Rheem Racing: Kevin Harvick Richmond Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  With Kevin Harvick now in his 23rd year of NASCAR Cup Series competition, a familiar name backs the driver of the No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Rheem, America’s No. 1 water heating brand and major air conditioning and heating manufacturer, is in its 16th consecutive year as a NASCAR sponsor. It’s also the 16th year of the company’s friendship with Harvick – a bond that began in 2007 and one that Harvick quickly galvanized when he won the season-opening Daytona 500. It was a victory for the ages as Harvick beat NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin 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 very first victory as a primary sponsor 13 years ago on Feb. 27, 2010 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he took the checkered flag in the Sam’s Town 300. Rheem aligned as a primary partner with Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2011 and remained with him until Harvick joined SHR in 2014. Rheem reunited with Harvick in 2022 and is back for another three-race slate in 2023, which kicked off with a ninth-place finish March 5 at Las Vegas. After Sunday’s race at Richmond, Rheem will serve as a primary partner once more Oct. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. Rheem will be hosting a large group of customers at its Harvick Legacy Event at Richmond in honor of the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, his Hall of Fame-worthy career, and his loyal support of Rheem.  

 

●  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 finished fifth in his return to Richmond in April. It was his 18th top-five and 30th top-10 in 44 career NASCAR Cup Series starts 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’s fifth-place drive at Richmond in April was also his fourth straight top-10 at the track. He finished eighth in September 2021, second in April 2022 and he won in the series’ prior visit to the track last August.

 

●  Harvick has led 16,009 total laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, with 1,235 of those laps coming at Richmond. When Harvick took the lead on lap 239 in the Crayon 301 two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, he led his 16,000th career lap in the Cup Series and became one of just 11 drivers who have surpassed 16,000 laps led. The leader in this category is the same leader in top-10s at Richmond – Richard Petty. “The King” led a whopping 51,514 laps in his storied career.

 

●  The Cook Out 400 will mark Harvick’s 45th 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.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Rheem Ford Mustang 

 

You’ve represented Rheem since 2007 when you won their debut race – the Daytona 500. Talk about your longevity with Rheem.

“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. It’s a relationship that 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. A lot of the same people who were with me in victory lane at Las Vegas back in 2010 when we first won with Rheem are still there today. Their customers 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.” 

 

This is your 23rd year in the NASCAR Cup Series. How valuable is that kind of experience in this sport?

“Today’s sport is so engineering-minded that the simple, everyday things sometimes get forgotten. It’s very important to do all the little things right, and you have to execute the simple things right, too. Don’t overcomplicate it because sometimes overcomplicating results in a worse result than just say, ‘OK, today we finished fifth and next week we’re going to try to do two or three things to finish first, not 20 or 30 things and finish 30th.’ Keeping the simplicity of our process in the middle of our engineering-minded process is very important. It used to be trial-and-error when you tested. Nowadays, it’s try it and prove it or debunk it, so that it’s either right or wrong.”

 

In your last four races at Richmond you’ve finished eighth, second, first and fifth, and in your last 14 races at Richmond, you’ve only finished outside of the top-eight twice. What makes you so good there?

“Richmond falls into that flat-track category and we’ve always been really good at the flat-track stuff. As I’ve gone through the years, Richmond has just been one of those places that’s been really good. I know it’s not Rodney’s (Childers, crew chief) favorite racetrack to go to, but it’s one of my favorites to go to, and I’m glad we finally got to victory lane because we’ve had some good nights and some good cars there, and to be able to pull that off last year was good for everybody. Richmond is just a good short track.”

 

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 was it to back up your Michigan win with an outright victory six days later at Richmond?

“Coming off of Michigan and being able to go there and just have the fastest car and win the race was really good for us to know, OK, we’ve got this figured out. It took us a while last year to get everything figured out, and really, the second half of the year, the cars really ran well and we had a lot of good races and we were able to get to victory lane a couple of times. So, that was definitely good for everybody’s mind at Richmond.”

 

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.”

 

Over the years, do you feel your interest in what you’re driving and learning about the car has been a key to your success?

“I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve been somewhat successful because of the fact that I know what I want in the car, and I think that I’m relatively good at explaining what I want in the car. The team believes in the direction that I tell them to go, and they’re good at finding things that help solve problems. For years, that’s something we’ve just been able to figure out – the communication with what you’re feeling in the car and how we fix it, what fixes it, what pushes the hot buttons to help fix the problems in certain areas of the corner. Being able to analyze those things is ultra-important just in order to help the direction of where the car is going, where the development is going, and being able to also stand up and say, ‘Hey, I probably led us down a bad road,’ before you get 10 roads down the street. If you get one or two roads down the street and back up, it’s important to be able to do that.”

 

You’re a part owner of the CARS Tour with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Justin Marks. How important is that Late Model racing series to short-track racing, while also serving as a bridge to national NASCAR touring series?

“I think the most important thing is using our platform to expose who those short-track drivers are. Josh Berry has been a huge part of that, in being able to recognize that there are a lot of good short-track racers. And Josh, being able to go into the No. 4 car next year – and it’s not a paid-for situation – gives a lot of those guys hope that it can be done and it can be a part of just doing the right thing. Being successful and doing the right things on and off the racetrack. So, we have a lot of great racers across the country racing at these short tracks. For us, our focus is the CARS Tour, and from what you’ve seen from the four of us, on a weekly basis just promoting the races when they’re on. If some of the guys or gals have fun Tweets or posts on Instagram, you see Dale or myself reposting that stuff trying to give them a platform to be able to have a shot. And really, try to help them understand what is actually supposed to happen from a social standpoint – how you act and how you drive. I don’t think we’ve had that over the last few years, and I think that’s why some of the racing gets sloppy at the short track levels, because they get away with it. We’re not going to let that happen. That’s important.”

 

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