KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Richmond II Race Advance

In 2013, ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series profiled the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack men’s basketball team that won the national championship. The title was simple: “Survive and Advance.”

The same phrase applies to the NASCAR playoffs. With four drivers eliminated after each three-race round before the championship race Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, everyone needs to bring his A-game. Doesn’t matter how he moves on, he just has to “Survive and Advance.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has qualified for the Championship 4 at Homestead four times in the last five years. The team won the 2014 championship, finished runner-up in the 2015 title chase to champion Kyle Busch, finished eighth in 2016 and third in 2017 and 2018.

So SHR’s No. 4 team knows how the playoffs work and it got off to a great start at last weekend’s playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Harvick finished second. That moved him from fourth to second in the playoff standings with 2,079 points, three markers behind leader Martin Truex Jr. Harvick is now 52 points ahead of top-12 cutoff, which will occur after the Sept. 29 race on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway roval.

With race two of this year’s playoffs Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Harvick head to the three-quarter-mile oval where he has been stellar over the years. He has three wins, four poles, 15 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s and has led a total of 1,139 laps in his 37 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Richmond. The last time he finished outside the top-15 there was April 2012, and he’s finished in the top-five nine times in the 14 races since.

As always, Harvick will have the support of Mobil 1 as a technical partner and sponsor this weekend. Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

Harvick and the rest of the No. 4 team are looking for another good run at Richmond, which certainly help them “Survive and Advance.”

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

What do you think enabled Stewart-Haas Racing to really take off so quickly with Ford?

“We are finishing our third year, now. For us, we were obviously involved in the new design of the Mustang from a team standpoint, so you got to develop a car with Ford. Ford is very into racing. I think in the beginning, in 2017, there was a very big effort in order to get the company switched over. It all comes down to people, having good people. And we have great owners who let us do the things we need to do to put the cars on the racetrack and be competitive.”

What is the game plan as the playoffs continue?

“We want to just hammer away race by race. I think the backup plan is to survive and advance, but we want to win. We want to be racing for the lead and trying to win stages and be aggressive. I think being aggressive is just going to bite you less than kind of being passive and just trying to mediocre your way into the next round by looking at the points. We want to go out there and try to do the things we have done all year and lean on our experience of being in these types of situations before there is nothing that is going to surprise us. Anything that happens that is off the wall shouldn’t be a surprise to us because we have been a part of some of those situations and seen them as we have gone through the playoffs. You have to adapt and adjust as the weeks go by, but it is definitely an aggressive, one-week-at-a-time approach.”

Is there a track you raced at this year that you can apply toward Homestead, where this thing will get decided?

“I don’t think so. I think Homestead is obviously a very unique racetrack on its own and you have to prepare for that racetrack a little differently because it isn’t your normal 1.5-mile setup you need because of the way you enter and exit the corners with the flat straightaways. As a driver, you have to be prepared to run up against the wall and do the things it takes. It is always a challenging weekend because of the fact things are different and you scramble and it is hot. It will be different, just like everywhere else has been this year.”

Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Richmond II Race Advance

Race Name: Go Bowling 250 (Race 27 of 33)
Venue: Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 2nd; trails points leader by 11 points
– Chase Briscoe: 5th; trails points leader by 43 points
Appearances:
– Cole and Chase will be signing autographs at the SHR Souvenir Hauler on Friday from 1:00pm to 1:20pm.
– Both drivers will also be at the Xfinity Series autograph session from 2:00pm to 2:45pm on Friday.
– Lastly, both drivers will be at the Ford Activation in the midway signing autographs from 2:50pm to 3:10pm on Friday.

  • The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs begin this weekend. In his rookie campaign, Briscoe has clinched his first playoffs berth and sits fifth in the standings with 2012 points.
  • Briscoe’s career-best outing at Richmond Raceway was an eighth-place finish during the Spring 2019 event. He had one previous Xfinity Series start at Richmond prior to this season.
  • Through 26 races in 2019, Briscoe has one win, nine top-fives, 20 top-10’s and an average finish of 8.3.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s career stats.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s stats at Richmond.
  • Click here for photos of Chase.

