KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Atlanta Race Advance

Kevin Harivck will have a new look for Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will be sponsored by Hunt Brothers Pizza and FIELDS, two longtime supporters of Harvick.

Hunt Brothers Pizza has sponsored Harvick in NASCAR for 11 years and last visited victory lane with him when he won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta.

Harvick has also won two NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races with Hunt Brothers as a sponsor at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, both in 2011. The company also sponsored him in the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race in 2014 and 2015, which were conducted at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Harvick finished second in both races.

For 2019, Hunt Brothers moved up to the Cup Series for three races and, in 2020, will be on Harvick’s car five times.

With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go “Hunk” perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with “All Toppings No Extra Charge®.” Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hunt Brothers Pizza is family owned and operated with more than 25 years of experience serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location, download the Hunt Brothers Pizza app by visitingwww.huntbrotherspizza.com/app/

FIELDS has sponsored Harvick in Xfinity Series races in 2017 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where he finished sixth, and in June 2018 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where he scored an eighth-place result. Harvick took FIELDS to victory lane in 2017 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.

FIELDS, one of the Sports Fields Inc., companies, is the preeminent builder of fields and sports parks in the country. FIELDS is committed to “Building Sports Parks of Distinction.” The fields produced facilitate peak team performance and are constructed using the industry’s best resources and embody the essence of durability, precision, technological innovation, service and quality.

By combining the premium quality of the fields with the best in customer care, FIELDS creates sports parks of distinction that wow teams, coaches and guests.

As both Hunt Brothers and FIELDS have won with Harvick, they’re now teaming up in hopes the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza/FIELDS Ford Mustang will find victory lane at Atlanta.

Harvick has only two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta, but has been strong there since 2008 with 12 top-10 finishes in 15 races. He’s led a series-high 1,197 laps and has led 100 laps in six of the last eight races. He’s also won four of his last six NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the 1.54-mile oval.

Atlanta has always been a special place for Harvick as he scored his first career Cup Series victory there in 2001. Following Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of that year’s Daytona 500, Harvick was named the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and made his series debut the following weekend at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, where he finished 14th. On March 11, less than one month since his debut in

NASCAR’s top series and in just his third start, Harvick won his first Cup Series race at Atlanta.

Harvick is hoping that he can take two longtime partners to victory lane in Atlanta. And, as a bonus, it would be the site of his first and 50th NASCAR Cup Series wins.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza/FIELDS Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

You’ve had a solid start to the year so far. What are your thoughts going to Atlanta?

“I don’t know. As you go there, Atlanta is a place where you expect to run well. As you look at all the differences in cars and changes in tires and the differences we’ve had to face this year, you’ve got to go run the race and wrap your arms around where everything is.”

What do you like about the Atlanta Motor Speedway layout?

“I just love the abrasiveness of the racetrack. It still has a lot of speed for the first three or four laps, but then it has a lot of fall-off and a lot of bumps that give it character. As a driver, you just love the challenge that comes with racing at Atlanta. This is always one that I circle on my calendar as a favorite and I look forward to racing in Atlanta this weekend.”

You were a rookie in 2001 and won your first race at Atlanta. What do you remember about your rookie year?

“Well, it wasn’t supposed to be my rookie year. We didn’t run the Daytona 500, obviously. And then, you know, Dale Earnhardt died, (I) got in the car the next week, I got married. I think 70 or 71 races between the Cup Series and the Busch Series that year. Raced for both championships. Won my first Cup race, we won a Busch Series championship, we won the Cup rookie of the year. But I was so sheltered from everything that was going on. The only real taste I got of the magnitude of the Earnhardt situation, really, I can think back to and say, ‘You know, that was a massive situation.’ Obviously, I know it was, now. But when I think back to that first press conference that we had in Rockingham and the magnitude and the reach of what was in that tent that day, that was really the only thing I was exposed to that year was, ‘Um, wow, this is a huge moment.’ Even winning that first race and I’m not one to go back and just watch the videos and listen to the chatter of the media and the things that are happening. And we were testing either the Busch car or the Cup car or we were racing. We built our first truck that year. I ran that at Richmond. So there were so many things that were moving around that I honestly don’t remember really anything from that year. Other than, you know, I remember building that truck in Ed Berrier’s garage with my Busch team – with Todd Berrier and those guys. After we would get done at work, they’d come over and help me build the truck. But really, everything else is kind of a blur because there was so much happening. And it wound up being a good thing to be sheltered from what was going on and all the talk and all the hype and everything.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Atlanta Race Advance

Cole Custer and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will compete at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday in this season’s second event at an intermediate track. Custer will make his first career NASCAR Cup Series start at the 1.54-mile track in Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500.

