Kevin Harvick is locked in.
The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) secured his position in the Championship 4 at the season-ending Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway with his win Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. He will appear in the Championship 4 for the third time in the last four seasons.
However, Harvick is entering refreshing new territory as he heads to Phoenix Raceway for this weekend’s Can-Am 500k Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race without the pressure of having to race his way in to the Championship 4. In Harvick’s previous two trips to the winner-take-all finale, he has had to produce nearly flawless results under pressure in the Arizona desert.
Harvick needed a win at Phoenix in November 2014 to advance to the championship race at Homestead, and he delivered one of the most dominant wins of his Cup Series career when he started third, led 264 of 312 laps and beat runner-up Jeff Gordon to the finish line by 1.636 seconds.
In 2015, a second-place finish in a rain-shortened race at Phoenix was enough to advance Harvick to the Championship 4.
Harvick needed a Phoenix win to advance to the Championship 4 in 2016 but fell just short with a fourth-place result.
The Bakersfield, California, native has no pressure to win as the series heads to the desert mile oval in 2017, but that won’t stop Harvick and the No. 4 team from trying to add another trip to victory lane to their already impressive resume at Phoenix.
Harvick’s career numbers at Phoenix feature a series-high eight NASCAR Cup Series wins, including five in his last eight outings. He became the only Cup Series driver to win four consecutive races there when he won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won again in March 2015. Only five drivers have won consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only one to win consecutive races twice. He swept both races in 2006 to go with his back-to-back wins in 2014. His most recent Phoenix win was this past March.
According to NASCAR loop data, Harvick is the only driver to score a perfect 150.0 driver rating on three different occasions at Phoenix. Harvick scored his first perfect rating at the mile oval in November 2006, when he started second and led 252 of 312 laps on his way to victory lane. He accomplished the feat a second time in winning the November 2014 race. His third perfect score came in March 2015, when he won the pole, led 224 of 312 laps and beat Jamie McMurray to the finish line by 1.153 seconds.
In addition to his series-high eight Cup Series wins, the 2014 Cup Series champion has four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Phoenix and one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His Truck Series wins came in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009. His lone Xfinity win came in 2006.
A win at Phoenix would continue the momentum from Texas all the way through to the Championship 4 at Homestead next week, where Harvick will attempt to be the first Ford driver to win a Cup Series championship since his SHR teammate Kurt Busch won the title driving a Ford in 2004.