Ford’s racing program is part of the Ford Performance organization based in Dearborn, Mich. It is responsible for major racing operations globally, including NASCAR, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship, FIA World Rally Championship, Virgin Australia Supercars, Formula Drift, and NHRA Funny Car and sportsman drag racing. In addition, the organization also oversees the development of Ford’s racing engines, as well as the outreach programs with all Ford Clubs and Ford enthusiasts. For more information regarding Ford racing’s activities, please visit www.fordperformance.comwww.facebook.com/FordPerformance, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.

So far this season you have run better at tracks when you return for the second time. Do you think that will be the case with Richmond this weekend?

“I think we have a really good shot to run better at Richmond this weekend than we did back in April for sure. Now that we have some laps together there as a team and have been able to build a notebook, it should help really help us this time around. The last few months we have showed a lot of speed consistently. If it wasn’t for a silly mistake last week, we had a second-place car and would be heading into the playoffs with 10 straight top-10s. We’ll focus hard to be mistake-free this weekend and give this Ford Performance Mustang a good run.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Richmond II Race Advance

Race Name: Go Bowling 250 (Race 27 of 33)
Venue: Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 2nd; trails points leader by 11 points
– Chase Briscoe: 5th; trails points leader by 43 points
Appearances:
– Cole and Chase will be signing autographs at the SHR Souvenir Hauler on Friday from 1:00pm to 1:20pm.
– Both drivers will also be at the Xfinity Series autograph session from 2:00pm to 2:45pm on Friday.
– Lastly, both drivers will be at the Ford Activation in the midway signing autographs from 2:50pm to 3:10pm on Friday.

GoBowling.com is the destination for bowling fans and enthusiasts seeking news and information about one of America’s favorite pastimes and the nation’s number one participatory sport.  With more than 67 million people taking to the lanes every year, GoBowling.com is a one-stop location where people of all ages can go to satisfy their love of bowling.  Consumers turn to GoBowling.com every day to find bowling fun – discovering new bowling centers, tips and tricks to use on the lanes, event news and great deals at more than 1,700+ family-friendly bowling centers across the country.

You won the Spring race in Richmond this year, does anything from that race translate over to this weekend?

“Both races are starting around the same time of night so we can take most of what we learned and put it towards this weekend. The one big difference is that it rained in the Spring so the track was green when we went out. It gives us a starting point for practice to see if we can get the car as good as it was in April, but I know the guys back in the shop are going to bring just as good of a car this weekend as we did in the first race here. There’s a lot of pressure on the team this weekend since the playoffs begin, but we are ready to get back to victory lane and this weekend would be a great time for that to happen.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Richmond II Race Advance

Clint Bowyer has some advice for his 15 fellow racecar drivers and their teams battling to advance beyond the three-race Round of 16 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which began last weekend in Las Vegas and continues Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway Saturday, then concludes Sept. 29 on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

“You don’t want your season’s hopes and dreams coming down to that roval in Charlotte,” Bowyer said. “You want to get your work done this weekend in Richmond. Nobody wants to go Charlotte knowing they have to have a great finish to advance to the next round. We did that last year and it made for some sleepless nights. We finished third at Charlotte but that was a tough weekend for everyone. This year, we want to go win Richmond and then go to Charlotte and watch all the other guys sweat.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver arrives at Richmond 15th in points after finishing 25th in Sunday’s playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. To advance to the second round, which begins in two weeks, Bowyer must be in the top-12 among the 16 playoff drivers after the Richmond and the Charlotte roval. A win at either track means an automatic berth into the next playoff round. He heads to Richmond 20 points behind the top-12 cutoff.

“You want a big enough cushion going into the roval at Charlotte because, as we saw last year, that’s going to be one of the biggest wildcards in the playoffs,” Bowyer said. “We really wanted to finish well last weekend in Las Vegas and this weekend in Richmond because nobody knows what’s going to happen in Charlotte.”

