Kevin Harvick is off to his best start since 2016 as he finished a respectable fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500. It’s his best finish in the Great American Race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway since he came home fourth in 2016.
Now, the rest of the season begins and it starts with the three-race West Coast Swing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and Phoenix International Raceway.
First up for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang is the Las Vegas 400. It’s a place where Harvick has had a lot of success, as he has scored wins in 2015 and spring 2018 and a Busch pole last spring at the 1.5 mile oval.
In 2015, he started 18th, led five times for a total of 142 laps and beat runner-up Martin Truex Jr. by 1.640 seconds. In the spring 2018 race, he started second and dominated by leading 214 of 267 laps en route to beating runner-up Kyle Busch by 2.906 seconds.
Harvick has six top-five finishes and nine top-10s at Las Vegas. The 44-year-old driver has led 587 laps, has an average starting position of 16.4, an average finish of 14.2, and has completed 93.6 percent – 5,274 of 5,633 – of the laps he’s contested there.
He also has two 2004 and 2010 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Las Vegas and started three Truck Series races there in the late 1990s.
So experience is not a problem for Harvick at the desert track. He will make his 684th career Cup Series start and is looking for the 50th win of his career, which would put him in a tie with the late Junior Johnson on the all-time NASCAR win list.
A win would also extend his streak of winning at least one race in a season, which dates back to 2010.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Is the West Coast Swing the barometer to see where everybody stacks up, or does it extend beyond that because we do Atlanta, Homestead and then Texas after that?
“Yeah, it’s tough to know. I mean, you know what you need to work on after you get done with the West Coast Swing, for the most part. But it’s tough to adapt to what you need to do because of the fact that your cars are already built. Because of the fact that the logistics of everything that happens is so difficult for the teams, it’s really hard to make any adjustments. So you’ve kind of got what you’ve got, going through the West Coast Swing. You might be able to make some adjustments for Atlanta and Homestead but, really, you’re going to need that Easter break in order to get your stuff together and make the changes. And even then, it’s going to be hard to put things into play because everything is done so far in advance. I think, as you look at it, it just depends on where you are and how hard you need to push things in order to make a change.”
Describe the moment you knew you’d made it in NASCAR. Perhaps the moment where you’re like, “I can make a living at this.”
“You know, I think you’re pretty naïve to that up until you actually make a living at it, because making a living at it is a little bit different than probably what you think it is before you start having a family and being married and trying to figure out, you know, what a savings account is. You’re so used to spending every dollar that you had in order to buy a faster racecar or get yourself in a different position or do something that you hadn’t done before. Until you actually start learning that you have to live life, you’re pretty naïve to know what you need to actually make it and have a real job. For me, I left home when I was 19 years old to go get a job working on the Wayne and Connie Spears truck hoping to get a chance to drive one of their cars or their truck. And that worked out. And then you take the next step and drove the 98 truck and then it was to Richard Childress Racing. And I think once I got to Richard’s and actually made it through the first year of the Busch Series and we’re able to win a few races. And then we signed that Cup sponsor with America Online and had some things lined out to run the next four years on the Cup side. That’s really when I thought, this might actually work out. Before that, it was really just the dream, something that you thought you wanted to do but didn’t really realize what it took to live life at that point.”
Who was the one person who helped get you where you are today? Perhaps the person who’s most behind your success?
“There might be one person who’s involved in each segment of the progression of your career, but there’s just way too many. I went through every step of the progression that you could. That was designed from go-karts all the way up through Late Models, through all the regional touring series. And I would say it was a different person at every segment as you went to move up. So it would be hard to narrow it to one person.”