Custer heads to Atlanta coming off of his best career Cup Series finish, ninth, earned at Phoenix Raceway. The young driver was also the highest finishing 2020 Rookie of the Year contender. The Haas Automation driver started 16th and battled an intermittent power steering problem along with a tight-handling Mustang and finished ninth in the 316-lap event. It was a solid day for the four-car SHR organization with all four entries finishing in the top-10 in the season’s fourth race.

For the last five seasons, Atlanta was the second race of the season. The track is significant because it’s a 1.5-mile layout and a majority of the tracks on the Cup Series circuit are that length and similarly shaped. If things go well this weekend at Atlanta for Custer and the SHR organization, it bodes well for the team’s competitiveness on the same style of track for the rest of the season.

SHR has two wins at the Georgia track – Kevin Harvick in 2018 and team co-owner Tony Stewart in September 2010. Additionally, the Kannapolis, North Carolina team has amassed four pole awards and a total of nine top-fives and nine top-10s, in 39 starts there.

Custer has three starts at Atlanta in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with two top-10 finishes in three starts. Last year, he captured the pole position and finished second to Christopher Bell. He has one Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start at Atlanta. He started sixth in 2016 and finished 17th.

In his last nine Xfinity Series starts at 1.5-mile tracks, Custer earned two wins, four top-fives, six top-10s and one pole award. The victories were captured at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He led a total of 410 laps in the nine starts on his way to an average finishing position of 10.4 and an average starting position of 3.2.

The 22-year-old has made two starts at intermediate tracks behind the wheel of a Cup Series car, both at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The first occurred in March 2018, when he started 30th and finished 25th for the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing team. The second was in his No. 41 Mustang last month, when he started 17th and finished 19th.

“The Xfinity cars have more horsepower than the Cup cars at the bigger tracks, but the Cup cars have a lot more downforce and drag,” Custer said. “The Cup cars are going slower down the straightaways, but much faster in the corners. For me, the biggest difference is getting used to how much speed I can actually carry into the corner with the Cup car, when I’ve been doing something different for three years.”

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 Oxnard manufacturing facility and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for the honor with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together.

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

 

What do you do to decompress after a race?

“It’s hard to decompress because all we think about is racing. I try and hang out with friends. We have a lake near the house in North Carolina and I like to go out on the boat with friends as a way to relax. I golf a little here and there, too.”

What is the biggest difference for you between the Xfinity and Cup Series?

“I think, for me, it is getting used to the cars. They are a lot different, especially with the 550 package, and how you work the throttle and everything. How you are going to do that is a lot different than Xfinity. At the same time, you make one little mistake and are a little off in one area, you will lose a ton of spots. Everybody here is pushing it to the limit. Everyone in the top-25 in the Cup Series is probably capable of winning races. It is a matter of trying to perfect every part of it.”

Have you had any pranks pulled on you as a Cup Series rookie?

“Nothing yet, but I’m waiting for it. I feel a guy like (Clint) Bowyer is probably going to be the first one to pull a prank on me. Who wouldn’t pick Bowyer as the first person to do it?”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Atlanta Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Eckrich Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) hit the first of three consecutive 1.5-mile tracks when they arrive at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. It will prove to be a crucial test for the rest of the season with nine mile-and-a-half tracks on the schedule that follow.

Almirola and the No. 10 team earned their first pole award together last year at Atlanta. On race day, he led 36 laps and finished eighth.

Between last year’s pole and this year’s new crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, who has a best finish of third at Atlanta, the No. 10 team is expecting significant speed and results this weekend to kick off the three-race, intermediate-track stretch.

“Drivers love to race at tracks that are old and worn out because it gives us options,” Almirola said. “It seems like the times we go to repaves, it gets very narrow and we can only run right in a single groove. When we go to Atlanta, it’s got a lot of character. It’s rough. It’s bouncy. It’s worn out and you slip and slide. We like having that control of cars sliding around and driving it. We really enjoy tracks like Atlanta.”

Almirola and the team have earned two consecutive top-10s and ran inside the top-five last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. He earned eight bonus points and made gains in the point standings.

The Eckrich driver, who will turn 36 on Saturday, has already outpaced his 2018 success in the first four races. He went on to finish fifth in the championship standings after securing his spot in the semifinal playoff round.

Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 63 top-10s and 543 laps led in 320 starts. His last win came in October 2018 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

The racing action won’t be the only entertainment this weekend at Atlanta. On Sunday morning, Almirola and SHR co-owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart will visit the campgrounds at the track to surprise and delight the best tailgaters who are grilling up Eckrich meats in preparation for the race.

Founded in 1894, Eckrich, owned by Smithfield Foods, will adorn the No. 10 Ford Mustang this weekend at Atlanta. Eckrich was founded as a local meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana, by Peter Eckrich, an immigrant from Waldsee, Germany. Eckrich sells high quality smoked sausages, cold cuts, hot dogs, corn dogs, Vienna sausages, breakfast sausages, and bacon.

Almirola continues to provide fans with content from his documentary series Beyond the 10, where fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access 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. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

Almirola looks to build upon the momentum he’s gained over the last two race weekends and bring home a third consecutive top-10. He currently sits eighth in the driver standings, 43 points behind leader and teammate Kevin Harvick.

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

Are you pleased with the progression of the season so far?

“We have found our stride recently as a team and it’s starting to show. We have had a top-10 car in every race this season. Last weekend, we had a fourth- to eighth-place car and raced there all day. We just have to gradually build upon these top-10s and move to top-fives, then move to wins. I know we’re capable of it as a team.

You earned the pole at Atlanta last year and led some laps. Are you confident heading there? 

“We’re definitely confident after running well the last few weekends. We got a pole there last year and ran really well, so there’s nothing but positivity from me. A few more solid runs and we’ll know we’re in it this season as serious competitors.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Atlanta Race Advance

Compared to last year, Clint Bowyer hopes for a little less drama Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he wouldn’t mind the same result.

Five days after the 2019 season-opening Daytona 500, the NASCAR Cup Series took to the track for Friday qualifying at Atlanta. Instead of flying Thursday night, Bowyer, hoping to spend a few more hours with the family, decided to fly down from his Charlotte, North Carolina-area residence Friday morning in time for the first practice session at 11:35 a.m.

Only problem was the plane he planned to use had a problem and couldn’t fly.

That sent Bowyer into a flurry of travel arrangements that would make actors John Candy and Dan Ackroyd of the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” proud. Bowyer happened to catch a ride with a pilot who was flying to Atlanta for business and the drama ended with Bowyer landing at a downtown Atlanta airport, then driving nearly an hour to the Hampton, Georgia racetrack and arriving just minutes before practice was to begin.

“That was way closer than I ever want to cut it,” Bowyer said with a laugh. “We were all pretty nervous.”

The episode didn’t serve as a distraction.

Hours later, Bowyer put the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang third on the grid by qualifying less than two-tenths of a second behind SHR teammate Aric Almirola, who won the pole. Bowyer went on to finish fifth in Sunday’s 500-mile race. It was his second consecutive top-five and seventh top-10 in 19 career Cup Series starts at Atlanta.

“Our run wasn’t pretty last year but we got a good finish,” Bowyer said. “I knew our car had great speed, obviously, from practice and qualifying. Racing is a different beast, especially at Atlanta. You have to take care of those Goodyear tires. The way I had it, it felt like I was on top of the track skating around too much. We made good air-pressure adjustments and got the grip level back in my racecar to where I could compete. It is just weird. You see cars that are kind of up, cars that are down, cars that are dragging, cars that aren’t. There is no track that we go to anymore that is as slick as this and as hard on tires.”

Bowyer said the rules and tire compound changes over the years at the 1.54-mile oval have changed the way drivers try to preserve their tires.

“Your tire management used to come from your throttle pedal,” Bowyer said. “Now, your speed and everything else are all wide open, so your tire management comes through the way you and your team get the balance on your racecar instead of you and your car doing the managing with the throttle pedal. You don’t lean on the wheel unless you have to and, if you have to, you better not have to for very long. The game has changed. When they took the horsepower away, the tire management and Goodyear changing the tire has drastically changed that aspect.”

This weekend’s race marks the first in the eastern half of the country since the rain-delayed, season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, where Bowyer finished sixth. Since then, the Cup Series held events in Las Vegas, Southern California and Phoenix. Bowyer arrives at Atlanta 13th in points. Last weekend at Phoenix Raceway, he qualified 18th, then charged to the front on race day, running as high as second in the closing stages before finishing a season-best fifth.

