The Southern 500 is one of the four “crown jewels” of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. And Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is one of only four drivers to win all four crown jewels.
Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Harvick are the only drivers to see the checkered flag first at the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.
Harvick is hoping he can score his second Southern 500 victory Sunday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway after leading 238 laps in a dominating win in the 2014 Southern 500.
For this weekend’s Southern 500, Harvick and the No. 4 team will bring a special paint scheme reflecting the team’s race-day partnership with Busch Big Buck Hunter, which offers an exclusive chance for viewers to take home a Big Buck Hunter machine of their own just by tuning in to the race.
To learn more about the partnership between Busch and Big Buck Hunter, visit Busch.com or the Busch social media channels – @BuschBeer.
In addition to his 2014 Southern 500 victory at Darlington, Harvick has three poles, seven top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and has led a total of 581 laps in his 22 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval. His average start there is 14.5, his average finish is 14.8 and he has a lap-completion rate of 95.9 percent – 7,475 of the 7,792 laps available.
While they’re modest personal statistics, the combination of Harvick competing at Darlington in SHR equipment is impressive. In his last five NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington – all of which have come with SHR – he has finished inside of the top-10 in each of the five events, including four top-fives. He has an average finish of 4.2 during that span. And of the 581 laps Harvick has led at Darlington dating back to his rookie year in 2001, a total of 518, or more than 89 percent, have come with SHR despite only four, or 22 percent, of his 22 Darlington starts being with SHR.
Harvick has competed in 16 NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Darlington with three top-fives and nine top-10 finishes with one pole position in August 2003. He has driven in two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series events there with a best finish of fourth in March 2002.
Harvick has 47 career NASCAR Cup Series victories, which puts him 16th on the all-time list. He’s hoping he can score a win this weekend to put him in a tie with Herb Thomas for 15th place all time.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How important is it in this current playoff format to be peaking at the right time?
“Any good momentum, especially from winning, is huge momentum. I think, for us, you look at last year and probably the best year I’ve ever had in my career in not winning the championship, there were probably a few things that go into not winning a championship. But I think you look at the 22 car and the momentum they had going into the last 10 races and that was more important at that particular time of the year than what we had done early in the year, so it’s definitely different. There are two parts to the season and obviously, to win the championship, you want to be hot at the right time, but winning races also makes the year more tolerable as you go through the first 26, so you’d love to put it all together. Unfortunately, it never seems like it all comes together. Even the year we won the championship in this format, it didn’t really all come together until the end of the year, just because we had so many parts failures and things go wrong, and building a team at the beginning of the year, but we had fast cars and were able to put it all together at the end of the year. We’ve been on both sides of it and you never know what each year is going to bring, especially in a year like this when you have a lot of rule changes and a lot of things that are different. For me, I didn’t really enjoy the change in rules and the change in things and it took me a few months to get over that and realize I drive cars for a living and I just need to make mine go faster than everybody else’s. And I think, once we started getting things settled down and getting our cars back to where we needed to be and in the right frame of mine, we’ve got things going in the right direction, so it’s been a good few months, really. We’ve had a chance to win some races that we didn’t win, as well, so it’s been OK.”
With our current format, is it easier to win a championship or more difficult?
“It’s different, and that’s really the only way you can explain it because it’s more fun to watch from a fan’s perspective, and I think everybody understands that. It’s no different than any other sport. You have to evolve and, in the end, we are in the entertainment business and we have to have people watching in order to put sponsors on the car and butts in the seats and those are the number-one priority. So in order to keep up with the times, you had to keep up with what people think is exciting and I think the format is exciting. I think it’s obviously from a competitor’s standpoint very intense and it’s hard to get to the final four, and so for us it’s really, once you get in the playoffs, it’s more of a survive-and-advance mentality. I think however you do that, whether it looks good on paper or not, you just have to get to the next round and that’s much different than collect as many points as you can and try to get to the end of the year as it was previously.”
Have you ever thought it would be neat to drive some of the throwback cars we’ve seen through the years?
“I think it’s intriguing to look back and watch and obviously that’s a cool part of our history, and I think Darlington has done a great job in bringing that story, that conversation back in, and it’s been a great weekend to kind of have those throwback conversations and styles. For me, I’m so in the moment of the things that we’re doing now and, looking back, I try to understand as much of it as I can, but it’s kind of like driving an Indy car – I never really had any interest to go back and do something different because I think it’s kind of, for me, I’m fortunate to be able to do what I do and the things that I do are in the now. But watching those old videos and watching those old cars go around the racetrack and realizing how much different the cars were then is very fun to watch and hearing the stories. I’d rather listen to the stories of the guys who drove the cars and worked on the cars and that, to me, is very interesting. We had Roger Penske on the radio show and you forget the knowledge of cars that he has, the knowledge of racing and the things that the guys who’ve been around for 50 years, 60 years in different forms of racing is very interesting for me to listen to. I could have talked to him all day and we always have good conversation. For whatever reason, he’s always liked me and I always liked having conversations with him, but whether it’s Roger Penske, or Dale Jarrett who doesn’t go as far back, but you listen to the old stories of those guys– and Kyle Petty – and the conversations are fun to have. But I never really imagined myself being in those cars because it was never really a reality or a possibility.”
When you hear those stories, does any driver stand out?
“I don’t remember who I had this conversation with, it might have been Kyle Petty, but one guy who is just an interesting topic of conversation that comes up is David Pearson, and the sole reason is the amount of success that he had not racing all the time. I think a lot of people don’t realize how good and how much better David Pearson’s stats would have looked if he would have been in the car as much as everybody else. It’s pretty intriguing to look at those stats and just kind of that guy who just raced and didn’t get all the real flashy headlines and things but, in the end, he won 105 races. That’s pretty good, and not racing all the time. So that, to me, is just one of the many interesting conversations of our past.”
Thoughts the Busch Big Buck Hunter paint scheme this week?
“I take pride in knowing that Busch Beer uses my car as a platform for much more than a billboard that happens to take the checkered flag at 200 mph. To know that this great-looking Big Buck Hunter Ford helps raise awareness around wildlife conservation motivates me even more to succeed on race day.”