Busch Light Racing: Kevin Harvick St. Louis Advance

Notes of Interest


●  Kevin Harvick will make his 805th career NASCAR Cup Series start on Sunday when he takes the green flag for the Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is already one of just 10 drivers in NASCAR’s 75-year history to reach 800 career starts, a milestone Harvick reached April 23 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. At 805 starts, Harvick will tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon for ninth all-time. Harvick is on track to finish the year with 826 career starts, which will put him eighth all-time. He’s part of an impressive lineup that includes Richard Petty (1,185 starts), Ricky Rudd (906), Terry Labonte (890), Dave Marcis (883), Mark Martin (882), Kyle Petty (829), Bill Elliott (828), Darrell Waltrip (809) and Gordon (805). At age 47, Harvick was the fifth-youngest driver to make 800 starts.


●  What has Harvick done in his 804 NASCAR Cup Series starts prior to St. Louis?

    ●  He won the 2014 Cup Series championship.

    ​●  His 60 point-paying wins ranks 10th all-time.

    ​●  His 63 runner-up finishes ranks sixth all-time.

    ​●  His 249 top-five finishes ranks ninth all-time.

    ​●  His 436 top-10 finishes ranks fifth all-time.

    ​●  His 1,277 starts across NASCAR’s top-three series – Cup, Xfinity and Truck – is the most all-time (and 80 more than the next best driver in this category, Joe Nemechek, who has 1,197 starts).

    ​●  His 121 wins across NASCAR’s top-three series ranks third all-time.


●  Harvick comes into St. Louis on the cusp of 16,000 laps led in his NASCAR Cup Series career. With his 19 laps led on Monday in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Harvick’s career tally is 15,999 laps led across 804 Cup Series starts. He is a single lap away from being one of just 11 drivers who have led 16,000 laps in their career. Harvick has led 11,584 laps since joining SHR in 2014 (72.4 percent).


●  The NASCAR Cup Series made its first visit to St. Louis last year with the Enjoy Illinois 300, but it was not Harvick’s first visit to the 1.25-mile oval located just across the Mississippi River in Madison, Illinois. The Bakersfield, California-native first competed at Gateway International Raceway on Sept. 19, 1998 in a NASCAR Truck Series race. A 22-year-old Harvick started 21st and finished 11th in his 39th career Truck Series start. Harvick returned to Gateway a year later for his second Truck Series start at the track, starting 10th and finishing 27th. But it was his third start at Gateway – this time in a NASCAR Xfinity Series car on July 29, 2000 – that proved to be Harvick’s breakthrough moment. In his 21st career Xfinity Series start – and first in an Xfinity Series car at Gateway – Harvick won to score his first Xfinity Series victory, beating Jeff Purvis by 1.338 seconds. Harvick would go on to win two more Xfinity Series races that year en route to a third-place finish in the championship standings. In his return to Gateway the following year, Harvick successfully defended his Xfinity Series win by beating Jason Keller for the victory by .165 of a second. It was his third win of a five-win season that culminated with the 2001 Xfinity Series championship. Harvick won a second Xfinity Series title in 2006 and he has 47 career Xfinity Series wins.


●  In all, Harvick made five Xfinity Series starts at Gateway, leading a total of 332 laps and completing all but two of the 1,000 laps available.


●  Harvick also has three Truck Series starts at Gateway, with his third and final start on July 17, 2010 being his best. Harvick won the pole and dominated, leading 143 of the race’s 160 laps to beat Brad Keselowski by 5.241 seconds. It was the ninth of his 14 career Truck Series victories.


●  Harvick finished 33rd in last year’s Enjoy Illinois 300 after a brake rotor failure on lap 236 jettisoned a likely top-10 result by sending Harvick into the turn three wall.


Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang 


You had a good run going last year at Gateway before a broken brake rotor ended your day. Does that performance buoy your expectations leading into this year’s race?