Bowyer goes to battle at Atlanta carrying the black-and-red paint scheme of Haas Automation, Inc. Haas Automation 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 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

 

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

Are drivers taking precautions with the coronavirus in terms of autographs and things like that? 

“I think everybody sees the headlines and reads the news just like anybody else. From what I can tell, there are a lot of unknowns and mixed feelings. Some people say it is bad and the next person says it is nothing but a cold. I treat my fans no differently than the next guy. I am going to shake his hand and appreciate him being here.”

What are your thoughts on Atlanta?

“I love Atlanta. I think everybody likes Atlanta. If you are a racecar driver, you get up on the wheel and are slipping and sliding around. You work your ass off there. That is what you look for in a racetrack. Vegas, I really struggled there. The hardest thing to do was to not overdrive it. Coming from a dirt background, the harder you drive her, the faster she goes. The harder you work, the faster it goes. With that thing and the speed you are going and the aero platform you have, it is very easy to overdrive the car and blow through the grip in the tires.”

This year, it seems if a car is fast in qualifying, it won’t be fast in the race. Are you experiencing that? 

Really, your aero platform and all that stuff has to jive. Your aero has to communicate and work well with your chassis balance, and vice versa. It’s the total package. It’s not just that you missed it with 100 pounds too much right-rear spring, or 50 too much of left-rear wedge, or a track bar adjustment. It’s all tied together from the aero side of things and the chassis side of things. They really have to work well together. If not, you are spinning your wheels.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Atlanta Race Advance

Event:  EchoPark 250 (Round 5 of 33)
Date:  March 14, 2020
Location:  Atlanta Motor Speedway
Layout:  1.54-mile oval

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

 

●  The EchoPark 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fifth event on the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. It will mark Briscoe’s 55th career Xfinity Series start and his third at Atlanta.

●  Briscoe comes into Atlanta second in the championship standings, just three points behind series leader Harrison Burton after a sixth-place finish last Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. It was Briscoe’s third top-10 of the season and his third top-10 in three career Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix.

●  Briscoe won the 2019 rookie-of-the-year title in the Xfinity Series and is racing for a championship in 2020. The Mitchell, Indiana-native is a three-time winner in the Xfinity Series and the 2016 ARCA Racing Series champion. Briscoe finished fifth in the Xfinity Series championship standings last year, narrowly missing out on advancing to the Championship 4 and competing for the series title.

●  Briscoe has two Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta, both resulting in 15th-place finishes (2018 and 2019). He also made a NASCAR Truck Series start at the track in 2017.

●  HighPoint.com returns to Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang as the primary sponsor for Atlanta. The IT infrastructure and solutions company made its debut with Briscoe in the season-opening race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where Briscoe finished fifth.

 

CHASE BRISCOE, Driver of the No. 98 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang:

 

You finished 15th at Atlanta last year and, as the season went on, your progress at intermediate tracks was evident, with it all coming to fruition earlier this year when you won at Las Vegas. How confident are you in your return to Atlanta?

“We were having a good day last year at Atlanta. We were running third or fourth and we blew a right front (tire) with about 15 to go. So, I’m really confident going there that we’ll be able to not just pick up where we left off before that issue, but be able to come out with a top-five or a win. It’s another one of those places that’s kind of slick and worn out, and I love that type of track. It plays into my dirt-racing background, and it’s just a lot of fun to be on those low-grip tracks. I’ve always had speed at Atlanta. I just haven’t had the results to show for it. So, confidence is high there and I know our HighPoint.com Ford Mustang is going to be really good. We were pretty fast there last year and we’re off to a good start with a win on a mile-and-a-half track already this year.”

How much of your performance at Las Vegas can carry over to Atlanta, or are the tracks just completely different?

“The tracks themselves are certainly different, and I feel like our strong suit is the worn-out mile-and-a-halves, although we still do pretty well at the high-grip tracks. I think the biggest thing is to set the tone early, and if you can go to the first mile-and-a-half and show that you’re going to be the guy to beat, hopefully it’ll carry on. We’ve done that now with the win at Vegas, but we’ve got to get back on the right track and finish out the strong runs we’re having. Obviously, trying to run well at the beginning of the year is huge for confidence, not only for myself, but the entire team. When you start winning early, it kind of makes you hungry to keep winning throughout the year, but it also makes it that much more difficult when you have one slip away.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Phoenix I Race Advance

Cole Custer and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Phoenix Raceway for Sunday’s FanShield 500k. Sunday’s main event marks the third and final race on the NASCAR Cup Series 2020 West Coast Swing with the previous two races being Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

This weekend’s race is of special significance because, when the Cup Series returns to the Arizona venue in November, it will be for the season finale. This is the first year Phoenix will have hosted Championship Weekend. Everything learned this weekend will become crucial for having a successful final race of the season.

