On second thought, Harvick is happy Phoenix got a facelift

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Friday, Mar 13 1554
Kevin Harvick was hopping mad at Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber.

Of course, that was four years ago, after Sperber told Harvick the one-mile track was going to be repaved between the spring and fall races of 2011.

After all, Harvick had a stellar record at the old configuration of the track, including a season sweep of the 2008 races at PIR. So it was understandable the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion would be resistant to change.

In November of 2011, Harvick ran 19th at Phoenix without leading a lap. But what happened after went a long way toward reshaping his opinion of the resurfacing of the track.

Harvick finished second in November of 2012 before reeling off four victories in a stretch of five events — including the race he had to win last fall to advance to the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

In his last six outings at PIR, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet has led 661 of 1,879 possible laps, more than 35 percent. In winning both races last year, Harvick led a total of 488 of a possible 624 laps, a whopping 78.2 percent.

He will attempt to continue his dominance in Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

“In hindsight, I guess you could look back on it and say it’s probably been better for us than the old style Phoenix International Raceway,” Harvick acknowledged Friday before opening Sprint Cup Series practice at PIR. “It’s just a place that I really enjoy. I think (Turns) 3 and 4 still have a lot of the same characteristics that the old track did.

“We were fortunate to be able to come and test here several years ago, when they repaved the track and, for whatever reason, it just fit everything that we were doing.”

Even though the track itself is different, there are fond memories that linger for Harvick, who arrived in Phoenix this week fresh from a victory at Las Vegas — his sixth straight finish of first or second in the Sprint Cup series.

“I look forward to coming to this race track every year,” Harvick said. “Like I said last week in Las Vegas, these are places for me that I have raced at since the mid ‘90s. To come and race in front of these race fans and be able to hear stories about people that watched you race in the Southwest Tour, Winston West or the Truck Series through the years, it’s a lot of fun for me.

“Just to see old faces and friends and also get to race on a race track that used to be probably, between the Copper World Classic and the 300-mile race that we used to have here, at the end of the year for the Southwest Tour cars, this was our biggest race. To grow up racing and come here was our Daytona 500 every year, and to be able to come back and do that now as part of your job is something that for me is a lot of fun.”