Bowyer has a realistic chance of getting that victory at Richmond and enjoying a pressure-free weekend in Charlotte. He has two Cup Series wins and five top-fives in 27 starts at the three-quarter-mile Richmond oval. Bowyer also earned an Xfinity Series victory there in 2007.

Bowyer feels he should have won this year’s Richmond spring race April 13. He eventually ran down leader Martin Truex Jr., in the closing laps and ran door-to-door but could not make the pass. Slight wall contact hindered Bowyer’s progress, and he lost second place to Joey Logano before finishing third. Passing Truex would likely have allowed him the clean air needed to keep the lead and win the race.

“I should have moved him and won the race for myself and the team,” Bowyer said. “I didn’t grow up racing that way, you know what I mean? I didn’t learn racing that way, but it is that way in today’s day and age. It’s not necessarily your character or anything else as a driver, it is just the way the racing is. You flat can’t pass ’em. I was three-quarters of a second faster than him and got to him and just rode. I had a window of about two laps there to do something and I kept thinking that I was going to wear him down like always and all it did was wear my stuff out and I was done.”

Bowyer said that Richmond race changed the way he and his SHR teammates thought about racing.

“It was also a learning moment for me,” he said. “I think it was a learning moment for all of us. We all came back from the competition meeting as a wakeup call for us. Those short tracks are my good tracks. I was a lot faster than him and you just knew. It never dawned on me in a million years that I would struggle passing him. I was so much faster.

“I thought I would catch him and roll right by him. As soon as I got to him, the air deficiency of being the second car, you are a little tighter. But I was so much better that I thought it would be fine. Within two laps at Richmond I was junk. I wore out the tires and now I am looking in the mirror to see who is catching me. In a matter of five laps, my mindset went from winning to having to block the guy behind me and manage this deal to get the best finish possible. We didn’t even finish second, we finished third. I had to let Logano go because I knew that if I got side-by-side with him, Kevin would pass me, too, and I would end up fourth. It was a learning moment for me for the rest of the season.”

This weekend, Bowyer will drive the One Cure Ford Mustang for SHR. One Cure is a project led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The One Cure program is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with people and animals. This approach is known as comparative oncology and it is the guiding concept of One Cure and the Flint Animal Cancer Center at CSU. The center works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets, and teams with the human medical field to translate research findings that will help people with cancer.

The center, located in Colorado State’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope for the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.

Bowyer hopes race fans will visit www.OneCure.com, where they can learn about the research and offer financial support.

“Racing is a lot of fun and important to all of us, but what the folks at One Cure are doing is as important as anything happening on the planet,” Bowyer said. “I hope like hell they are successful and I think everyone in the racing community agrees.”

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 One Cure Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Do you like the 10-race playoff to end the season and determine a champion?

“Those summer months are long, grueling and they drag on. You needed a wakeup call and shot in the arm. For me, that is the playoffs. New purpose. You are always racing for that win on any given Sunday and that championship all year long in the back of your mind. Now it is real. I like this new format – three-races, three-races, three-races, baby! It isn’t 10, screw the rest of ’em. You have to survive three races. Win one of these three and you are automatically on to the next round. For me, focus factor and everything else, it is a good thing for me.”

What are your thoughts on Richmond Raceway?

“It’s just a perfect racetrack. It’s always been that way. Ever since I started in the Xfinity Series with Richard (Childress), it’s always fit my driving style. It’s that short track and I’ve always said that I wish we had four or five of these all across the country. They certainly hit the mark when they were making Richmond. I have a lot of fun there – prerace and everything else. The fan base there has always been good. It’s a good vibe and a good feel for a racetrack being that it kind of reminds you of pulling into the old fairgrounds at a dirt track. There are houses across the street and this is what short-track racing is all about.”

Can you win the championship?

