What’s OK and what isn’t when it comes to car-to-car contact at a short track?
“You can pretty much tell if it’s on purpose or not on purpose. You just have to be mentally prepared to know that there is going to be contact as you go through that race. You just have to try and stay as calm as possible. But, usually, if it’s the same guy that keeps having contact, then you know you have to do something different.”
When you won at Richmond last August, it was your second straight victory after winning the weekend before at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. How satisfying were those back-to-back wins?
“I think the most gratifying part of it all was the fact that we all worked through it together. Last year, this car was so drastically different from what we had before, and it forced you to look at things a lot differently than what you did before. For myself and Rodney (Childers, crew chief), we’ve been around this for a long time, and having to forget all of the stuff that you’ve done – you’re going to the same racetracks, but it’s a different thought process. It’s a different process of how you get to that answer than what it used to be. You had to be open-minded.”
When you have a car that isn’t capable of winning the race, how do you change your mindset to get the best out of your racecar on that particular day?
“That’s just something from when I wrestled in high school and raced our Late Models, it was always pounded into my head that it’s OK to not be good, but it’s not OK to quit. It’s never OK to not give it 100 percent. It’s never OK to quit grinding away for every single second of whatever it is you’re doing because you’re letting yourself down. And in this deal, you’re not only letting yourself down, you’re letting your whole team down, and I think that’s contagious, because nobody ever lets down. We can be off and struggling in a race, but we can keep ourselves on the lead lap and have a good pit stop and all of a sudden show up and finish fourth or fifth at the end of a race just because five or six of them have crashed and we’ve ground away all day at the little things and made our car a little bit better and hung in there and all of a sudden here we are. Sometimes it’s just about grinding away and doing the little things right. You don’t have to be the fastest, but if you just do more right than everybody else, you’re probably going to be pretty successful. There’s a lot of details that go into what we do to be good. Even with a slow car you can still find 100 details to make a slow car faster, and sometimes making a slow car faster is OK on certain days. Every day is different. Every day you have to find something to improve on and it’s a constant improvement.”