Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will make his 34th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in Sunday’s Overton’s 400. Harvick has won on short tracks, intermediate tracks, road courses and superspeedways, but it’s Pocono’s unique three-turn circuit that continues to leave him puzzled.
The “Tricky Triangle” is one of only three racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a NASCAR Cup Series win. Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other two.
Harvick is hoping it is the fuel mileage, engine efficiency and reliability delivered under the hood by Mobil 1 that should prove to be the biggest advantage for his team at the demanding three-turn, 2.5-mile, triangular racetrack. Mobil 1 touches every major moving part in SHR’s cars and that translates to better lap times.
After all, the last time Harvick drove a Ford Fusion with Mobil 1 on the hood, he raced his way to victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – scoring his first Cup Series victory in 19 starts at the 1.99-mile road course.
The Bakersfield, California, native has run well at Pocono, scoring nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10s in his 33 career Cup Series starts, but has yet to reach victory lane in NASCAR’s top series. He seems to be getting close, however, as he’s scored runner-up finishes in three of his last six Cup Series starts at Pocono.
In August 2014, Harvick started sixth, led five laps and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .228 of a second. Last June, he started fifth, led 39 laps and was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. by 1.346 seconds.
In his most recent attempt, Harvick started 12th and nearly pulled off the victory in the closing laps with a heavily damaged motor after missing a shift on a late-race restart. He finished just .139 of a second behind race-winner Ryan Blaney.
Harvick does have a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Pocono, scoring the win from the pole position while driving for his own team on Aug. 7, 2011. He led 44 of 53 laps to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds.
Twenty races into 2017, Harvick sits third in the Cup Series standings and trails leader Martin Truex Jr. by 97 points. He is also tied for sixth in Cup Series playoff points with eight to his credit with six races to go before the start of the 2017 playoffs.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are virtually a lock to make the 16-driver field for the playoffs, gaining bonus points for additional stage and race wins is now their top priority through the next six races, starting this weekend at Pocono.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion:
Does having qualifying on the same day as the race change anything for you?
“It does change the approach just because it is an impound race. All of the qualifying stuff that we have in our notebook is going to be different because it’ll be hard to achieve the balance that you normally are looking for on a race weekend for a qualifying setup – to run as fast as you can with every tool in the toolbox – to make the car handle. That’ll be interesting. We’ve done that at Charlotte and it went OK for us. I think, as you look at this race, it’s definitely had everybody thinking how you were going to get the balance right, and what you need to do from a race standpoint, to just qualifying. It’s definitely going to be different, but I like the schedule. For me, I know, sitting around for some of these night races, you have to get ready to race. But having these qualifying sessions will give everyone something to do from a competitor’s standpoint and also from a fan standpoint, to give them cars to see on the racetrack. I think the schedule is very intriguing and I’m excited to see how it works out.”
What makes coming to Pocono fun?
“When you come to Pocono, everything is fun. They make their events fun. It’s fun from the time you go into the racetrack. For a number of years, it was like, ‘Man, I have to go to Pocono this week.’ Then I had Keelan (son) and there is a ton to do. DeLana (wife) likes to bring Keelan to the racetrack, the waterparks, and we like to play golf, so this has definitely become one of our go-to events for the family.”
What was it like to be so close to winning at Pocono in June?
“The June Pocono race was probably our best race weekend we’ve had all year from start to finish – I think the speed of the car and just the flow of everything that had happened this year. We’ve had so much change and so much going on. Luckily, we have the same group of people but, with the switch to Ford, we’ve just now been to all the racetracks for the first time. So, we are really just trying to learn the new rules package, the new aero package, the new manufacturer and everything that goes with that. Every time we’ve been to a racetrack, it hasn’t been exactly smooth just for the fact that we’ve had to change so much in order to get where you want to be. We usually get where we want to be by the end of the weekend, but it’s been a lot of work for everybody to get there. But, Pocono was one of those places that we came to and the weekend was smooth. I think the way the circumstances kind of worked out there toward the end of the race, we had to pass quite a few cars and just ran out of time there. Ryan (Blaney) didn’t make any mistakes at the end. It was a good race and I think I’ve finished second three times at Pocono since we came to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. It was a track that I was never really that competitive at while I was at Richard Childers Racing. So, having those chances to win is a lot of fun because it’s a racetrack that I hadn’t had a lot of success at early in my career. To come back and be that competitive and to feel that we could win at any moment because we’ve run well enough at all of them, it’d be nice to check this one off the remaining list of three.”