Monday, Feb 06

Unibet Racing: Kevin Harvick Daytona Advance

Unibet Racing: Kevin Harvick Daytona Advance NK Photography Photo

Notes of Interest

 

●  Unibet is the primary sponsor for driver Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Unibet is a part of the Kindred Group, one of the top online gambling operators with business across Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The Unibet brand is building on its years of European experience in the responsible gambling and player sustainability field and extending that mindset to its U.S. operations, with motorsports being a key platform. Unibet will return to the No. 4 car as a primary partner Oct. 31 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

 

●  Harvick is always a good bet for the NASCAR Playoffs and thanks to an insurmountable 104-point margin over the playoff cutoff line, Harvick clinched his spot in the 16-driver NASCAR Playoffs with one race still remaining in the regular season. This will be Harvick’s 12th consecutive playoff appearance and his 15th overall. He won the championship in 2014.

 

●  Being locked into the NASCAR Playoffs has a distinct advantage when the cutoff race to make the 16-driver playoffs is Daytona. The only predictable thing about the vast, 2.5-mile oval is its unpredictability. Pack racing is prominent at Daytona, making the Coke Zero 400 a 200 mph chess match. Properly positioning oneself can mean the difference between winning and triggering a massive accident. For Harvick and the 14 other drivers already locked into the playoffs, a victory or a DNF (Did Not Finish) has minimal impact on their championship aspirations. For everyone else, however, a win can secure their spot in the playoffs. There’s only one open position remaining, and it’s essentially available for three entities – 16th-place Tyler Reddick, who comes into Daytona with a 25-point cushion over his teammate, 17th-place Austin Dillon. If Reddick holds that margin over Dillon, Reddick is in the playoffs. If Reddick falters and Dillon overcomes that 25-point deficit, Dillon is in the playoffs. But if any of these other drivers win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 – Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, Erik Jones, Daniel Suárez, Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece, Cole Custer, Anthony Alfredo or Corey LaJoie – then Reddick and Dillon are out of the playoffs and the winning driver is in. Get your popcorn.  

 

●  The Coke Zero 400 will mark Harvick’s 41st career NASCAR Cup Series start at Daytona. Harvick made his Cup Series debut at the track on July 7, 2001, starting 10th and finishing 25th, one spot ahead of his car owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart. In his 39 starts since, Harvick has won twice – the 2010 Coke Zero 400 and the 2017 Daytona 500 – and scored 11 top-fives and 16 top-10s while leading 279 laps. In his most recent drive on the 2.5-mile oval in this year’s Daytona 500, Harvick finished fourth. 

 

●  Harvick has proven prolific in the non-points NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona. He is a three-time winner of the Busch Clash when it was held on the 2.5-mile oval (2009, 2010 and 2013) and he is a two-time winner of the Duel (2013 and 2019), twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500.

 

●  Outside of the NASCAR Cup Series, Harvick has made 19 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Daytona and three IROC starts. Of Harvick’s 47 Xfinity Series wins, only one is at Daytona – the 2007 season opener. And Harvick’s best IROC finish at Daytona is seventh, earned twice (2003 and 2004). Harvick is a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2001 and 2006) and the 2002 IROC champion.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang 

 

Pack racing at Daytona is always dicey, but what is it like when it’s a cutoff race to make the NASCAR Playoffs?

“It’s a way different vibe. They’ve tinkered with the cutoff race a lot and there’s not a better spot for it to be than Daytona because it is the ultimate saying – and you say it with an exclamation point – anyone can win, and that is never more true than at Daytona. Everyone knows going in that it’s their last-ditch effort to either make the playoffs or put yourself in position to score more points for the playoffs. Everybody kind of has that, ‘Screw it, I’m going for it,’ mentality in that particular race because they know whatever the scenario is, it’s the last chance to score points, it’s the last chance to put you in, and I think the Daytona 500 showed you that anybody can do it.”

 

Describe the intensity of racing at Daytona.

“You have to be aggressive just for the fact that if you’re not aggressive, it always seems like you’re not going to be where you need to be. Nine times out of 10, the aggressor is going to be the guy who comes out on the good side of things just for the fact that you’re making things happen and you’re not waiting for something else to happen. When you wait for something else to happen, that’s usually when you get in trouble because it’s usually someone else’s mess. You can still get in trouble if you’re aggressive, but with this rules package and the way things are, it’s best to stay aggressive and try to stay up front.”

 

Blocking seems to be a necessary evil at Daytona. What’s your take?

“I don’t like blocking, but it’s a necessity. Blocking is something that has evolved over the years as people have figured out trying to time the runs, and people have figured out when you can block and when you can’t. It’s just a matter of putting yourself in a position where you think you’re making the right move, and sometimes you make the wrong move. It’s just a game of inches. It just really is a high-speed chess match that you have at 200 mph – and Saturday night will be absolutely no different. There will be a big crash. There will be mistakes made. There will be pit errors made. There will be strategy played. But I can promise you we’re all going to race in a pack – and that’s the way Daytona should be.”

 

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