“I think we’ve got to go out and live up to our capabilities. If we do that, we’ll have a shot to go to Homestead. Everyone thinks they can win. I do. I really, truly do. It’s not smoke and mirrors. I believe I’ve seen enough out of our race team that I’m confident in our opportunity ahead. If we can go out and get those mistakes behind us, I’ve said over the last month and a half, we’re capable of winning. There is only one thing that makes you confident and that is success, and we’ve had that success to enable me to be confident.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Las Vegas II Race Advance

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), knows that consistency will be the key to success if he is to advance to the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which begin this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Almirola finished in the top-10 in all three of his Las Vegas starts since joining SHR for an average finish of 7.6. They’re his first and only top-10s in 11 career starts at the 1.5-mile oval. The first came in March 2018 when he started 29th and raced his Smithfield Ford Mustang to 10th by the time the checkered flag waved.

The 14th position Almirola occupies in this year’s initial playoff standings mirrors his start to last year’s playoffs, during which he advanced to the Round of 8 and nearly reached the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Last year, we didn’t have much of an expectation going into the playoffs,” he said. “We were a new team and were really getting acquainted with each other still. After going through the playoffs and almost making it to the championship at Homestead and finishing fifth in the points, I feel like we have set expectations and a standard. First off, we expected to be in the playoffs – anything less would be a disappointment. Now, our standard from last year is what we’re shooting for. We want to win races in the playoffs and advance through the rounds. We want to do better. If we don’t, it wouldn’t necessarily be a disappointment, but we have high hopes to achieve more success than we did last year.”

It’s been a challenge for the No. 10 team to maintain its position in the top-16 since the middle part of the season. But with the beginning of the playoffs, Almirola and his team plan to flip a switch similar to last year, when they knocked down seven top-10s, three top-fives and a win during their 10-race playoff run.

“The playoffs are about being at your best every second, every minute, every hour and every day,” he said. “We’re ready to do that.”

Sunday’s 400-mile race at Las Vegas marks the 23rd points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang this year. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, based in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its eighth season with Almirola and its second with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.

As the playoffs ramp up this weekend, fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Tune in this weekend for full access to Almirola’s playoff media day, NASCAR Burnout Boulevard and the Vegas race weekend. Click hereto subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

On Monday, Almirola and Smithfield announced the “Racin’ for Bacon” 1 million slice giveaway program. If Almirola pilots the No. 10 Ford to victory lane Oct. 13 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, 10 lucky fans will earn 100,000 slices of bacon. To sign up, visit www.racinforbacongiveaway.com.

In addition to his Cup Series starts, Almirola has four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas, where he’s never finished outside the top-17 or started outside the top-15. The Cuban American has also made three starts in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Las Vegas and completed all three events inside the top-10.

From his 14th in the championship standings, Almirola’s 2,001 points place him 44 markers behind leader Kyle Busch and three points behind the cutoff line to advance to the Round of 12.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How much does the competition ramp up when the playoffs start? 

“It’s really intense. Everyone takes their level of competition and ratchets it up a notch. It seems like everybody gets that much better. You have to be perfect in every aspect. You have to be perfect in practice, qualifying, pit stops and your focus has to ramp up. If it’s not perfect, you have to be ready to recover.”

How significant of a role do intermediate tracks play during the season? 

“It’s crucial to really excel at the intermediate tracks. We have so many of them on the schedule and, if you can get them figured out, they can make a huge impact on your season. We’ve seen it so many times where teams get something figured out at those tracks, those teams start running up front every weekend. If you look at the schedule, most of the tracks on the circuit are intermediate tracks and the most important races if you’re in the hunt for a championship. We found a lot of speed and now it’s time to dial the handling in and hopefully go on a tear of winning at these tracks.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Las Vegas II Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads out west for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The SHR driver will pilot the traditional red-and-black Haas livery for this season’s 27th race.

Last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the final regular-season event with Suárez among the drivers vying for last two of 16 playoff spots. Suárez’s 11th-place finish in the race was not enough to earn him his first playoff berth, leaving him just four points shy of the 16th and final spot. So, moving forward, he’ll still devote his on-track efforts to finish the best Cup Series season of his young career. Currently 17th in the point standings with 10 races remaining in the season, Suárez has accumulated three top-five finishes and nine top-10s, along with 105 laps led. He has an average start of 15.1 and an average finish of 14.8.

