Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is heading to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 with a three-point advantage over the fifth-place driver in the playoff standings with two races remaining in the Round of 8.
When Harvick advanced to the Round of 8 two weekends ago, he took a good look at the AAA Texas 500 as perhaps his best chance to score the maximum amount of points and reach victory lane to automatically advance to the winner-take-all Championship 4. What makes that most interesting is that the 1.5-mile Texas oval is one of only three racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a Cup Series victory.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s optimism stems from the No. 4 team’s performance on the 1.5-mile tracks in recent history. In the last 10 Cup Series races on 1.5-mile tracks, Harvick has scored the second-most points of any driver by collecting five top-fives and nine top-10s in those 10 races, as well as leading 748 laps – second most of any driver over that span.
While Harvick is still looking for his first Cup Series win at Texas, he has had success there in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick has five wins and two poles at Texas in the Xfinity Series. He’s also scored 11 top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and led 779 laps. He has an average starting position of 7.4 and finish of 7.3.
In the Truck Series, Harvick has one Texas victory, which came in 2011. He also has two top-fives and led 64 laps in four starts.
In 29 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas, Harvick has one pole, seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s with an average finish of 11.7.
While he is still chasing that elusive first Cup Series win at Texas, Harvick’s recent starts there show he may be close to finally breaking through. He has finished in the top-10 in nine of his last 11 races at Texas, including six in a row dating back to November 2014, and he’s led 187 laps in his last six starts. Harvick won his lone Cup Series pole at Texas in April with a lap of 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph in the final round of qualifying.
Texas Motor Speedway laid an entirely new asphalt surface prior to the start of the season. The one constant with most repaved racetracks in recent history is that the racing typically changes significantly.
With just two races remaining to secure a spot in the Championship 4, Harvick got off to a strong start with a fifth-place finish last weekend in Martinsville and is hoping to continue his strong showing Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Harvick is looking to win a brand new cowboy hat – traditionally awarded to Texas winners – and, most importantly, secure his position in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at his second NASCAR Cup Series championship.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is your outlook heading to Texas after your recent speed on intermediate tracks?
Right now, our best tracks have been the 1.5-mile tracks. I feel like we are in contention to run with about anyone at those tracks and I think we’ve proven that as we’ve gone through the playoffs so far. I think Texas is a great opportunity for us to really get to victory lane, so (track president) Eddie Gossage will leave me alone about it, finally. If I had to pick one of the three to win in this round, I would have picked Texas, just so Eddie will get off my back about not having a win at Texas. It’d be great as a team and for myself personally to kind of cross that one off the list, so then I’d just have Kentucky and Pocono to worry about as far as tracks left to win at. Performance-wise, I think Phoenix is going to be good for us, but Texas leans toward our strong suit right now.”
What gives you confidence heading to Texas?
“For us, as we went to Chicago, Dover, Charlotte and Kansas – I mean, all four of those races – I felt we had cars that were capable of contending for the win. We didn’t win, but I think as you look at the rest of the year and you look at those four races, we were able to lead laps in three of the four races, run up front and score stage points and do the things we needed to do to contend. I think right now you know that (Martin) Truex (Jr.) is going to be in there. Kyle Busch won last weekend at Martinsville, so he’s going to be in Homestead with a shot. But, you look from there down I think it’s pretty much wide open. I don’t think you can count anyone below those two out of it, or in it, for that matter.”