Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Fontana, California this weekend for the final race of the three-race West Coast swing – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
The visit to Fontana serves as a home game for the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway in Bakersfield.
The stop at Auto Club Speedway should provide confidence for the Bakersfield native. He is one of three drivers from California to win a Cup Series race at Fontana, joining Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Harvick scored his only Cup Series win in Fontana on March 11, 2011. Kyle Busch dominated the afternoon, leading 151 laps of the 200-lap event but, in the closing laps as Busch attempted to hold off a hard-charging Johnson, Harvick worked the top of the racetrack and ran down the leaders. On the final turn of the final lap, Harvick passed Johnson and beat him to the finish line by .144 of a second. He led only one lap on the day, but it secured the victory at his home track.
Both of Harvick’s last two Cup Series starts at the 2-mile oval came ever so close to victory. He started and finished second in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he led 34 laps but finished runner-up by .710 of a second to Brad Keselowski after a late-race restart. He led 143 of 200 laps in 2016 but finished runner-up to Johnson by .772 of a second in an overtime finish.
Harvick also has had success in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Fontana. He has one win, one pole, 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 20 career starts. He scored his lone Xfinity Series win there in 2015, when he started sixth, led 100 of 150 laps and beat second-place Brendan Gaughan to the finish line by 3.317 seconds.
The 41-year old Harvick also has four starts at Fontana in the Camping World Truck Series but has yet to score a win at his home track in that series.
He has two starts at Fontana in the K&N Pro Series West, resulting in a runner-up finish to Ken Schrader by 1.314 seconds in May 1998 and a trip to victory lane in July 1998, when he led 52 laps and beat Austin Cameron to the checkered flag by 1.15 seconds.
But, it’s more than winning on the Fontana track that makes Harvick a hometown favorite.
In March 2016, he and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. cut the ribbon to unveil the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park at the Boys & Girls Club in Bakersfield, which provides a clean and safe environment in which local youth can play, learn and grow. The Bakersfield facility marks the second collaboration between the two organizations, which commenced their alliance by opening the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park in Greensboro, North Carolina in November 2015.
The state-of-the-art facility in Bakersfield is designed for multisport use, featuring four outdoor fitness stations, a rubber track surface circling the field’s perimeter, and a digital scoreboard. The park, a gift to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, is maintained by the organization, with which the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation collaborate to create and implement character education programming and clinics for the children who utilize the facility.
The Boys & Girls Club of Kern County is not the only project Harvick has completed in his hometown to help area youth.
After he won the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship, he planned an additional stop as part of his champion’s tour – a visit to Bakersfield. Harvick wanted to bring the Cup Series trophy to his high school, where he spoke to more than 2,000 kids in the school’s gymnasium and encouraged them to follow their dreams.
In fact, Harvick regularly gives back to his hometown through donations from his foundation. Donations have included funds to provide wrestling, baseball and golf equipment to his high school in order to ensure that anyone who wants to participate can do so without worrying about paying for proper equipment.
Harvick hopes he can give his hometown fans another thing to cheer about at the track Sunday as he attempts to capture his first win of the season in the Auto Club 400.