The voice of legendary sports broadcaster Brent Musburger can be heard saying, “You are looking live at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the 2019 NASCAR playoffs are set to begin.”
Musburger, who is now a Las Vegas resident, used his trademark opening line, “You are looking live,” before countless professional football games. But there was always added emphasis if it was before an NFL playoff game. And before he would introduce his broadcasting partners Irv Cross, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Phyllis George, Musburger would always highlight key players.
And if he was working Sunday’s opening race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Las Vegas, Musburger would highlight Kevin Harvick, who has made the final four of the NASCAR playoffs four of the last five years and won the championship in 2014. And Harvick took the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to victory lane last week at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Harvick is fourth in the reset playoff standings after three regular-season wins, nine top-five finishes and 712 laps led. Those three wins have come in the last seven races to give Harvick great momentum heading into the playoffs. And he also has Mobil 1 supporting him as a technical partner and sponsor.
Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.
Before this weekend’s first playoff race, fans will be lined up inside the MGM Grand Casino Thursday for a chance to spin the reels on the Mobil 1 250K Mile Slot Machine – a unique pop-up experience with surprise appearances by Harvick and SHR teammate Clint Bowyer.
Participating players have the chance to pull the handle and win one of 10 $250 prizes. To play, fans must insert a bottle of conventional motor oil into the machine. Everyday drivers win when they trade up from basic conventional motor oil to Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil, which keeps important vehicle engine parts in excellent condition for 250,000 miles.
Harvick and Bowyer will take turns hiding inside the large slot machine, signing personalized items for the winners, while a hidden camera catches the excited reactions of fans. For select $250 winners, the drivers will emerge from the machine to offer congratulations and present the stunned fans with their prizes.
While the fans are expected to be excited, so are Harvick, his crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford team. It’s been a highly successful combination since 2014 – much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders of the 1970s who won nine combined Super Bowls. And Musburger was at a lot of those games, opening the broadcast with his signature line, “You are looking live.”
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The preference would probably be to win often and win early, but getting the wins that you have just prior to the playoffs starting, is there something to be said for that, as well, with having the momentum going into Las Vegas?
“Yeah, you know, I think as you look at winning in general, it’s always good no matter when it happens. I think as you go through this (last) stretch of (regular-season) races, I know how much he’s (Rodney Childers) wanted to win this race (at Indianapolis) since we started at Stewart‑Haas Racing. It makes me smile when we can get to victory lane there, and it’s obviously special to me. But I definitely think that there’s something to be said for that. We won last year at Loudon, and then we didn’t – I don’t think we won again until Texas, right? Yeah, so we won all those races at the beginning of the year and kind of fell flat from victory lane there in the middle of the year and then came back and ran well and contended and did all the things that we needed to do, we just didn’t win those races like we did in the beginning of the year in the middle and the end of the year.But this is a constant progression. Last year, we got off and we had the best cars from a downforce standpoint and were able to capitalize on that with eight wins last year and the All‑Star Race. You know, this year has just gone a little bit different. They never go the same. But winning this close to the playoffs on really different styles of racetracks is definitely a good thing. Definitely would rather have the wins than not, that’s for sure, and it’s good timing.”
You’ve won three of the last seven. Do you think that sends a message that you’re ready for the playoffs?
“You know, we just go to so many unique racetracks throughout the summer. I don’t know if that’s what you said. But you know, I think we’ve definitely made some strides in getting where we – closer to where we want to be. I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of racetracks. But this is survive-and-advance, and you don’t necessarily have to have the fastest car. We had the fastest car (at Indy), maybe not the best-handling car, but we survived, and really a day like that is a lot like how you’re going to have to approach every race in the playoffs. So we’ve been to Las Vegas, and it’s unbelievable how far things have advanced and changed, and I still feel like we’re learning a lot about this particular rules package at certain types of racetracks, and we’ve been changing things and working on things, and there’s a lot of little things that you put together to start the playoffs that you put through the manufacturing side and the engine side and the 100 other things that you put together, and you just have to execute at this point. It’s really about the details of how you go through practice and how you start the race and what you do when things are wrong and what you do when things are right, and it’s just covering those details, and it’s a one‑week‑at‑a‑time grind. I don’t think (the Indianapolis) race sends a message to anybody other than we are doing a good job over the last few months. On the days when we have cars that are capable of winning, we’ve been getting good finishes out of them and been to victory lane a few times over the last three months. That’s the most important thing, I think for us, is we have a lot of confidence in each other and the things that we’re doing right now, and sometimes that’s more important than fast cars.
With the focus being on the contention for the last couple of playoff spots, how did that help you accomplish the win at Indy?
“You know, we kind of get in our own little world. It’s really – when things are happening, it’s like, I’m not going to deal with anything else. I don’t take my phone into the garage. I don’t do anything other than focus on what he (Childers) needs, what the car is doing, try to be there to be giving information and giving things that I’m feeling in the car because you have to be a part of the process because it is a process. And, like he says, it happens fast. In order to be part of the process, you have to be engaged in it. I feel like one thing for us that works well is when he has a question or I have a question or Dax (Gerringer, engineer) or somebody has a question, you don’t have to walk far or you don’t have to go far to find an opinion to help you come up with that answer. And I feel like that’s one of the things we’ve done better over the last few months than the majority of people, just getting those little details and developing a system for us that’s been working, from what we do in race trim to what we do in qualifying trim and how we get through practice. I could have no clue where we were in practice. I did not look at the scoreboard one time. They would tell me, everything looks fine, so there’s no reason to get out of the car and look at the scoreboard. It’s all about working on the car to make sure it feels right. I’ve been to these places in who knows how many rules packages and different types of cars. I know how I want it to feel, I know how it should feel compared to the things we’ve done at Pocono and Michigan and all the different racetracks we’ve gone to. You know and have developed a feeling for the car with this particular rules package, and you’re just trying to get to that as you go through practice in this rapid pace, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing well right now. Everybody is engaged and communicating well, the cars are coming out of the shop faster, and it’s been a great progression for us at Stewart‑Haas Racing over the summer.”
You talk about how much has changed, and Rodney has, too, about just how you guys have adjusted since the first race in Las Vegas, and I’m sure that can be said for many of the other teams, as well. Does that make the playoffs somewhat more unpredictable than they have been in the past, or do you think it’ll be more the tried and true notion that the people who typically have the best race-winning speed will shine?
“Yeah, I still think there’s some unpredictability that goes with that. I think it’s less than it was at the beginning of the year. I think it’s probably less than this part of the schedule because of the unique racetracks we go to during this time of year. And the other wild card in the whole thing is you just don’t know how much everybody else thinks they’re going to get better and if your stuff is actually going to be better, or is it going to be the same or worse, or did you guess in the right direction. So there’s a lot of – and he (Childers) would be offended, they don’t guess. He gets offended when I call it guessing. Theories, I don’t know. But I call it guessing, as to where you need to be and what’s right and what’s wrong, and as you put all those little parts and pieces together and you put them on the racecar and you load it up and you go to Las Vegas and you go around the racetrack and you hope that it’s faster, you hope that it handles better and you hope that it has more speed. You never really know until you see what everybody else had laying in the bank as to what they think was right or wrong, as well.”
Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?
“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”