SHR has fared well at the mile oval at Phoenix. Its six wins there are more than SHR has garnered at any other track. Custer’s teammate Kevin Harvick has five of those Phoenix wins while driving under the SHR banner. The young Custer leans on his veteran teammate Harvick for advice as he ventures through his Cup career. “I talk with Kevin every week prior to practice to try and get an idea of the things I need to look for around the track, things he’s found, and what he’s fought in the past,” Custer said. “He’s been a huge help, and Clint and Aric have been helpful, too.”

The 22-year-old Custer started 18th last weekend at his home track in Fontana. He battled a tight-handling Mustang before finishing 18th at the 2-mile oval.

Custer has six starts at Phoenix in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with an average starting position of 3.8 and an average finishing position of 8.3. In total, the Ford driver has two top-fives, which includes a runner-up finish last November, and five top-10s, along with six laps led in six starts. Additionally, Custer has three starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Phoenix with a best finish of fourth earned in November 2014.

“The biggest transition from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series for me has been the feel of the cars,” Custer said. “We don’t a get a lot of time to practice, anymore. We get about two hours of practice during the weekend and that’s pretty much it. There isn’t any testing, anymore, so it’s just me trying to get acclimated the best that I can.”

En route to his career in NASCAR’s premiere series, the SHR driver made three starts at Phoenix in the NASCAR K&N West Series for Bill McAnally Racing, which resulted in two pole awards and one win during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Custer won the February 2014 race with a .376-of-a-second margin of victory.

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 Oxnard manufacturing facility and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together. Custer was the second-highest-finishing rookie at Fontana last weekend with his 18th-place result.

In the Cup Series at Phoenix, Ford currently has 16 victories. The season is off to a strong start for the Blue Oval with Ford holding the top two spots in all three of NASCAR’s top series.

 

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Why do you walk pit road before the race?  

“I walk it so I don’t miss the pit box. There are so many boxes and it’s sometimes hard to see where your sign is. I do it to give me reference points and get acclimated. 

What will you do when you win your first race?

“I don’t know what I will do. It would be huge, I’m not going to lie. It would mean the world to me win but, right now, I have to take it one step at a time.”

Who were some of your favorite drivers growing up?

“They aren’t huge names, but I always liked Jason Leffler and Johnny Sauter growing up. I got to race against Johnny when I was in the Truck Series, which was pretty cool. Those guys are both hard racers.”

What are your favorite types of tracks to race on?

“I like all of the bigger, worn-out tracks. Tracks like Homestead-Miami and Chicago are pretty good to me.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Phoenix I Race Advance

The FanShield 500 will take place Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. It’s only the fourth race of the year and every driver wants to win to secure his spot in the NASCAR playoffs, which begin in September.

But let’s be honest, every driver sees this Phoenix race as preparation for the Nov. 8 championship race which, for the first time ever, will have the final four drivers competing for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title on the mile oval in the Arizona desert.

And no driver has been more successful at Phoenix than Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast Rewards Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

He has a series-high nine career Cup Series wins at Phoenix, including five with SHR, topping a list that shows Jimmie Johnson next-best with four, Kyle Busch with three, and Davey Allison, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin with two each.

Harvick has won seven of the last 15 Cup Series races at Phoenix. He is the only driver to win four in a row as he won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won in March 2015 before ending his streak with a runner-up finish in November 2015. Johnson is the only other driver with a three-race streak at Phoenix, when he won the November 2007 race and swept the 2008 races.

Only five drivers have won consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice, having also swept both races in 2006.

He’s scored a perfect 150.0 driver rating at Phoenix on three occasions. His first was in November 2006, when he started second, led 252 of 312 laps and reached victory lane. His second was during his November 2014 win, when he started third and led 264 of 312 laps. His third came during his March 2015 win, when he started first and led 224 of 312 laps.

Harvick has finished outside the top-10 only once since March 2013 and has only three finishes of 11th or worse since April 2010.

And in 2020, his season has started out strong as he has qualified and finished in the top-10 in all three races thus far. He is third in the driver points, just 12 behind leader Ryan Blaney.

