Mobil 1 Racing: Kevin Harvick Darlington Advance

Mobil 1 Racing: Kevin Harvick Darlington Advance NK Photography Photo

Notes of Interest

 

●  Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, comes into the Goodyear 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway fresh off a second-place drive in the series’ last race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Harvick stormed from seventh to second in a two-lap shootout to the finish to record his best result so far this season. It was his second straight top-five, as Harvick finished fourth in the prior race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He now has four top-fives and eight top-10s in the 11 races run thus far in 2021.

 

●  Darlington is known as “The Track Too Tough To Tame” but Harvick has tamed the venerable 1.366-mile oval three times. The 44-year-old racer from Bakersfield, California, owns two Southern 500 victories (2014 and 2020) and one win in the track’s 400-mile race. In fact, Harvick enters Darlington with an impressive record – he hasn’t finished outside the top-five since 2017 and he hasn’t finished outside the top-10 since 2012. How long ago was that? “Gangnam Style” and its music video by South Korean singer Psy went viral in 2012, four years before the social media app TikTok became reality.

 

●  That’s a long time, but not nearly as long as Darlington has been around. The 2021 season marks the track’s 71st anniversary, with the egg-shaped oval having hosted 119 NASCAR Cup Series races. The first came on Sept. 4, 1950 and it was the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt. Johnny Mantz drove his Plymouth to the win with an average speed of 75.250 mph and the race took 6 hours, 38 minutes and 40 seconds to complete. Juxtapose that with Harvick’s win in last September’s Southern 500. His Ford Mustang had an average speed of 132.256 mph and the race finished in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 26 seconds.

 

●  COVID-19 stopped racing in its tracks last spring. After the checkered flag dropped March 8 at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR went on a 10-week hiatus as the world grappled with the scale of a pandemic not seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919. NASCAR had to navigate a brave new world, and the sport was one of the first to return to action when racing resumed May 17 at Darlington. It was a welcome surprise, as one version of NASCAR’s hypothetical return featured a start date of Oct. 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a stretch of 30 races in 64 days that would wrap with three straight races at Phoenix… on Jan. 1-3 of 2021. In a time of great uncertainty, seeing sports’ return with NASCAR pacing the field proved both prideful and poignant. Harvick never let off the gas even as the season ground to a halt. He focused on all the little details that goes into wheeling a 3,400-pound racecar around tracks faster than 39 of his competitors. The result? After finishing second March 8 at Phoenix, Harvick one-upped that result by winning in NASCAR’s return to racing May 17 at Darlington. Eight more wins followed – a series-best and career-best for Harvick, all in his 20th year of NASCAR Cup Series racing.

 

●  That win last May at Darlington was Harvick’s milestone 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory. Harvick led 159 of the race’s 293 laps to secure his 11th straight season as a Cup Series winner. His career win total now stands at 59, tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup Series win list. Next on the all-time win list is NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt with 76 victories.

 

●  The Mobil 1 branding on Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Mustang goes more than skin deep, as the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand gives Harvick an added advantage. Mobil 1 products are used throughout his racecar and they extend beyond just engine oil. Power steering fluid, transmission fluid, gear oil and driveline lubricants from Mobil 1 give Harvick a technical advantage over his counterparts by reducing friction, heat and rolling resistance. Mobil 1 is a sponsor whose technology makes Harvick’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang faster.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang 

 

Of the series-best nine races you won last year, which one resonated with you the most?

“I would say the first race back at Darlington, just to be able to have that something back in your life that was somewhat normal after you literally just had the rug yanked out from underneath you. It was, OK, you can’t race anymore, and you don’t know when you’re going to race again. Being able to go back to the racetrack and go back to victory lane and get back to work was pretty much a relief. I think that was true for pretty much everybody. It showed the world that you could put on an event and it really kind of set the tone for a ton of sports as they moved forward.”

 

You touched on it a little bit – how important was it to be able to come back to a racetrack and put on a show and provide some entertainment and enjoyment for people who desperately needed it?

“When you look at that particular race, everybody wanted to see what was happening. Everybody from Joe Girardi (former manager of the New York Yankees and current manager of the Philadelphia Phillies) – he was one of the people who texted me afterward, and he was really excited after the race and said that Major League Baseball was looking forward to seeing what happened and the process that went into it. They had some hope about getting back on the field. I know that a lot of folks at the White House were looking on and sent notes after the race saying, ‘You don’t know what that meant for our country and the sports world. To have something that wasn’t a Michael Jordan rerun or documentary that we could watch on TV that had something to do with sports that wasn’t a rerun from 1987 or this game from 1995.’ It was an actual live sports event that everybody could tune into and watch. It meant a lot, not only to the sports world, but to people who had been sitting at home for a long time that actually had something else to watch. It was an opportunity to showcase who we really are as a sport to people who may have never watched before.”

 

You had a strong start to last season. Four top-10s in the season’s first four races. You finished second in the fourth race at Phoenix and then COVID-19 shut the sport down for 10 weeks. How were you able to pick up right where you left off?

“There’s a lot to be learned from that break, right? I think as you went to approach things, there were two ways to approach it. You could go, ‘Man, this sucks’ or ‘Man, I could get better.’ I think once we got through the first couple of weeks, the mentality of the whole situation was, ‘How could we get better?’ and I felt like when I got back in the racecar, I was better than I was when I got out of it originally in week four. So, I think our team and our company at Stewart-Haas Racing kind of took that same approach and it took a couple of weeks, but it was OK. We knew we were going to have a race season. It was a matter of how are we going to capitalize on this to be better than everyone else because of the situation? I think 2020 forever changed the sport and it definitely changed the way that I approach things, the way that I think about things, the way that our company thinks about things, the way the schedule looks, how many days we go to the racetrack. I mean, there’s just an endless amount of things that had to be done and that we had to try within our industry that will forever cement themselves in some way, shape or form in how we go forward.”

 

You have three wins at Darlington and 782 laps led in 26 career starts. How satisfying it to have that kind of success at a track that’s so notoriously difficult its nickname is “The Track Too Tough To Tame”?

“It’s been a lot of fun to have been able to win there a few times now. As you look at the last race there, winning the Southern 500 and being able to go back to victory lane and celebrate in front of some fans was different from the first time of dead silence. Darlington is one of those historic racetracks that everybody loves going to because of the fact that it’s forever tied to the guys that used to race there with the same shape of the racetrack. It may be a different surface, but it’s the same racetrack that they raced on in the 1950s. It’s a unique place to go race and a place that has so much history in our sport.”

 

Is there a particular key to your success at Darlington?

“Yeah, don’t hit the wall!”

 

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