This weekend marks the second and final time this season the Cup Series will race at Las Vegas. In the March race at the 1.5-mile oval, Suárez started 22nd, led 12 laps, earned two bonus points, and ultimately earned a 17th-place finish.

The 27-year-old has four career Cup Series starts at Las Vegas with a best starting position of 11th earned in March 2017 and a best finish of eighth in September 2018. He has an average Las Vegas start of 17.5 and an average finish of 17.8, and has completed 99.6 percent of all possible laps.

Sunday kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States and, appropriately enough, approximately 500 “Daniel’s Amigos” guests will be at the Las Vegas track to support the Monterrey, Mexico driver. “Daniel’s Amigos” is a fan-focused movement to engage and celebrate with the Latino community with support from Coca-Cola, NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and SHR. This weekend marks the third time this year the “Daniel’s Amigos” experience has been hosted at-track. The final “Daniel’s Amigos” experience of the season will be held in November at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Additionally, fans will have the opportunity to view Suárez’s perspective from inside the Haas Automation Mustang while he makes laps at Las Vegas via his helmet camera courtesy of Coca-Cola.

In addition to his four Cup Series starts at Las Vegas, the Ford driver also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there. He twice earned a best starting position of third, and a best finish of second. He’s accumulated an average start of 7.0 and an average finish of 5.0, along with three laps led and 100 percent of laps completed.

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

 

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You didn’t make the playoffs. How do you look at the rest of the season now?

“Of course I’m disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs. That’s a goal for every driver who’s racing in the Cup Series. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort, though. Billy (Scott, crew chief), the engineers and all of the guys on the Haas Automation team have worked so hard this year. I know that even though we didn’t make the playoffs, everyone is still going to continue to work very hard. We still have chances to win races and finish the year out strong. Just because we aren’t in the playoffs doesn’t mean that we’re going to give up.”

With just 10 races to go this season, how do you feel you’ve changed this year, and felt at Stewart-Haas?

“I’ve always been the same person. I’m the same Daniel Suárez on and off of the track with my personality. The difference this year is that maybe I feel a little more open. I’m an aggressive driver and respectful, but I’m going to ask for the respect back and, if I don’t get it, I’m not going to be very happy. Overall, I’m very comfortable at Stewart-Haas Racing. Everyone has made me feel at home. We’re supportive of each other as teammates. Something I really like is that while we all weren’t the fastest at the beginning of the season, we were all in it together. As the season has progressed, we’re still all in it together. We are all very transparent in everything we do and I’ve learned so much from that.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Las Vegas II Race Advance

Race Name: Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (Race 26 of 33)
Venue: Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 113 points
– Chase Briscoe: 6th; trails points leader by 214 points

  • Briscoe has two previous Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a best finish of eighth coming back in March of this season.
  • Through 25 races in 2019, Briscoe has one win, nine top-fives, 20 top-10’s and an average finish of 8.2.
  • Briscoe has finished inside the top-10 in the last nine consecutive races finishing no worse than eighth during that stretch. His longest previous streak of top-10 finishes was eight earlier this year (Las Vegas I – Dover I).
  • Click here for Briscoe’s career stats.
  • Click here for Briscoe’s stats at Las Vegas.
  • Click here for photos of Chase.

Ford’s racing program is part of the Ford Performance organization based in Dearborn, Mich. It is responsible for major racing operations globally, including NASCAR, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship, FIA World Rally Championship, Virgin Australia Supercars, Formula Drift, and NHRA Funny Car and sportsman drag racing. In addition, the organization also oversees the development of Ford’s racing engines, as well as the outreach programs with all Ford Clubs and Ford enthusiasts. For more information regarding Ford racing’s activities, please visit www.fordperformance.comwww.facebook.com/FordPerformance, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.

You are on a streak of nine straight top-10 finishes, your best streak of the season. Do you think you can continue that this weekend and head into the playoffs with momentum?