Harvick is hoping to get his 10th victory at Phoenix, clinch his playoff spot and, most importantly, be good at the mile oval as he goes for the biggest prize in all of NASCAR in eight months.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast Rewards Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

The NASCAR Cup Series season finale is now Phoenix. What are your thoughts on holding that event at that venue?

“Well, I think Phoenix will do a great job. I think that’s a championship city. They’ve held national championships, they’ve held Super Bowls, they’ve held the World Series. You name it, that city has hosted it. And really, moving that championship race around is the right thing to do, in my opinion. To me, it’s more about the event than it is the race. It’s more about exposing new fans, new sponsors and just exposing new people to it and teaching them about our sport and exposing them to our sport because of the fact that we’re holding the championship race. And sometimes that’s what it takes to get people who’ve never seen a NASCAR race to the racetrack just because it’s an intriguing event that you attached a championship to. And in the end, hopefully the race is good. But I don’t really think that should matter. I think it should be all about the anticipation and hype and the build-up to the race and the things that happen in that city that will carry over for that particular market for years to come.”

How would you rate yourself at the new Phoenix? Your history there is exceptional, but it crosses over two different versions of the track. How do you feel you are with where that track is right now?

“I felt like last year, with that particular rules package, we definitely weren’t as good as we had been in the past. I think with the 2018 package, I think we were in the game. It’s been a great racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years and a place that we go to expect a win. And I don’t see that any different, no matter what the rules package is, the expectations from our side are the same and that’s to go there and have a chance to win. And we didn’t do that last year, but the expectations didn’t change.”

What’s the most difficult thing about racing at Phoenix?

“The hardest thing about racing at Phoenix is if you get behind. It’s really easy to do there because you don’t have a lot of time to make pit stops and you have very few chances to adjust on your car to make it race better. The strategy is always tough because track position is so important. If you get behind making a four-tire call and the rest of the field takes two tires, it takes you a long time to get back to where you need to be. No matter what position you are in, it’s going to take away points or a chance to win if you get behind.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Phoenix I Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enter the season’s first race on a mile oval Sunday at Phoenix Raceway fresh off and eighth-place finish last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Over the offseason, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz moved from SHR’s No. 14 team with Clint Bowyer to the No. 10 team with Almirola. After three 2020 starts, the team is confident heading to Phoenix after running as high as fourth at Fontana and putting together a respectable top-10 finish in its Ford Mustang.

“I thought we had a top-five car in Fontana and we just kept giving away all of our track position,” Almirola said. “We have to do better, but we are building and we got a top-10 and we will take that and move on. I think we have a lot of potential. I think Buga (Bugarewicz) and all the guys did a great job with our Smithfield Ford Mustang and I felt like we had a top-10 car going into the race and we proved that.”

Statistically speaking at Phoenix, it would be safe to forecast another strong run for the No. 10 Ford team this weekend. In three of Almirola’s last four Cup Series starts at the desert oval, he has earned two top-five finishes and another top-10.

Of Almirola’s 62 top-10s earned in 319 career Cup Series starts, 19 have been at tracks a mile in length or shorter. In 18 career starts at Phoenix, Almirola has totaled two top-four finishes, four top-10s and has led 26 laps. He has an average finish of 12.7 there and is ranked ninth among all drivers in the last 10 races.

“We still have a lot to learn as a team, but we’re on the right track,” Almirola said. “We still need a bit more to compete for wins every weekend and I’m thankful for the guys and girls at Stewart-Haas who have worked so hard during the offseason to make sure we start strong, and we have.”

Almirola has certainly excelled in his seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, having captured the pole in November 2011 to go with 74 laps led and a pair of top-10 finishes. Earlier in his career, Almirola made three starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at the “Diamond in the Desert.” Two of those three starts resulted in top-five finishes, and he led a total of 52 laps.

Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 62 top-10s and 543 laps led in 319 starts. His last win came in October 2018 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Smithfield Foods, Inc., who will sponsor Almirola’s car this weekend and at the majority of races this season, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 40,000 U.S. employees are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly®” and have made it one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. It has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including many industry firsts, such as an ambitious commitment to cut carbon impact by 25 percent by 2025. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com, and connect on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Almirola continues to provide fans with content from his documentary series Beyond the 10, where fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access 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. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

The Smithfield Ford driver looks to build on his short-track success this weekend looks to add his sixth-top 10 at Phoenix, third top-five or, the ultimate prize, a win in the desert.

 

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

What makes Phoenix so unique?

