In the 1955 film “Oklahoma!,” there’s a song that starts out, “I went to Kansas City on a Friday, by Saturday I learned a thing or two.” The film got rave reviews from the New York Times and won two Academy Awards.
For Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), that line pretty much sums up his trips to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City for the annual spring Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series night race. He practices and qualifies on Friday, learns a thing or two, then runs really well on Saturday.
Last year, Harvick started on the pole, led 79 laps and went on to win the 400-mile race. Let’s face it – he loves racing at Kansas.
Harvick has a series-high four poles, three wins, three second-place finishes, eight top-threes, 14 top-10s and has led a total of 751 laps in his 26 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kansas.
His lap of 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph on Oct. 3, 2014 during qualifying for the Hollywood Casino 400 set the Kansas track record that has yet to be broken. In fact, it was his own track record he broke at the 1.5-mile oval that day, bettering his previous mark of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 mph set on May 9, 2014.
One of the reasons Harvick likes Kansas is because he is one of only three drivers who have participated in every NASCAR Cup Series race there. The other drivers who have started all 26 Cup Series events at Kansas are Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.
One thing Harvick does not have in 2019 is a win. He is third in points and has five top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 11 races. But the whole point of racing at the top level in motorsports is to win races.
And, for Harvick, there is no place better to win than Kansas. For, as the band Kansas sings – “Carry On My Wayward Son.”
And lead us to victory lane.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Was Texas a preview of what Kansas will be?
“Our cars ran fine at Texas. Obviously, we had some isolated problems. Our cars from the Stewart-Haas standpoint haven’t won a race, but they ran fine at Texas. We’ve been in contention. We were plenty good at Bristol and Richmond, so it’s really just a detail thing at this point to get one of them to victory lane.”
It’s been almost seven years since Kansas underwent a repave. How has the track evolved, and is it close to getting back to where it was before the repave?
“Kansas is one of our better repaves. Whatever the reason, it’s been a lot racier than a lot of the mile-and-a-half racetracks we’ve repaved. I don’t know if that’s because of the progressive banking or the preparation and time they take to prepare the track with the tire dragging, but it always widens out really well, and really has since the very beginning of the repave’s life.”
Take us on a lap around Kansas.
“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”