Busch Light Peach Racing: Kevin Harvick Pocono Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  Kevin Harvick has a sweet ride this weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion will drive the No. 4 Busch Light Peach Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 at the 2.5-mile triangle. Busch Light Peach is a crisp, refreshing, peach-flavored lager with a touch of sweet on the front end and a clear, beer finish on the back end. It is available for a limited time only in 12-, 24- and 30-packs nationwide.

 

●  Pocono is known as the “Tricky Triangle” for its three distinct corners connected by three straightaways, including an enormously long 3,740-foot frontstretch. It is the only triangle-shaped track on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar, and its layout was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward, who modeled each of its three turns after a different track. Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is from the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at 8 degrees, is a nod to the turns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at 6 degrees, is based on the corners at The Milwaukee Mile. The first race on the 2.5-mile triangle came in 1971, but it wasn’t until Aug. 4, 1974 that NASCAR visited, with the inaugural race won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

 

●  Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 will mark Harvick’s 44th NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono. The 23-year Cup Series veteran has finished among the top-10 in half of those starts, and among active drivers, Harvick leads the series in top-fives (15) and top-10s (22) there. Fellow Cup Series veteran Denny Hamlin is next best, trailing Harvick with 14 top-fives and 21 top-10s.

 

●  On June 27, 2020, in his 39th NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono, Harvick finally nabbed a coveted victory at the “Tricky Triangle.” After starting ninth and methodically working his way toward the front, Harvick led the final 17 laps to take the checkered flag by .761 of a second over runner-up Hamlin in the first race of a doubleheader weekend. Harvick then followed up his win with a strong second-place finish Sunday, as Hamlin came home the victor.

 

●  Harvick has five second-place finishes at Pocono, and all of them have come since joining SHR in 2014. And in Harvick’s last 16 races at Pocono – all of which have come with SHR – the driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Peach Ford Mustang has only three finishes outside the top-10.

 

●  Harvick has also enjoyed success at Pocono away from the NASCAR Cup Series. He has made two career NASCAR Truck Series starts at the track, winning from the pole in 2011 and finishing second in 2015.

 

●  In a season that is celebrating Harvick’s milestones – as it’s his 23rd and final year as a NASCAR Cup Series driver – the 47-year-old racer added two more milestones this past Monday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

 

    ●  In taking the green flag for the Crayon 301, Harvick made his 810th career Cup Series start, surpassing NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip for eighth all-time. Harvick is on track to finish the year with 826 career starts. He’s part of an impressive club 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), Waltrip (809) and Jeff Gordon (805). Harvick was the fifth-youngest driver to make 800 starts, which he accomplished on April 23 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. 

 

    ●  When Harvick took the lead on lap 239, he led his 16,000th career lap in the Cup Series. He led a total of 10 laps at New Hampshire, bringing his tally to 16,009 entering the HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono. Harvick is one of just 11 drivers who have surpassed 16,000 laps led. The leader in this category is seven-time Cup Series champion Richard Petty. “The King” led a whopping 51,514 laps in his storied career.

 

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

 

What makes a lap at Pocono so challenging?

“When you look at Pocono, you know that you’re going to have a challenge of getting your car to handle in all three corners. That’s the biggest challenge when it comes to Pocono. You have to make sure you can get all you can coming to turn three because the straightaway after that is really, really long. You can kind of give up the Tunnel Turn, but you still need to be very good in all three corners. It’s just a different style of racetrack than what we go to on a week-to-week basis.”

 

You mentioned the Tunnel Turn – what makes it so difficult?

“The Tunnel Turn is difficult just because you try to carry so much speed through there. It’s not an extremely hard corner, but it’s an extremely hard corner to carry speed through there without having the front end push or the back slide out. It’s not an extremely hard corner until you try to go through there as fast as you can lap after lap. It’s an easy corner to make a mistake. You can give up a lot of time there, but you can also make a lot of time.”

 

How big of a deal is aero at Pocono, specifically, battling through dirty air when you’re in traffic?

“Air is a big deal everywhere, now, but obviously at Pocono you have some flatter, sharper, different style of corners than some of the places that we go to, so you wind up having to have a really good car to make a pass. That makes track position important, and the restarts, as well.”

 

Pocono seems to have a road-course element to it – some flat, fast corners, some bumps, plenty of shifting – does that make it a track that puts more of the race in your hands?

“I’ve never found the road-course similarities, so for me that’s a little something that I’ve never agreed with. But I think Pocono, especially with what we have in today’s world with all the shifting and things that you have access to, is definitely a different style of race than it used to be. You just have a lot to do as a driver. It doesn’t necessarily put more in your hands, you just have a lot to do.”

 

Drivers now shift at seemingly all the tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, but shifting on an oval really seemed to first come into vogue at Pocono. Can you talk about the element of shifting at Pocono – when you started doing it, why you started doing it, and how you’re currently shifting there?

“We used to have an overdrive for fourth gear and you just downshift into turn one, so then it evolved into more shifting, then it evolved into no shifting with rules, and now we’re back to the most shifting that we’ve ever done there. It’s definitely gone all over the place, and I think with this car you wind up shifting everywhere, so it’s not as big of a deal as it probably once was.”

 

You’ve been successful at Pocono through a couple different generations of racecars and technologies. Do you take satisfaction in being able to be so consistent for so long?

“I do, because it was not always our best track at RCR (Richard Childress Racing). We got it figured out at the end, but we’ve always run really well there since I’ve been at Stewart-Haas Racing. So to have the opportunity to go up there and be in victory lane was pretty neat. And that was always one of the main focuses of Rodney (Childers, crew chief) – all the racetracks where I haven’t won at, he wanted to win at.”

 

Pocono used to serve as a doubleheader on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Did you like the doubleheader format and, perhaps even more specifically, did you like the off-weekend it added to the Cup Series calendar?

“I’m all about off-weekends, so I’m going to build myself in some off weekends for next year. But having the doubleheader and having the unique starting format for the second day, and everything that went with that weekend, I thought was pretty unique. And I think anything we can do to shorten the schedule with stuff like that is something that would be very good for everybody, to have one or two more off-weekends.”

 

How do you balance staying competitive while still taking in the moments of these final races at NASCAR tracks?

“It’s really been no issue. We’ve had such a laid-out plan for so long, and all that was intended to know that you’re going to do things, but also put yourself in a position to be competitive. We’ve done that pretty much every week except for Chicago and North Wilkesboro. You just have to grind away, and that’s just kind of the nature of the beast. With this particular car, you’re just going to have some weeks that you’re ‘off.’ For the most part, we’ve been competitive. We’ve had a couple of chances to win races, and it just hadn’t all come together to be able to get to victory lane. From the competition side, I think everything has gone well, and the rest of it – we planned for and knew it would be more work than what a normal season would be. I think there are some places that you look at and realize everything that you’ve been able to accomplish throughout the years. That’s the cool part about this year – you can let your guard down, go back and say, ‘Yeah, it has been a good racetrack for us.’ That makes it fun, because there’s nothing to hide anymore. You don’t have to hide what you think about really anything, just because of the fact that next year is different. For years, I didn’t want everybody to really know what I thought, what I was thinking, or know too much about you, because you can put yourself in a position where people know your weaknesses or strong points. So the less you say, the less they know. That’s not really relevant this year, and it’s been fun to kind of just let your guard down and say what you think.”

 

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