“Phoenix is just a fast short track. Ever since the repave, it races like a mile-and-a-half, which is different from a Richmond-, Martinsville- or Bristol-type of short track. It’s a fun race and I always look forward to heading out West to Phoenix.”

 

  What’s the most important thing to be successful at Phoenix?  

“You have to have everything at Phoenix. You have to have downforce, grip in your car and good brakes. You have to make sure your car turns well across the center of turns one and two, which is a sharp, banked corner. And then you have turns three and four, which are really fast and sweeping and flat. You’ve got to have a car that’s versatile and is a good compromise for both corners.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 Phoenix I Race Advance

Event:               LS Tractor 200 (Round 4 of 33)
Location:          Phoenix Raceway
Layout:             1-mile oval

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest 

  • The LS Tractor 200 at Phoenix Raceway is the fourth event on the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. It will mark Briscoe’s 54th career Xfinity Series start and his third at Phoenix.
  • Briscoe comes into Phoenix second in the championship standings, just 10 points behind series leader Harrison Burton despite a 19th-place finish in last Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. In that race, Briscoe led three times for 16 laps and earned 16 stage points before a late-race spin while running second took him out of contention. The points earned in Fontana combined with those from Briscoe’s win Feb. 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his fifth-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway have kept the 25-year-old racer from Mitchell, Indiana, near the top of the standings.
  • Briscoe has two Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, both coming in 2019 and each resulting in top-10 finishes. His best Xfinity Series result at the 1-mile track was a sixth-place drive last March. And in the series’ most recent visit to the track in November, Briscoe started third and led 14 laps before finishing eighth.
  • Briscoe also has a NASCAR Truck Series start at Phoenix. In November 2017, Briscoe started eighth and finished fourth in his Ford F-150, securing his 13th career top-10. The result served as a prelude to Briscoe’s talent, as he won his first career Truck Series race the very next week in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Prior to his only Truck Series start at Phoenix, Briscoe ran a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at the track in November 2013.
  • Ford Performance Racing School returns to Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang as the primary sponsor for Phoenix. The last outing for the white-and-blue Mustang came two weeks ago at Las Vegas where Briscoe led five times for a race-high 89 laps en route to his first win of the season and the third of his career. Ford Performance Racing School is the only school to wear the Ford oval, and Ford is the only full-line vehicle manufacturer to offer product-focused experiential driving programs exclusively to the owners of its complete line of performance vehicles, from cars to trucks to SUVs. 
  • The No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang carries a lineage to Carroll Shelby, an automotive jack-of-all-trades who raced and built performance cars. Shelby won the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver and founded Shelby American in 1962. There, he took British AC roadsters and fitted them with Ford engines, creating the Shelby Cobra. That relationship with Ford led Shelby to develop the Ford GT40 and win Le Mans in back-to-back seasons as a constructor (1966 and 1967). Ford asked Shelby to take its new Mustang racing in 1965, and he promptly made it a champion. Today, the Shelby name is synonymous with the Ford Mustang, and Shelby’s iconic No. 98 – which he originally raced and then used during his time as a racing constructor – adorns Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang. In fact, the grille of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang features the iconic Shelby Cobra badge.

 

Chase Briscoe, Driver Q&A

Phoenix is an important stop on the road to the Xfinity Series championship, as the season finale will take place at the track in November. With a win and a playoff berth already in your possession, how do you use this March visit to Phoenix to prepare for the championship race in November?

“Phoenix this year has more significance than it’s had in the past with it now holding the championship race. Truthfully, I feel like it’s probably my worst track on the schedule. The first race is definitely one that we’re going to need to go out there and learn as much as we can. Fortunately, Kyle Busch is running that race, so I’m going to put my Ford Performance Racing School Mustang behind him in every practice session and just try to learn. I feel like I don’t really understand how to get around there properly, and Kyle’s one of the best ones out there. I’m just going to try to learn from him, if I can. Hopefully, we can hit on something, because it is such an important race now with the championship being decided there at the end of the year.”

 

At Phoenix, you take the green flag almost in the middle of the tri-oval, which results in some very entertaining restarts. Why are restarts at Phoenix so much more dramatic than at other tracks on the Xfinity Series schedule?

