The most important number for Kevin Harvick heading into Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth is his number of trips to victory lane in the Cup Series at the 1.5-mile oval – zero.
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is still looking for his first NASCAR Cup Series win there even though he has had success there in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick has five wins and two poles at Texas in the Xfinity Series. He’s also scored 10 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and led 779 laps. He has an average starting position of 7.0 and finish of 7.5.
In the Truck Series, Harvick has one Texas victory, which came in 2011. He also has two top-fives and led 64 laps in four starts.
In 28 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas, Harvick has six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s with an average finish of 12.0.
While he is still chasing that elusive Cup Series win at Texas, Harvick’s recent starts there show he may be close to finally breaking through. He has finished in the top-10 in eight of his last 10 races at Texas, including five straight dating back to November 2014, and he’s led 110 laps in his last five starts.
What should make Texas even more challenging this time around is the new surface on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Since the series last visited the speedway in Fort Worth, the track laid an entirely new asphalt surface that no drivers or teams have had the opportunity to test. The one constant with most repaved racetracks in recent history is that the racing typically changes significantly.
Six races into 2017, Harvick is ranked 10th in the championship driver standings with 154 points, but has struggled to find the finishes he has over the previous three seasons to start the season. Since joining SHR prior to the start of the 2014 season, Harvick has never gone to Texas Motor Speedway in April without a win to his credit. The string of tough luck has included a pit-road speeding penalty at Atlanta that cost the No. 4 team a win; a cut tire at Las Vegas resulting in a 38th-place finish; and a damaged nose coming to the green flag at the start of the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, followed by a cut tire in the same race, which forced Harvick to battle back from two laps down to finish 13th.
The No. 4 team also had to work without veteran crew chief Rodney Childers last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway as he was serving a one-race penalty for an infraction discovered after the race at Phoenix.
Harvick and the No. 4 team are hoping their luck changes Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and he can win a brand new cowboy hat and, most importantly, add one more racetrack to his list of NASCAR Cup Series victory lane appearances.