As difficult as it is to believe, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season is through 17 points-paying races and number 18 of 36 takes the series back to where it all started – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Since July 4, 1959, just before Hawaii became the 50th state, NASCAR has conducted a race around the Fourth of July. But changes to that particular tradition are coming as in 2020 as the race will move to late August, the final regular-season event before the 10-race playoffs begin. Daytona’s July date will move to another historic track, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has won just about every event at Daytona at least once – the 2007 Daytona 500, 2010 Coke Zero Sugar 400, the non-points Clash in 2009, 2010 and 2013, the non-points Gander RV Duels in 2013 and 2018, and the February 2007 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
But Harvick would love to win this year’s July race, if for nothing else, to get that first win of 2019 and to guarantee a berth in the 2019 playoffs.
And Daytona in July will be different than Daytona in February.
In February for the Daytona 500, the temperatures are usually warm but not overly hot, and the race is run during the day. For the Coke Zero Sugar 400, the temperatures soar and the race is conducted at night.
What’s going to happen? Nobody really knows, because it’s Daytona and pretty much any driver can win.
But for the final time, Daytona will host a July race. And it should be a great final show.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How do you feel about the July Daytona race moving to later in the year for 2020?
“That’s one of the best changes to the whole schedule, in my opinion, because you have a built-in story before you get to the race. You can talk about it all year. Everyone has a chance to win at Daytona and that’s the ultimate end-of-the-year story. And it’s usually miserably hot and the tradition is longstanding, but also times have changed and you can definitely look up in the crowd and see it was time to change.”
Is Charlotte around Memorial Day and Darlington around Labor Day more of a tradition than perhaps Daytona and July 4?
“Absolutely. And when you have the Daytona 500 at your track, it’s hard to even come close to measuring up to that. That’s a tough one, but I love the position of where it is next year.”
You’ve worked with Jimmy John’s for a few years. What makes Jimmy John’s unique?
“I’ve known Jimmy since 2009 and I’ve personally seen how driven he is and how his work ethic is embraced by everyone who works at Jimmy John’s. They’re freaks about the details just like he is and want to be the best, period. And he’ll outwork everyone to be the best. That’s the same mindset we have in racing.”
What makes racing under the lights at Daytona so special?
“I think when you look at the night race at Daytona, it kind of marks the halfway point of the year and you know you’re going to Daytona. It’s not the Daytona 500, but it’s still Daytona, and everybody wants to win a race at Daytona no matter what it’s in or what it’s for. Daytona just has that special place in our sport and everybody wants to win there.”