In 1998, some 21 years ago, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick competed at the now-closed Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida.
Harvick, driver of the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Truck for Wayne Spears Racing, started 16th and finished 18th in the first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event on the 1998 schedule, which was conducted Sunday, Jan. 18. Six days later, on Saturday, Jan. 24, Tony Stewart started first, led 132 of 200 laps and won the IndyCar race driving the No. 2 Glidden/Menards G-Force Oldsmobile for Team Menard.
Even Tony Raines, who now spots for Harvick’s teammate Daniel Suarez, was in the 1998 Truck Series race at Disney and finished two spots ahead of Harvick.
Who could have ever believed that, 21 years later, all three would be working, and succeeding, at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). As it is stated on that lovely ride at Walt Disney World, “It’s a small world, after all.”
Stewart, along with his partner Gene Haas, will be in the owner role this week, Raines will be spotting for Suarez, and Harvick will be driving the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for SHR as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Harvick has had plenty of success at the concrete mile oval as he has two wins, one pole, six top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and has led 1,442 laps.
He scored his first Dover win in October 2015, when he started 15th, led 355 of 400 laps and beat runner-up Kyle Busch by 2.639 seconds. Harvick then earned his first Cup Series pole at Dover in September 2014 with a time of 22.095 at 162.095 mph. He scored his second Dover win a year ago this weekend, when he started second, led 201 of 400 laps and finished 7.450 seconds ahead of SHR teammate Clint Bowyer.
Harvick is hoping he can score another victory this week as he has come a long way since racing at Walt Disney World 21 years ago. And so has Jimmy John’s. In 1994, there were 10 sub shops but, by 2002, the company had grown to 160 and, in 2019, Jimmy John’s has more than 2,800 locations across 43 states.
It’s fitting that, also in 1998, Fatboy Slim released one of his best albums, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” because Harvick, Stewart, Raines and Jimmy John’s certainly have.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think about heading into Dover?
“When I go to Dover, I think about one thing, and that is, ‘How can I win this race – what do we need to do as a team to focus on what we need to do?”
Describe what it’s like to take a lap around Dover.
“Dover is the racetrack where you feel the sensation of speed more than anything. It’s a place where you drop off into the corner and slam into a lot of banking and then, as you come out of the corner, it’s kind of like jumping out of a hole and up onto the straightaway. It’s a really fun place to race. You feel that sensation of speed and you can be really aggressive.”
Why is Dover one of the more challenging racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule?
“I think as you look at Dover, if you look at our history, when I was at RCR (Richard Childress Racing), it was probably one of our worst racetracks. It’s been one of our best since I came to SHR in 2014. For me, the thing I love about Dover is just the fact that it’s hammer down and you’re up on top of the wheel for 400 laps there. It’s violent. Everything about Dover is violent. It’s fast. You can just be aggressive with the car and you have to get in there and wrestle that thing all day because it’s bumpy, slings you up out of the corners, dumps you down in the corners, and there’s just a lot going on. The car is bouncing around a lot and, with as rough as the cars have been just as the ride goes, we are in for a rough ride when we get to Dover this weekend. It’s one of my favorite racetracks to go and race on.”