Kevin Harvick will drive the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for the third time this year as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the first of two road-course races on the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule – Sunday’s Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
The demands on both man and machine throughout a road-course race can test even the most talented drivers and sophisticated mechanical equipment. Thankfully, the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion has an equally impressive partner in Mobil 1, which is known for standing up to the toughest challenges.
Mobil 1 is the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR” and the Mobil brand of lubricant products are the “Official Lubricants of NASCAR.” Mobil 1 engine oils have long been the lubricant of choice for race teams competing in the most demanding and popular motorsports series around the globe.
The history of Mobil 1 in motorsports dates back to rally competition during the early 1970s. However, its involvement in racing became more official in 1978 through sponsorship of the Williams Formula One team and the 1987 sponsorship of Rusty Wallace’s No. 27 car in NASCAR.
From that time, the presence of Mobil 1 on racetracks and circuits has grown by global proportions. Today, Mobil 1 is relied upon for its ability to deliver exceptional engine performance and protection even under some of the most extreme conditions. Automotive technicians, racecar drivers, team owners and the world’s leading automotive manufacturers can all testify to the advanced technology delivered by Mobil 1 lubricants.
This weekend will be the third of six races with Mobil 1 as the primary partner on the No. 4 Ford in 2017. Mobil 1 also appeared on the No. 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and again at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May. It will appear as the primary partner of the No. 4 Ford for three additional races starting July 31 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, followed by appearances Sept. 24 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Nov. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Harvick, ranked fourth in Cup Series points, also knows how to stand up to the demands of road-course racing. While he is still searching for his first trip to victory lane at Sonoma in the NASCAR Cup Series, he first visited victory lane at Sonoma in the K&N Pro Series West in 1998, when he started third and beat Brandon Ash to the finish line by .154 of a second, leading only the last lap of the race.
Harvick is slated to make his first K&N Pro Series West appearance since 2007 and his first West Series appearance at Sonoma since 1998 this weekend, when he drives the No. 4 Fields, Inc. Ford for Jefferson Pitts Racing.
The Bakersfield, California native recorded his best Cup Series finish at Sonoma in 2007, when he finished second to Juan Pablo Montoya by 4.097 seconds. He finished third at Sonoma in 2003 and 2010, and fourth in 2015.
Harvick scored his only Cup Series road-course win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in 2006, when he led 28 laps and beat SHR co-owner Tony Stewart to the finish line by .892 of a second. However, he scored back-to-back road-course wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2007 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and Watkins Glen.
This weekend, Harvick is looking to match his road-course prowess with that of Mobil 1’s to score his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of 2017 at the 10-turn, 1.99 mile Sonoma circuit to secure his spot in the Cup Series playoffs.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion:
What is the first thing you think of when you think of Sonoma?
“The first thing I think of when we are going to Sonoma is that we are going road racing. It’s definitely the first road race of the year and Sonoma is a very technical, slower-type road course. I’ve been fortunate to race there for a long time and look forward to going there every year.”
Sonoma is one of only two road courses on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule and it’s widely regarded as the more technical of the two. What are the big differences between Sonoma and Watkins Glen?
“I think the biggest difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is that the speeds are drastically different. Sonoma is a much tighter course with sharper corners and a lot less speed, where you don’t really even use fourth gear, unless you’re saving gas. It’s a much slower track than Watkins Glen and the tires fall off a lot more than they do at The Glen. So, you’ve got to get your car to technically be very good as it turns the corner, but also keep track of the forward grip as you go through a run.”
What can you tell me about your days in the late 1990s running in the West Series?
“I guess it was the middle of 1997, I went to work for Wayne and Connie Spears to basically be a mechanic for about $24,000 a year. I just wanted the opportunity to race something. We had kind of gone through the point of all of our family stuff and where we were on that stuff because we couldn’t really afford to keep going racing cars and doing all the things that we were doing. I went to work there as a mechanic hoping I would get a shot to drive. I got the shot to drive my first race in Bakersfield (California) in the Winston West Series. Then I got to drive in the Truck Series at Louisville (Kentucky). I think the track in Louisville was nine turns and a jump. That was the coolest racetrack. Every time we showed up, there would be 15,000 people packed around this little D-shaped racetrack. It was one of those racetracks that you never got full throttle. You’d wait for the jack stub to hit in the last corner, then you’d jump toward the finish line. I only went there a couple years but, every year I went there, someone would back into the fence in qualifying trying to get to the start-finish line. If you drove it to the finish line, you’d back into the fence in turn one. Mike Wallace can vouch for that because I remember seeing him back it into the fence there.
“That all led into the 1998 season. I drove the second half of the Truck Series season for Wayne and Connie Spears. So we decided going in to 1998 that we were going to start off running the full truck series schedule and the first part of the Winston West schedule. I think we started (the K&N Pro Series West season) off in Tucson (Arizona). We had a good run there. We wound up going to Las Vegas and winning the race. The next thing we know, we are two or three races into the season and leading the points. So Wayne – you just have to know Wayne to be able to understand his enthusiasm for racing and the way that he approaches things, he’s a cool old dude – he said, ‘Alright, we’re going to run them both.’ So I’m like, ‘Perfect.’ I was 21 or 22 years old and I was going to go run the full Truck Series schedule and the full West Series. We wound up winning the third (West Series) race of the season in Las Vegas. I think we won five West Series races that season – we won in Las Vegas, Altamont Raceway, Pikes Peak – which is one of the coolest racetracks I’ve ever raced at, Sonoma, and probably the biggest win that we had that year was at California Speedway. I got to race against Ken Schrader. It was the first time I’d ever been around his car close enough on a racetrack to even see what was on the back bumper, the side of his car or what the front bumper looked like, because he won pretty much every Southwest Tour race, Winston West race and he ran pretty much every type of race you could run in the country. It was just one of those years where we had fun everywhere we went.
“So we get done with the second or third race of the season and Wayne decides we are going to run the whole schedule, but he said he had some rules about what we have to do in order to get to that. He told me he wasn’t buying another truck and trailer and you only have one car. I was like, ‘OK.’ We were all pretty enthusiastic about the things we were doing. Well, he told us there was a 1977 Winnebago that sat outside for 15 years. He told us that was our tow vehicle and there was a 28-foot trailer and that’s all you get on the weekends, where there is no truck and trailer that’s gone racing trucks. So we went out back and we fixed this 1977 Winnebago to get it running. That’s what we traveled up and down the road with when the truck hauler was gone. It had green shag carpet throughout the whole thing and the tires were literally buried halfway up. We had to put all new tires on this thing. It wouldn’t run. We got it running and had a lot of fun going up and down the road. We won some races and had a lot of good stories.
“We ended up winning the West Series championship in Las Vegas. We had gone out and had too much fun the night before and I apparently showed up to the racetrack the next day still hung over, so we qualified that morning and they sent me back home to take a shower. Then we came back and won the championship on that particular night. This was 20 years ago, so don’t hold that against me. Things have changed and we’re more responsible these days, but that was a time. Riding in the Winne.”