There is no driver in NASCAR right now better at a specific track than Kevin Harvick at Phoenix International Raceway.
Harvick has won the last four races and five of the past seven at the Arizona oval. His seven Phoenix victories overall are a track record. If Harvick can take the checkered flag in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at PIR (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) – the penultimate race of the NASCAR season and cutoff event in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Eliminator Round – he will join NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (Richmond, 7) and Darrell Waltrip (Bristol, 7; North Wilkesboro, 5) as the only drivers to win at least five consecutive races at a single track.
More importantly, a win would guarantee Harvick a shot at defending his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crown in the four-driver Championship Round race next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Regardless of how the rest of the field performs at Phoenix, Harvick can advance to the Championship Round with a finish of second or better; third and at least one lap led; or fourth and the most laps led.
“I feel like that can be gone at any point,” Harvick said about his “edge” at Phoneix. “That’s the hardest thing about having success. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep moving yourself forward. If you don’t have an open mind about things or are willing to try a fresh approach to things then it will get stagnant.”
Harvick has followed up his 2014 championship season with another stalwart campaign. The No. 4 Chevrolet driver boasts three wins and ranks first in the NSCS in top fives (21), top 10s (26), driver rating (118.1), average running position (7.4), percentage of laps led (21.2) and percentage of fastest laps run (34.5). Recently, he became the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 1995-96 to lead more than 2,000 laps in consecutive seasons.
Harvick further described how his past Phoenix success doesn’t guarantee him a high finish on Sunday.
“There are a lot of good racecar drivers and lots of circumstances that could play out to have things go wrong,” he said. “You go there with a fresh start like you’ve never won there before and try to get the car dialed in.”