“I really think we have a good shot at not only keeping our top-streak alive, but competing for a win as well. The race back in March was my first full Xfinity race at Las Vegas and we were forced to start in the back due to qualifying being cancelled, so this time around we should start the day with better track position and hopefully be able to keep the No. 98 up front all race long. I would love to get this team another win right before the playoffs and head into Richmond on a high note.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Las Vegas II Race Advance

Race Name: Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (Race 26 of 33)
Venue: Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada
Television: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 113 points
– Chase Briscoe: 6th; trails points leader by 214 points


Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1,100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets that provides the industry’s best sales, service and support while offering unparalleled cost-to-performance value.

It’s the last race before the playoffs. Is this a place where you think you can set the tone for the rest of the year?

“We’ve had really good speed here in the past as we qualified on the pole the last two races here and have led some laps. I think it’s a track that really suits us well, especially (crew chief) Mike Shiplett as he won both races here in 2018. Winning here would help set the tone for us in the playoffs but it would also help us out as we would be able to build more of a gap with five extra playoff points heading into that time of year. I believe if we can put ourselves in good positions like we have in the past, that we as good of a chance as anybody.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Las Vegas II Race Advance

Playoff time is finally here and Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Toco Warranty Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is on a roll.

Three consecutive top-seven finishes moved Bowyer from outside to inside the playoffs and prepared him for the most important stretch of the season. The first round of NASCAR’s 10-race, 16-driver playoffs begin this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

For Bowyer it’s the moment he’s circled since trekking to Las Vegas for a January preseason test of the sport’s new rules package.

“With all the rules changes and everything in 2019, we started a little bit slow out of the box, but everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) put their heads down and we’ve been running better of late with three top-seven finishes,” said Bowyer, who finished second in the playoffs once and in the top-five three times during his career.

“This weekend is where it all begins,” he continued. “It’s a new season. There’s nothing routine about what starts this weekend in Las Vegas. The pay window is open and it’s time we start racing for a championship. It’s why we are here and why I joined this organization.”

Bowyer begins the playoffs 15th in the reset standings with 2,000 points thanks to a fifth-place finish in last Sunday’s final regular-season race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To advance to Round 2 of the playoffs, Bowyer needs to remain in the top-12 in points through Round 1. That makes running well Sunday at Las Vegas, Sept. 21 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and Sept. 29 on the road course at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway imperative to a chance for the title.

“I’ve always thought the first round is the toughest,” he said. “You have to be ready to go right out of the box. You can’t have any mistakes. You sure as heck can’t afford to get behind.”

Bowyer might not have had the regular season he wanted, but it wasn’t a bad year. He earned six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 26 regular-season races. But the regular season is over and he has a simple strategy for this year’s playoffs.

“We have 10 races, and look at the last three races where they have been single-digit finishes for us,” Bowyer said. “That will get you a round or maybe two and builds confidence and momentum with our race team. That is what it takes. We are doing the right things and putting ourselves in the right situations to capitalize on other people’s mishaps instead of being the one that makes the mishap.”

He’ll lead a three-Mustang contingent of SHR driver in the playoffs as he joins teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. Daniel Suarez fell just four points shy of earning a playoff berth. It would have marked the second consecutive year SHR place all four drivers in the playoffs.

At Las Vegas this weekend, Bowyer will carry the colors of Toco Warranty, whose Toco All-Star Sweepstakes offers fans a chance to get to Homestead. One lucky winner and guest will attend the season finales of the World of Outlaws World Finals Nov. 8 to 9 at The Dirt Track near Charlotte, North Carolina, as guests of Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) before jetting off to South Florida to see the NASCAR season finale Nov. 16 and 17 in Homestead with Bowyer and SHR.

To register, fans simply need to go to www.TocoWarranty.com. A winner will be drawn this weekend.

Toco Warranty partnered with SHR and TSR earlier this year. The provider of pay-as-you-go vehicle repair coverage is a primary partner of Bowyer and the No. 14 team of SHR and the co-primary partner of Donny Schatz and TSR’s No. 15 Winged Sprint car. Toco Warranty is also an associate sponsor of Tony Stewart, who is competing in more than 90 Winged Sprint car races this year.

Bowyer hopes he can create lots of attention for Toco at the fast, 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval. It marks his 15th start at Las Vegas, where he owns a top-five finish and four top-10s in 14 races. Bowyer finished 14th when the Cup Series last visited the 1.5-mile oval in March.

