Win and you are in. And that’s exactly what Kevin Harvick did last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
His victory in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 automatically put him in the final four of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the fifth time in six years. So one would figure with nothing really on the line, Harivck should have a pretty easy weekend for this Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
Harvick likes to win, his crew chief – Rodney Childers, likes to win, and Mobil 1 – the world’ leading synthetic motor oil brand, certainly loves to win. And Harvick with Mobil 1 as a sponsor and technical partner have won a bunch of races in Phoenix.
He has a series-high nine career NASCAR Cup Series wins at Phoenix (including five with Stewart-Haas Racing) that tops a list that shows Jimmie Johnson next-best with four, followed by Kyle Busch with three and then Davey Allison, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman with two each.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has won seven of the last 14 Cup Series races at Phoenix. He is the only driver to win four in a row as he won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won in March 2015 before ending his streak with a runner-up finish in November 2015. Johnson is the only other driver with a three-race streak at Phoenix when he won the November 2007 race and swept the 2008 races. Only five drivers have won consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice as he also swept both races in 2006.
He’s scored a perfect 150.0 driver rating at Phoenix on three occasions. His first was in November 2006, when he started second, led 252 of 312 laps and reached victory lane. His second was during his November 2014 win, when he started third and led 264 of 312 laps. His third came during his March 2015 win, when he started first and led 224 of 312 laps.
To fuel their fire this weekend, Harvick and Childers like momentum, and to score another victory at Phoenix would give them the utmost confidence heading into Homestead. A victory at Phoenix would also be the 50th of Harvick’s career, which would break his tie for 14th with team boss Tony Stewart.
Harvick’s success story is very simple – good driver, good team, good crew and good partners, including Mobil 1, which will sponsor and be a technical partner on his No. 4 car this week at Phoenix.
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.
So, heading into this weekend in the Arizona desert, even though Harvick is locked into the Championship 4 at Homestead, he still would love to get win number 50.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
So what’s your overriding emotion now? Is it relief that you’ve overcome all that this year has thrown at you to get to the Championship 4? What are you feeling?
“I’m surprised, to be dead honest with you. You know, I’m surprised but I’m not. But I think the expectations are always there. I think for me, I still feel like this was our best chance to win. I know Rodney, he’s always the positive one. And I tell you – I’ve told you guys that before – at some point he’s going to talk me into thinking we can win every single race. I can think about, well, probably not. I don’t know, we didn’t run that well. And he’ll have 10 reasons why the car is going to be better, and every week it’s, ‘Man, this is the best car we’ve ever had. We did this, this, this and this wrong last time, and this is what we’ve changed and this is why it’s going to be better.’ And he can present it, and by the time we start practice, I’m like, man, we’re going to win this race. So I’m surprised but I’m not because of the character of the team, and I love the way it’s evolved and the battle we’ve had to get there and really tried to achieve something that wasn’t really achievable when we first started the season this year. We’ve grounded out all year. My note from Mr. (Eddie) Gossage, (president of Texas Motor Speedway) there that he wrote me this year that was sitting in my bus this year – ‘You’ve had the strangest year that I’ve seen you have in a long time, but here you are still battling for a championship.’ That was him writing that note, watching the races in the season, and that’s really how it feels for me, as well. It’s been a strange year, and here you are lingering around and wound up in victory lane with two races to go, and now you get to go race for a championship.”
Does it work in a sense between you and Rodney Childers because you just stay laser focused but don’t worry about other stuff, that you know he’s going to stay on top of everything and all the minutiae and details and all that?
“They expect me to come to the racetrack and be prepared. And the thing about being prepared for me is from a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, to be as mentally focused as you can. And my age and experience kind of comes into that, I guess you could say sometimes, because you’ve been to some of these racetracks so many times, and I feel like I know the characteristics of the car. But there’s not a day that goes by that he (Rodney) doesn’t send me a text, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’ or one of the engineers will send me a text and say, ‘What do you think about this gear ratio or what do you think about whatever.’ One of them is texting me at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, as to what’s going on and what’s happening. Those are those relationships that are constant and steady, and everybody believes in each other because that’s just how it works. It’s never a bad time to text me or it’s never a bad time to call me. It’s never a bad time to ask me to do something. It’s never a bad time. When they need something, I put down what I’m doing and I go and I try to figure out how we’re going to do it and how we’re going to go to the simulator, how we’re going to go to the race shop, if you need me to come to a meeting, just tell me. The priority is these guys and that race team, and the things they need. But I am a thorough believer that the circle of life has to be balanced for you to show up to this racetrack every single week, to be as focused as you need to be to process all of that information and listen to those guys and listen to the things you do and know that I’m just a piece of information that allows them to put the puzzle together. It’s a big puzzle. You throw all the pieces out on the table and those guys put the puzzle together. There’s a deep belief in each other that we can go out and be better than anybody on any given day, and most of the time we can talk ourselves into it even when we probably don’t really have a chance. We can talk ourselves into it and, just by the experience of the things we do and the experience of racing in general and them calling a race, there’s just that belief that we can figure it out.”
What does it mean to tie Tony Stewart with 49 wins?
“Well, we did all this, and the only conversations we talked about were that we want to win races and have a chance to win championships. I think the faith he and his group put in letting us talk them into going out and hiring him and putting the faith in him and going out and hiring the guys that he wanted to hire when we bought the team, or when we built the team, we didn’t have a truck, we didn’t have a trailer, we didn’t have a racecar, and they let us do everything how we wanted from the very beginning. You know, it’s – I mean, it’s kind of reshaped and molded and changed things at SHR, and last year, I mean, gosh, I don’t even know how many races we won as a team last year, but we won a bunch of races as four drivers. And really, to me, that’s the most rewarding thing, seeing the company continue to thrive and win races in different rules packages, big motors, tapered spacers, big spoilers, little spoilers, Fords, Chevrolets, Stewart-Haas Racing has been in victory lane, and we’ve been fortunate to win races with all those different scenarios. In the end, that comes down to people. You’re only as good as the people you have around you. Them letting us go out and build a team with people who came to Stewart-Haas Racing to be on that No. 4 car is really what started this whole thing, and now we’re, I don’t know, what are we, 26, 27 wins later, six years in. So it’s been a lot of fun. He’s so laid back and understands how the peaks and valleys go of this particular sport. I’m glad he was there on the night we were able to both be 49s. I guess that’s pretty cool.”
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.”