“Restarts at Phoenix are definitely different than any other restart we have all year. It’s probably the only racetrack where you might hear “six-wide” getting into turn one, so the restarts are definitely intense there. You have a lot of options when you head down into turn one because you can run down on the flat by the inside wall, and when they added the traction compound last year, you could run right up by the fence. Phoenix is a place where you can win the race or lose the race on restarts, because once we get going, it’s hard to pass. Restarts are key, and if we can get up front and stay out of trouble on the restarts, we should have a good shot at picking up another win for Ford Performance Racing School.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Phoenix I Race Advance

Event:  LS Tractor 200 (Round 4 of 33)
Date:  March 7, 2020
Location:  Phoenix Raceway
Layout:  1-mile oval

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

 

●  The LS Tractor 200 at Phoenix Raceway is the fourth event on the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. It will mark Briscoe’s 54th career Xfinity Series start and his third at Phoenix.

●  Briscoe comes into Phoenix second in the championship standings, just 10 points behind series leader Harrison Burton despite a 19th-place finish in last Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. In that race, Briscoe led three times for 16 laps and earned 16 stage points before a late-race spin while running second took him out of contention. The points earned in Fontana combined with those from Briscoe’s win Feb. 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his fifth-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway have kept the 25-year-old racer from Mitchell, Indiana, near the top of the standings.

●  Briscoe has two Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, both coming in 2019 and each resulting in top-10 finishes. His best Xfinity Series result at the 1-mile track was a sixth-place drive last March. And in the series’ most recent visit to the track in November, Briscoe started third and led 14 laps before finishing eighth.

●  Briscoe also has a NASCAR Truck Series start at Phoenix. In November 2017, Briscoe started eighth and finished fourth in his Ford F-150, securing his 13th career top-10. The result served as a prelude to Briscoe’s talent, as he won his first career Truck Series race the very next week in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

●  Prior to his only Truck Series start at Phoenix, Briscoe ran a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at the track in November 2013.

●  Ford Performance Racing School returns to Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang as the primary sponsor for Phoenix. The last outing for the white-and-blue Mustang came two weeks ago at Las Vegas where Briscoe led five times for a race-high 89 laps en route to his first win of the season and the third of his career. Ford Performance Racing School is the only school to wear the Ford oval, and Ford is the only full-line vehicle manufacturer to offer product-focused experiential driving programs exclusively to the owners of its complete line of performance vehicles, from cars to trucks to SUVs.

●  The No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang carries a lineage to Carroll Shelby, an automotive jack-of-all-trades who raced and built performance cars. Shelby won the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver and founded Shelby American in 1962. There, he took British AC roadsters and fitted them with Ford engines, creating the Shelby Cobra. That relationship with Ford led Shelby to develop the Ford GT40 and win Le Mans in back-to-back seasons as a constructor (1966 and 1967). Ford asked Shelby to take its new Mustang racing in 1965, and he promptly made it a champion. Today, the Shelby name is synonymous with the Ford Mustang, and Shelby’s iconic No. 98 – which he originally raced and then used during his time as a racing constructor – adorns Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Mustang. In fact, the grille of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang features the iconic Shelby Cobra badge.

CHASE BRISCOE, Driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang:

 

Phoenix is an important stop on the road to the Xfinity Series championship, as the season finale will take place at the track in November. With a win and a playoff berth already in your possession, how do you use this March visit to Phoenix to prepare for the championship race in November?

“Phoenix this year has more significance than it’s had in the past with it now holding the championship race. Truthfully, I feel like it’s probably my worst track on the schedule. The first race is definitely one that we’re going to need to go out there and learn as much as we can. Fortunately, Kyle Busch is running that race, so I’m going to put my Ford Performance Racing School Mustang behind him in every practice session and just try to learn. I feel like I don’t really understand how to get around there properly, and Kyle’s one of the best ones out there. I’m just going to try to learn from him, if I can. Hopefully, we can hit on something, because it is such an important race now with the championship being decided there at the end of the year.”

At Phoenix, you take the green flag almost in the middle of the tri-oval, which results in some very entertaining restarts. Why are restarts at Phoenix so much more dramatic than at other tracks on the Xfinity Series schedule?

“Restarts at Phoenix are definitely different than any other restart we have all year. It’s probably the only racetrack where you might hear “six-wide” getting into turn one, so the restarts are definitely intense there. You have a lot of options when you head down into turn one because you can run down on the flat by the inside wall, and when they added the traction compound last year, you could run right up by the fence. Phoenix is a place where you can win the race or lose the race on restarts, because once we get going, it’s hard to pass. Restarts are key, and if we can get up front and stay out of trouble on the restarts, we should have a good shot at picking up another win for Ford Performance Racing School.”