“All that doesn’t matter anymore,” Bowyer said. “The next 10 races will define everyone’s season.”

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Toco Warranty Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

SHR nearly put four cars in the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Your thoughts on that?

“It was super close to getting all four in. Look how good Kevin (Harvick) is right now – a dominant run with him and the 4 car at Indy. We have to keep building, man. We are working hard and digging and trying to get better. We are by no means the fastest group right now and we know that but we looked pretty damn fast at Indy. Aric has had a great season and Daniel just barely missed.”

How was your Las Vegas race in March?

“That was a tough afternoon for us. We made a lot of changes throughout the weekend, but we fought tight most of the race. We trimmed our car out and got it a bit better, but it was tough to pass – real tough.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Las Vegas II Race Advance

The voice of legendary sports broadcaster Brent Musburger can be heard saying, “You are looking live at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the 2019 NASCAR playoffs are set to begin.”

Musburger, who is now a Las Vegas resident, used his trademark opening line, “You are looking live,” before countless professional football games. But there was always added emphasis if it was before an NFL playoff game. And before he would introduce his broadcasting partners Irv Cross, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Phyllis George, Musburger would always highlight key players.

And if he was working Sunday’s opening race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Las Vegas, Musburger would highlight Kevin Harvick, who has made the final four of the NASCAR playoffs four of the last five years and won the championship in 2014. And Harvick took the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to victory lane last week at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Harvick is fourth in the reset playoff standings after three regular-season wins, nine top-five finishes and 712 laps led. Those three wins have come in the last seven races to give Harvick great momentum heading into the playoffs. And he also has Mobil 1 supporting him as a technical partner and sponsor.

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

Before this weekend’s first playoff race, fans will be lined up inside the MGM Grand Casino Thursday for a chance to spin the reels on the Mobil 1 250K Mile Slot Machine – a unique pop-up experience with surprise appearances by Harvick and SHR teammate Clint Bowyer.

Participating players have the chance to pull the handle and win one of 10 $250 prizes. To play, fans must insert a bottle of conventional motor oil into the machine. Everyday drivers win when they trade up from basic conventional motor oil to Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil, which keeps important vehicle engine parts in excellent condition for 250,000 miles.

Harvick and Bowyer will take turns hiding inside the large slot machine, signing personalized items for the winners, while a hidden camera catches the excited reactions of fans. For select $250 winners, the drivers will emerge from the machine to offer congratulations and present the stunned fans with their prizes.

While the fans are expected to be excited, so are Harvick, his crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford team. It’s been a highly successful combination since 2014 – much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders of the 1970s who won nine combined Super Bowls. And Musburger was at a lot of those games, opening the broadcast with his signature line, “You are looking live.”

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

The preference would probably be to win often and win early, but getting the wins that you have just prior to the playoffs starting, is there something to be said for that, as well, with having the momentum going into Las Vegas?

Yeah, you know, I think as you look at winning in general, it’s always good no matter when it happens. I think as you go through this (last) stretch of (regular-season) races, I know how much he’s (Rodney Childers) wanted to win this race (at Indianapolis) since we started at Stewart‑Haas Racing. It makes me smile when we can get to victory lane there, and it’s obviously special to me. But I definitely think that there’s something to be said for that. We won last year at Loudon, and then we didn’t – I don’t think we won again until Texas, right? Yeah, so we won all those races at the beginning of the year and kind of fell flat from victory lane there in the middle of the year and then came back and ran well and contended and did all the things that we needed to do, we just didn’t win those races like we did in the beginning of the year in the middle and the end of the year.But this is a constant progression. Last year, we got off and we had the best cars from a downforce standpoint and were able to capitalize on that with eight wins last year and the All‑Star Race. You know, this year has just gone a little bit different. They never go the same. But winning this close to the playoffs on really different styles of racetracks is definitely a good thing. Definitely would rather have the wins than not, that’s for sure, and it’s good timing.”

You’ve won three of the last seven. Do you think that sends a message that you’re ready for the playoffs?