“I think last year is probably fairly consistent with what we need to work on just because of the spoiler size and the type of track that it is. I think the disadvantage for us is just with the aero situation where the Fords, in general, have to be spot on. They’ve done a good job with the cars week in and week out, and we just have to go there with last year’s notes and try to make it a little bit better than what we had and not blow a rotor apart and smash into the wall.”


The first of your 47 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins came at Gateway on July 29, 2000. You beat Jeff Purvis by 1.338 seconds. What do you remember about that win?

“The thing I remember the most was that week, Richard (Childress, team owner) brought me into his office and told me that we needed to stop crashing cars and that we needed to figure out how to finish races. I think it was the 12th or 13th race of the season and he was tired of tearing stuff up. And then we go out and win that week and I remember what a relief it was to finally get that first one out of the way. We built a team and had our good moments and bad moments – we missed a race at Rockingham (North Carolina). So we had gone through a lot of things at the beginning of that season and, to finally get that first win, it was really the momentum that finally kicked off all the things that happened after that. From that point forward, Gateway was always a great track for me and we’ve had a lot of success there.”


You spent 14 years driving for Richard Childress. What does Richard Childress mean to you?

“Richard and I have always had a great relationship because Richard is just a racer. From the very beginning, Richard has run his business by putting competitive cars on the racetrack, and he’s made a living at it. And when we started our company (Kevin Harvick Incorporated), I mimicked a lot of the things that Richard did because of the fact that he ran it with a budget and was able to keep his cars competitive. Richard really taught me how to race professionally. He taught me to never quit until the checkered flag, even if you were 100 laps down. It was always about finishing races and putting yourself in the best position possible. You may not have the fastest car, but if you can keep yourself in contention to the end, you would be able to have a chance to win races just by kind of grinding them down. We did that a lot, and it’s really transitioned over from the business standpoint – that never-give-up attitude – and just really how to race. And Richard knows everybody, and that’s really who introduced me to everybody in the industry. He was always very adamant about shaking a hand, putting a name with a face, and being in front of people. So there were definitely a lot of lessons learned there.”


You’re very interested in the business side of the sport. Did that stem from Richard Childress too?

“Every time I look back at things, Richard played a role in some way, shape or form. Richard was always very supportive, but he would always tell you when you were crossing the line and when he wasn’t happy with something. He always kept it honest, and I think as we went through the years, the business side was always very much centered on Richard knowing what was going on and how you should and shouldn’t do things. When it was right, he was supportive, and when it was wrong, he was honest and he would tell you, so you always knew where you stood.”


You made a total of five Xfinity Series starts at Gateway, winning two of them. What does it take to be good there?

“Well, it’s two drastically different ends of the racetrack. The thing that we always concentrate on is trying to make our car turn really well to and through the center of the corner on both ends, and being able to do that is difficult at Gateway because the two ends of the track are so different. For the most part, you want to be right next to the curbs and carry as much speed as you can through the center of the corner, and use as much partial throttle until you can get the car rotated enough to be wide open. But you have to get through the center of the corner there.”


You’ve represented Anheuser-Busch since 2011, which means you’ve made a lot of trips to St. Louis over the years. What are some of the experiences you’ve had in that city and what are some of your favorite parts of that town?

“Going to watch the Cardinals’ World Series game with them. I don’t remember which game it was, but it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had at a sporting event just because of the atmosphere and the way that they support their team there. It was pretty awesome.”


You’re a two-time Busch Series champion too. Did those titles back when Busch was the series sponsor (before Xfinity) send you to St. Louis for some promotional activity?

“I remember going to the brewery and going down into the basement where they first started a lot of the deliveries after Prohibition, and just taking a complete tour of the whole thing was pretty cool.”


Do you have a sense of pride racing in St. Louis knowing your history with the track and with Anheuser-Busch?

“I know it’s an important place for A-B, obviously, being their home. But for me, personally, it’s a cool place because of the history that it has with my first win in the Xfinity Series and everything that goes with that. So, yeah, I’m excited about going there for a number of different reasons.”