Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is heading to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for this Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 looking for a repeat of his 2016 performance at New Hampshire – which culminated with a visit to victory lane.
Harvick entered the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the sixth seed, but a solid third-place performance at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, which featured two runner-up finishes in the first and second stages for an additional 18 points, moved the No. 4 team up to third in the standings, 41 points above the 13th position with two races remaining in the Round of 16.
After a 20th-place finish at Chicagoland in 2016, Harvick and team came to New Hampshire needing a win to guarantee they would advance to the Round of 12. Harvick and the No. 4 team delivered with some late-race heroics after starting 19th and rallying on a restart with only six laps remaining to seal the victory by .442 of a second over runner-up Matt Kenseth.
It was the second trip to victory lane in the Cup Series for Harvick at New Hampshire. He scored his first Cup Series win there in September 2006, when he started from the pole position and dominated the race by leading 196 of 300 laps and finishing .777 of a second ahead of his current team owner Tony Stewart.
Harvick isn’t alone in his success at New Hampshire. His crew chief Rodney Childers also scored an unlikely victory while running a limited schedule with driver Brian Vickers in 2013. Vickers only ran nine races in the No. 55 car in 2013, but Childers and team guided him to victory lane in the July race, when the team started 13th, led 16 of 302 laps and scored the victory by .582 of a second over runner-up Kyle Busch.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion has five top-five finishes in his last six starts at the “Magic Mile” and has led 387 of the 1,806 laps contested over that span – more than 21.4 percent.
Harvick finished fifth in his most recent visit to New Hampshire in July 2017.
His lone New Hampshire finish outside the top-five over his last six starts came in September 2015. He started second and led a race-high 216 laps but ran out of fuel in the closing laps and finished 21st. The result forced Harvick and the No. 4 team to head to Dover (Del.) International Speedway needing a win to advance to the playoffs’ Round of 12. They delivered a dominating performance at Dover by leading 355 of 400 laps to secure the win and advance.
Harvick’s plan of attack this weekend at New Hampshire is to attempt to qualify up front Friday to secure the track position needed to win Sunday, run a clean race, and maximize his chance to head to Dover with his place in the Round of 12 secured.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How do you break down the playoff race schedule?
“I’ve been fortunate to be on the side of going into the first week and thinking you’re going to win the championship and I’ve learned that’s how you think every year. But the one thing about it that I have learned is you better think about it one week at a time and not break down anything until you get there because you might be broke down before you even make it to the end. So it’s a one-week-at-a-time battle, and the most important thing to do at this particular time of the season is control yourself from a mental capacity and try to keep yourself prepared going into each week because you don’t know what you’re going to have to approach next week until you get done with this week. Even if you’re running good or you’re running bad, it’s a one-week-at-a-time-and-survive mentality until you go as far as you can.”
Why do you think Loudon has been so difficult for a lot of playoff drivers the last couple years?
“I don’t think Loudon is really any different than any other racetrack. It’s just circumstances that can crop up at really any racetrack throughout the playoffs. Any track can be a problem and I don’t think Loudon is any different than the rest of them. If you’re having a bad day, you know it can result in a bad day. You just have to overcome that and try to get yourself out of the hole.”