You know, we just go to so many unique racetracks throughout the summer. I don’t know if that’s what you said. But you know, I think we’ve definitely made some strides in getting where we – closer to where we want to be. I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of racetracks. But this is survive-and-advance, and you don’t necessarily have to have the fastest car. We had the fastest car (at Indy), maybe not the best-handling car, but we survived, and really a day like that is a lot like how you’re going to have to approach every race in the playoffs. So we’ve been to Las Vegas, and it’s unbelievable how far things have advanced and changed, and I still feel like we’re learning a lot about this particular rules package at certain types of racetracks, and we’ve been changing things and working on things, and there’s a lot of little things that you put together to start the playoffs that you put through the manufacturing side and the engine side and the 100 other things that you put together, and you just have to execute at this point. It’s really about the details of how you go through practice and how you start the race and what you do when things are wrong and what you do when things are right, and it’s just covering those details, and it’s a one‑week‑at‑a‑time grind. I don’t think (the Indianapolis) race sends a message to anybody other than we are doing a good job over the last few months. On the days when we have cars that are capable of winning, we’ve been getting good finishes out of them and been to victory lane a few times over the last three months. That’s the most important thing, I think for us, is we have a lot of confidence in each other and the things that we’re doing right now, and sometimes that’s more important than fast cars.

With the focus being on the contention for the last couple of playoff spots, how did that help you accomplish the win at Indy?

You know, we kind of get in our own little world. It’s really – when things are happening, it’s like, I’m not going to deal with anything else. I don’t take my phone into the garage. I don’t do anything other than focus on what he (Childers) needs, what the car is doing, try to be there to be giving information and giving things that I’m feeling in the car because you have to be a part of the process because it is a process. And, like he says, it happens fast. In order to be part of the process, you have to be engaged in it. I feel like one thing for us that works well is when he has a question or I have a question or Dax (Gerringer, engineer) or somebody has a question, you don’t have to walk far or you don’t have to go far to find an opinion to help you come up with that answer. And I feel like that’s one of the things we’ve done better over the last few months than the majority of people, just getting those little details and developing a system for us that’s been working, from what we do in race trim to what we do in qualifying trim and how we get through practice. I could have no clue where we were in practice. I did not look at the scoreboard one time. They would tell me, everything looks fine, so there’s no reason to get out of the car and look at the scoreboard. It’s all about working on the car to make sure it feels right. I’ve been to these places in who knows how many rules packages and different types of cars. I know how I want it to feel, I know how it should feel compared to the things we’ve done at Pocono and Michigan and all the different racetracks we’ve gone to. You know and have developed a feeling for the car with this particular rules package, and you’re just trying to get to that as you go through practice in this rapid pace, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing well right now. Everybody is engaged and communicating well, the cars are coming out of the shop faster, and it’s been a great progression for us at Stewart‑Haas Racing over the summer.”

You talk about how much has changed, and Rodney has, too, about just how you guys have adjusted since the first race in Las Vegas, and I’m sure that can be said for many of the other teams, as well. Does that make the playoffs somewhat more unpredictable than they have been in the past, or do you think it’ll be more the tried and true notion that the people who typically have the best race-winning speed will shine?

“Yeah, I still think there’s some unpredictability that goes with that. I think it’s less than it was at the beginning of the year. I think it’s probably less than this part of the schedule because of the unique racetracks we go to during this time of year. And the other wild card in the whole thing is you just don’t know how much everybody else thinks they’re going to get better and if your stuff is actually going to be better, or is it going to be the same or worse, or did you guess in the right direction. So there’s a lot of – and he (Childers) would be offended, they don’t guess. He gets offended when I call it guessing. Theories, I don’t know. But I call it guessing, as to where you need to be and what’s right and what’s wrong, and as you put all those little parts and pieces together and you put them on the racecar and you load it up and you go to Las Vegas and you go around the racetrack and you hope that it’s faster, you hope that it handles better and you hope that it has more speed. You never really know until you see what everybody else had laying in the bank as to what they think was right or wrong, as well.”

Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”