KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Talladega I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion will have a fresh, new outdoors-inspired look this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – completely covered in flannel, the unofficial uniform of the true outdoor enthusiast.

Busch Beer has embodied the spirit of the Great Outdoors since its inception in 1955. This weekend at Talladega, Busch will continue to honor its deep roots and celebrate those who are passionate about outdoor pursuits, in concert with the latest Busch Beer advertising campaign. The campaign features the “Busch Guy” in the outdoors, sporting his red-plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans – the inspiration for the livery of the No. 4 Ford Fusion.

When Harvick and the No. 4 Busch Beer team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) roll into Talladega for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500, the team will be draped in the red-checkered fabric. Harvick’s Busch Beer firesuit, the crew’s shirts, the fan display and even the paint scheme of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford will all feature flannel.

In addition, the Busch Guy, decked out in flannel, will be on hand throughout the weekend to assist in the presentation of the Busch Pole Award Saturday afternoon, as well as to cheer on the Busch Flannel team to victory Sunday.

While Busch Beer has Talladega covered in the red-checkered fabric, its driver Harvick will be trying to score a black-and-white checkered flag during the race to add to his checkered collection.

Harvick has been a regular in victory lane by scoring three Cup Series wins through the first nine races of the 2018 season. He scored the three wins in consecutive weeks at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix. He’s also led a series-best 528 laps and ranks second with six top-five finishes.

The Bakersfield, California, native will be looking to score his fourth win of the season this weekend at a track where he has visited victory lane in the past.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s lone Cup Series win at Talladega came in April 2010, when he started fourth and beat runner-up Jamie McMurray by .011 of a second – the 15th-closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history.

While Harvick has one win at Talladega, it has also proven to be a challenge for the team in recent years. He has scored four top-10 finishes in his last eight races there, and it remains one of only two racetracks where he has not scored a top-five finish since joining SHR at the beginning of 2014. Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is the other.

Heading into this weekend, the No. 4 team ranks fourth in the championship standings with 324 points, 91 behind series leader Kyle Busch. That number is significant considering Harvick and Busch have finished 1-2 in three of the first nine races this year and have scored three wins apiece. Busch holds the advantage in playoff points with 17, five more than Harvick’s 12 due to a post-race penalty at Las Vegas that cost him his five playoff points for that win.

This weekend at Talladega, Harvick will be looking to score his fourth Cup Series win of the season and his first for flannel-wearing, Busch Beer-drinking, outdoor enthusiasts.

The best outdoor pursuit this weekend will be Harvick driving his No. 4 Busch Beer Flannel Ford to victory lane.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Flannel Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How did racing for stage points and blocking change the dynamic of racing at Talladega and Daytona?

“I don’t like blocking, but it’s a necessity. Blocking is something that has evolved over the years as people have figured out trying to time the runs, and people have figured out when you can block and when you can’t. It’s just a matter of putting yourself in a position where you think you’re making the right move, and sometimes you make the wrong move, and that’s what happened to us at Daytona. Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott got together from what looked to be a block from Chase. It’s just a game of inches. It just really is a high-speed chess match that you have at 200 mph – and this week will be absolutely no different. There will be a big crash. There will be mistakes made. There will be pit errors made. There will be strategy played. But I can promise you we are all going to race in a pack – and that’s the way Talladega should be.”

What do you expect when you come to Talladega?

“As you look at it for me, personally, it’s been a destruction derby over the last couple of years. We’ve run really well at Talladega, but that’s just kind of the phases you go through when you go to Talladega. I’m doing worse than 50-50 on whether you crash or finish the last few years but, in my opinion, it’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack, three wide at times, and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times, and you just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. Restrictor-plate racing makes it hard to finish the race. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our cars will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”

Talladega compared to Daytona – what’s the difference for the spotter?

“Talladega is a lot bigger. It’s a lot wider. The track itself is bigger. The shape of Talladega is different than Daytona because of the track being wider and the way that the tri-oval is shaped. The start-finish line is almost all the way down into turn one, which seems to change some of the outcomes of the finishes, because you have to go all the way down the front straightaway before you get to the finish line. Talladega’s tri-oval is a little bit different than Daytona’s. That bottom groove of banking has a little less banking than the rest of the racetrack, so it’s almost like you’re dipping down into a hole. Sometimes you see guys get loose down into the tri-oval and spin out, so it ends up being where some of the wrecks are caused. It’s really hard to push through that tri-oval, especially as you are heading down into that bottom lane. It’s tough to know exactly where you need to be at the end of the race but, for me, I’ve only won one of them there, so in that particular race we were tandem racing and I was second coming into the tri-oval and was able to get past Jamie McMurray, but I would still rather be leading and in control. If I’ve made it to the white flag, then I’ve made it a lot farther than I’ve made it lately, so it’s a chess match all day. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but you can also put yourself in a good position by making the right moves, having a good day on pit road and not making any mistakes.”

Two of the last five races at Daytona and Talladega have been won with a last-lap pass. How do you make sure that doesn’t happen to you if you’re leading?

“I feel like my teammate Aric Almirola had a great shot at winning the Daytona 500, but he had contact down the back straightaway and the No. 3 spun the No. 10 out, or however you want to look at who was right and who was wrong. I think as you look at it, it’s all just a matter of how the moves shake out. As you look at the past several restrictor-plate races that we’ve gone to, the Fords have been really strong. Keselowski and Logano have been the dominant cars in my opinion and Rickey Stenhouse has snuck in there and won. I think as we go to Talladega this weekend, I think the Fords will be strong. As far as where you want to be, I think it depends on who is behind you, how many cars are left, how the lanes are formed. Are they two wide or three wide? Are they single file? You have to guess which lanes will have the biggest runs and you try to block them as they’re coming. As we saw at Daytona, Aric made a move, Austin made a move, Aric wound up wrecked and Austin won. Sometimes that’s just how it works out. But, we’ve also seen Brad and Joey be leading in a lot of these races and be able to hold them off, and Stenhouse did the same thing last year. So, circumstances will definitely play out. I think you adapt your strategy from there.”

Rodney Childers, Crew Chief of the No. 4 Busch Beer Flannel Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What makes the preparation for Talladega different than any other week?

“We always put every ounce of effort we have in preparing our No. 4 Busch Beer Ford to the racetrack each week, but Talladega and Daytona are different in terms of the attention to detail that goes into that preparation for the restrictor-plate tracks. The new rules package has really made us focus on the ride-height of the car and the aerodynamics to make sure it handles as well as it can, so Kevin can do what he does best behind the wheel. In addition to all of our people and the hard work and attention to detail they put forth, Mobil 1 deserves credit, too. Mobil 1 is more than just a sponsor – they’re a technical partner – and their technology under the hood and throughout our cars gives us an advantage over other teams. Their engine oil, chassis lubricants, gear oil – even their power steering fluid – helps us turn fast, consistent laps, and that attention to detail shows results each week, but especially at Talladega.”