Kevin Harvick is heading to the mountains of Pennsylvania with Busch Beer on the hood of his No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for Sunday’s Axalta presents the Pocono 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
Busch Beer is the perfect fit for when the NASCAR Cup Series heads north to Pocono Raceway, where drivers and race fans typically expect cool, crisp and refreshing temperatures – much like the taste of Busch Beer.
What makes Pocono more attractive to drivers and race fans is that the region is a popular outdoor recreation area known for fishing, hunting, mountain biking and whitewater rafting in the surrounding mountains and streams when away from the racetrack.
Harvick is looking to make the weekend equally as cool, crisp and refreshing by adding a few firsts to his resume – his first race as a play-by-play announcer in the first-ever all-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series race broadcast during Saturday’s Pocono Green 250 on FOX. He’s also looking to score his first Cup Series win at Pocono Sunday.
FOX was looking for a fresh perspective when the first-of-its-kind broadcast was announced May 18 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Harvick will be joined in the broadcast booth by SHR teammate Clint Bowyer and fellow Cup Series driver Joey Logano. Pit road reporters are set to be Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Rickey Stenhouse Jr., with Denny Hamlin and SHR teammate Danica Patrick in the Hollywood Hotel mobile studio. No other professional sport in North America is known to have conducted an all-athlete broadcast of an event.
While Saturday will be a refreshing change of pace for the driver, what would be equally refreshing to Harvick would be a win in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event. The “Tricky Triangle” is one of only four racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a Cup Series win. Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other three.
The Bakersfield, California, native has run well at Pocono, scoring eight top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in his 32 career Cup Series starts, but has yet to reach victory lane in NASCAR’s top series. He seems to be getting closer, however, as he’s scored three top-five finishes in his last five Cup Series starts at Pocono, including runner-up finishes in August 2014 and June 2015.
In August 2014, Harvick started sixth, led five laps and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .228 of a second. In June 2015, he started fifth, led 39 laps and was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. by 1.346 seconds.
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.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion would like nothing more than to score his first Cup Series win Sunday at Pocono. A win would be Harvick’s first of the 2017 season and secure his place in NASCAR’s 2017 Playoffs.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion:
What is most unique about going to Pocono?
“I’m not sure people will know this unless they’ve been to Pocono the last couple years, but Pocono has changed so much in the last three years. For me, my wife and son actually ask to go to Pocono, now, because they like going to the water parks and they like going to the golf course. You drive into the racetrack and it’s like a big party. Those guys have done such a great job up there of kind of turning the atmosphere around and making it a cool environment to go up to. There is a ton to do up there if you go and look for it.”
Are you nervous to be the lead announcer for the all-driver Xfinity Series broadcast at Pocono?
“I’m most worried about what (Clint) Bowyer is going to say or do and that it’s going to be on my watch. That’s really my problem. Logano is going to be up there with me but, having Bowyer standing up there, I just hope they have the little beeper button ready – (laughs) – just in case he says something he shouldn’t.”
The group at Pocono have done so much to improve the infrastructure and fan experience. What does that mean for the racetrack?
“Well, people see effort. When you go to Pocono, you see effort from the time you turn in to the tunnel and see the waterfall – going through the tunnel to the guardrails all the way to the campgrounds – everything there has been in a transition. You feel like you’re having more fun when you go to Pocono, now, than you did, say, six or seven years ago.”