Let’s face it, Las Vegas is all about luck. If one vacations out in the desert, that person could win $1 million, or perhaps lose some money at one of the many casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, knows about Vegas luck. Just look back on his 2018 visits to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In the spring race, after starting second, he dominated by leading 214 of 267 laps and won by 2.906 seconds over second-place Kyle Busch. Some would say he was freaky fast.
But in the fall race, Harvick started fifth and led 14 laps before cutting a tire, leading to contact with the turn-one wall and a disappointing 39th-place finish.
One day people can have all the luck and, the next day, none. That’s the story of Las Vegas.
Harvick will again play with a different set of rules in Sunday’s Las Vegas 400.
For last week’s race at Atlanta, NASCAR officials introduced a new rules package announced last October. The new and different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Cup Series circuit, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 – from 750 – and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile. Both features are in place for 17 of the 36 races, the lone exception being the Daytona 500, which ran with traditional restrictor-plate rules. Atlanta, along with four other races, were set to run with the smaller spacer, but without ducts.
Las Vegas will be the first true test of the entire new rules package, including the ducts. So, will Harvick be able to lead 214 laps again? Who knows?
But he’s has been strong at the 1.5-mile oval.
The Las Vegas 400 will mark Harvick’s 20th career Cup Series start at Las Vegas. He won in 2015 in addition to last spring’s victory, and he has five top-five finishes and eight top-10s there with 452 laps led.
He’s also competed in NASCAR Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series races there, as well. In 11 Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas, Harvick has two wins, one pole, six top-five finishes, seven top-10s and he’s led 364 laps.
Harvick’s first Xfinity Series win at Las Vegas came in 2004, when he started 11th and led 14 laps, and his second in 2010, when he started second and led 82 laps. His lone Xfinity Series pole position came in 2007, when he ran 181.111 mph.
In his three Truck Series starts at Las Vegas in 1997, 1998 and 1999, Harvick has an eighth-place finish in 1997 and ninth in 1999.
No one really knows what is going to happen at Las Vegas with the new rules package this weekend, but that’s fitting for the city. One thing for certain, however, is that the winner will need a little luck.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You were in the broadcast booth last week for the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta and are again this week in Las Vegas. How do you prepare for the broadcasts?
“I usually over-prepare and usually wind up using nothing. But, it’s good to have those thoughts. Usually what happens is, if you over-prepare, the story and narrative is totally different by the time you get to the racetrack because of something that happened the week before, during the week or on the race weekend during practice. So I’ve learned to let it kind of evolve into the weekend and understand and watch and that is something that you’re going to do as a competitor, anyway – especially when the Xfinity cars are at the same racetrack. So there is a level of preparation. I think that, for me, I like to be prepared. I like to know who I’m talking about and not show up unprepared. It would be more nerve-racking for me than anything just because I wouldn’t be comfortable talking about the things that I need to be talking about. So, usually if I can come prepared, I can have enough in my mind to make it through the day. But a lot of times the story tells itself.”
You had Jimmie Johnson on your radio show last week. How was that interview?
“It was great because, in my opinion, Jimmie is one of the most disrespected great drivers who has ever come through this garage. Jimmie Johnson is just a good, old-fashioned, great guy. He helps people and has done great things in the garage and in a racecar, out of a racecar, and sometimes I feel like we forget that he has won seven championships and all the races that he has won and all the great things he has done. It isn’t like he came from a rich daddy or family that had a lot of money. He came all the way up from the bottom to the top and worked hard and had a lot of success and has won as many championships as Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. I never feel like he is on that pedestal next to those guys appropriately. Sometimes as a group, from a fan standpoint, you are just letting it go by and not even realizing that you are watching one of the greatest careers that will ever come through the garage. So, we talked about the basic things. Where did you start? How did you start? How did you get here? Because I feel like a lot of times the fan base changes so much from the majority of our fan base that you almost have to re-introduce yourself every five or six years. Once you hear the Jimmie Johnson story and how he got to where he is, a lot of people know what he has done here, but it isn’t like it was handed to him. Our goal was to do something different and I don’t want the fans to not realize what they are watching with Jimmie because he has done so many great things, is such a great person, and a fun guy. He gets a knock for not being super fun, for being a buttoned up, tight-laced guy. That couldn’t be further from the truth actually, more so than anybody could understand. We only had 20 minutes. It isn’t easy to explain all those things in 20 minutes, but I feel like we touched on those things and it is fun to hear guys talk about stuff like that.”