You’ve won at Dover three times and have finished in the top-10 in more than half your starts there. What is it that makes you so good there?
“Dover is one of those racetracks where if we don’t win, we feel like we’ve let everybody down. It’s been a great racetrack for us and we’ve had some really dumb luck there with lug nuts and valve stems, but outside of those few races, it’s been a very successful racetrack for us. I think that was Rodney’s (Childers, crew chief) goal when we got to Stewart-Haas Racing (in 2014), because he loved racing at Dover and it was always my worst racetrack when I was at RCR (Richard Childress Racing). Ever since the very first day that we’ve gone to Dover at Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s been a good racetrack for us and we’ve run well. Dover is just one of those grind-it-out-type of races. The harder you can drive it and the more aggressive that you can be lap after lap after lap by being more aggressive and consistent, you can grind a lot of them into the ground there just because 400 laps around Dover, staying focused, and being able to grind away with your racecar that hard for that long is tough mentally and physically. It’s a fun race.”
Is there something specific about Dover that augments your driving style?
“Dover is a racetrack that everything about it is unique. The concrete, itself, all the way around the racetrack, is unique. Dover is a racetrack where you can get away with being aggressive every single lap. You have to drive the car as hard as it will go every single lap, and that’s hard to do there because there are all the little bumps that come with the concrete, the change of elevation as you go in and off the corners, and all the banking in the corners – it’s just a really, really fast racetrack. It’s also a very physical racetrack just because of all the G’s and the bouncing and everything that comes with driving around Dover. It’s a racetrack where you have to have your hands gripping on the steering wheel and gritting your teeth all at the same time in order to go fast every single lap. When your car’s off, there’s just nowhere to hide there. You wind up going a lap down, probably two laps down because you pit early and then the caution comes out. It’s a beast of a racetrack and there’s a reason they call it the Monster Mile because you can get yourself in trouble really quick.”
Dover has a very unique trophy. It’s the track mascot, Miles the Monster, and he’s got the winning car held in the air. Is it one of the sport’s best trophies?
“My kids love Miles. There are so many racetracks that have terrible trophies – the plastic trophies – I feel like they smash up and I’ll take them home and Keelan will be like, ‘Man, Dad, that’s a terrible trophy.’ That is not the case at Dover. They have a very unique trophy that is easily known as to what racetrack it came from and that’s what every racetrack needs.”
We had fans back last week at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and we’ll have fans again this Sunday Dover. What’s the atmosphere like with fans in the grandstands after almost a year of racing in a vacuum due to COVID-19?
“I’m just like those fans. I’m ready to get out and do things, and I think as you see those fans in the grandstands and you hear that enthusiasm and excitement and cheering, just the noise of the fans moving around even when they’re not doing anything, is way better than the pure silence we had at so many of the racetracks for most of the season last year. I’m excited to see these racetracks starting to open back up. I just saw that Pocono is opening up to 100 percent. I think it’s time for everybody to open back up to 100 percent and get these fans back in the stands and enjoying everything that’s going on at the racetrack.”
Can you talk about your longstanding relationship with Hunt Brothers Pizza, as the 2021 season marks the 12th year of your partnership with them?
“Our fans are pretty loyal to the brands that are on our cars. Many of my pictures come from the standees in the store. People take selfies next to them. There are a number of reasons you have sponsorships – you want that brand recognition, the brand integration. Hunt Brothers Pizza is a very family-oriented company and we’re a very family-oriented group. Those relationships you build through the years with brands that recognize and reflect what you believe in are few and far between. We’ve grown with the Hunt Brothers Pizza brand. They’ve grown with us and been very loyal to us and I think our fans are very loyal to Hunt Brothers Pizza. It’s fun to see that brand recognition and that understanding of loyalty and partnership. You realize how many Hunt Brothers Pizza stores there are as you drive to racetracks.”
(Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry and has sponsored Harvick for years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hunt Brothers Pizza joined Harvick fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 and has been a mainstay in NASCAR’s premier division ever since. With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin-crust pizzas available as a grab-and go Hunk, perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Celebrating 30 years of serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners, Hunt Brothers Pizza is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and is family owned and operated. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location near you, download the app by visiting app.HuntBrothersPizza.com.)