Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home. And for Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), home is an intermediate racetrack.
With apologies to those in Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield, California, the veteran racer has made the intermediate tracks – 1.5 miles in length or longer, and not including restrictor-plate venues – that comprise the majority of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule his home. He already has four wins this season, two of which have come on intermediates – Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now, the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in Kansas City beckons with Saturday night’s KC Masterpiece 400.
Of Harvick’s 41 NASCAR Cup Series wins, 16 have come at intermediate-style racetracks. In addition to the two wins this year at Atlanta and Las Vegas, Harvick finished second in the series’ most recent visit to an intermediate – April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Kansas Speedway is a sweeping, D-shaped oval that has produced high speeds and daring, side-by-side racing since its debut in 2001. Harvick has competed at the track for every one of its Cup Series races – one of only four drivers to do so – and has amassed quite the history in his 24 career starts. Three poles, two wins, three second-place finishes, seven top-threes, 13 top-10s and 596 laps led make Harvick one of the most successful drivers in Kansas’ relatively young history. His average start is 14.8, his average finish is 10th and he has a lap completion rate of 98.3 percent.
Harvick finishes up front at Kansas because he starts up front. He’s been a Busch Pole Award winner three times at Kansas, tying him for the most poles at the track with Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne. Harvick stands out from this crowd by holding the track qualifying record at Kansas. His record pole-winning lap of lap of 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph on Oct. 3, 2014 for the Hollywood Casino 400 has yet to be broken. In fact, Harvick broke his own track record at Kansas when he made that lap, bettering his previous mark of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 mph set on May 9, 2014.
Harvick has a history of speed at Kansas, but also a history of speed this year. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion comes into the KC Masterpiece 400 having qualified in the top-10 in every Cup Series race where he has made a qualifying attempt. In fact, the driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford has started on the front row four times this year. The most recent came last Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, where Harvick started second and promptly led six times for a race-high 201 laps en route to the win. It was the third time this season that Harvick had qualified second. His lone Busch Pole came two weeks ago at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
The combination of Harvick competing at Kansas in SHR equipment is impressive. In his last eight NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track – all of which have come with SHR – Harvick has a win, two poles, three runner-up finishes and only two results worse than eighth (12th in October 2014 and 16th in October 2016). And of the 596 total laps Harvick has led at Kansas dating back to his rookie year in 2001, 375 of those laps have come with SHR (63 percent), despite only eight of his 24 Kansas starts being with SHR (33.3 percent).
With another Busch Light Ford built by SHR for the sole purpose of winning, Harvick comes into Kansas intent on grabbing career win No. 42 and his 19th Cup Series win since joining SHR in 2014.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
After nearly a month-long break from intermediate tracks, you return to one this weekend at Kansas. You said at Texas that you felt SHR and, specifically, your team had the best package for intermediate-style tracks. What are your expectations for Kansas as we race on it and then another batch of intermediates with Charlotte and Michigan coming up on the schedule?
“Our intermediates have been really good, and we’ve been good everywhere as a company. As you look at Kansas, in general, it’s been one of my best racetracks through the years. And since I’ve come to SHR, it’s probably been one of our top-two racetracks. It’s been a fun place to go to. I feel like we should’ve won more races there than we have, but I think you can say that at a lot of places, and sometimes the circumstances dictate that. I’m confident our Busch Light Ford will be fast. Anything less than a win there is usually a disappointment.”
It’s been almost six 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.”
You’re back in Busch Light colors for Kansas, and we’ve seen the Busch brand really leverage its NASCAR initiatives between you, the Busch Guy and the Busch Pole Award (which you won at Talladega where everything came together as the Busch Guy presented you the Busch Pole Award while you ran a Busch Flannel paint scheme). Talk about the growth of this partnership and the value this kind of activation brings to the sport, as well as your role as the driver of the Busch Light Ford.
“When you see a brand activating the way Busch is, it shows you the success of the program. Companies come in and activate and, when done well, it works really well for them. And with the Busch Pole Award, that’s just another sign of how strong the program is. Busch wants to stay involved in NASCAR and the Busch Pole Award is another platform to better leverage the car and the team and the brand.”
It’s Mother’s Day weekend, so after racing late on Saturday night you need to have a gameplan ready to go come Sunday morning for Mother’s Day. Whether it’s for your colleagues in the NASCAR garage who are juggling the same schedule as you, or for the guy who knows he has to deliver something nice for his mom and wife on Mother’s Day, what has worked best for you when it comes to delivering a successful Mother’s Day?
“A nice, hand-written card works well and, if you have kids, leave it to them to help you decide what you’re going to give Mom. They’ve got good insight.”