Notes of Interest
● With summer in the rearview mirror and fall now upon us, hunting season has commenced. Busch Light has geared up accordingly to create a hunt of its own this Sunday during the YellaWood 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with Kevin Harvick leading the way. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and winner of 58 Cup Series races is, of course, dressed appropriately. Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang rolls into Talladega carrying a sportsman theme, with blaze orange signifying Busch Light’s #Hunt4Busch challenge. Fans can win up to $1,000 in beer money in each stage of the race by logging onto their Twitter feed, following @BuschBeer, and turning on their notifications. At the beginning of each stage, Busch Light will provide different targets for fans to hunt while watching the race live on NBC, and all fans have to do is tweet #Hunt4Busch and #Sweepstakes when they spot one of the targets. It’s the only way to bag some bucks from the comfort of your couch.
● Harvick comes into Talladega on a four-race top-10 streak, a run punctuated by a strong second-place drive Sept. 18 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where he led three times for 71 laps. Before finishing second at Bristol, Harvick finished eighth Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and fifth Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. In his most recent outing last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Harvick came home ninth. He has finished among the top-15 in the last 10 races, a streak that began July 11 with an 11th-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
● Harvick has scored 20 top-10s in the 30 races run this season, third-most among NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Kyle Larson (22 top-10s) and Denny Hamlin (21 top-10s) are ahead of Harvick in this category.
● Harvick is currently 10th in the NASCAR Playoff standings, seven points below the cutline with only two races remaining before the current 12-driver playoff field is whittled down to eight. Harvick is in the midst of his 12th consecutive playoff appearance and his 15th overall. He has advanced into the Round of 12 in all eight editions of the current playoff format. Coming into this season, he had advanced all the way to the Round of 8 since 2014, and five times he’s competed in the Championship 4, winning the title in 2014.
● The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang finished fourth in his last outing at Talladega in April. Harvick led three times for 12 laps to increase his laps-led total at the 2.66-mile oval to 276. It was his eighth top-five and 17th top-10 in 41 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega.
● Harvick’s eight top-fives at Talladega tie him with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano for the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Hamlin stands at the top of this category with nine top-fives at Talladega.
● Harvick’s 17 top-10s at Talladega are the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Busch has more (21 top-10s).
● Among those stats is a lone win at Talladega. Harvick came out the victor in a dogfight of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega on April 25, 2010. There were an incredible 88 lead changes in the 200-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval and three massive accidents that collected a total of 24 cars. Harvick kept his car intact throughout each bout of calamity and despite leading only two laps, the second lap led was the one that counted most. Harvick got underneath race-leader Jamie McMurray in the track’s tri-oval to sweep past McMurray and take the win by just .011 of a second. It was just the 12th of Harvick’s 58 career Cup Series wins.
● In addition to his 41 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega, Harvick has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, with a best result of second in April 2006.
● At Talladega in October 2008, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enjoyed one of its most dominant days ever. The team qualified 1-2-3-4 for the first time in its history. SHR drivers then led 155 of the race’s 193 laps (80.3 percent), including the last lap by Aric Almirola, who delivered SHR’s milestone 50th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victory and the organization’s 11th win of 2018.
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
Describe the intensity of racing at Talladega.
“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 Talladega. 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 this week 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 Talladega should be.”
What are your expectations for Talladega?
“For me, it’s been a destruction derby over the last couple of years. We’ve run really well at Talladega, but that’s just kind of the phases you go through when you go to Talladega. I’m doing worse than 50-50 on whether you crash or finish the last few years, but it’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times. You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Light Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”
Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, are often mentioned in the same breath, but there are differences between the two venues. What are they?
“Talladega is a lot bigger. It’s a lot wider. The track itself is bigger. The shape of Talladega is different than Daytona because of the track being wider and the way the tri-oval is shaped. The start-finish line is almost all the way down into turn one, which seems to change some of the outcomes of the finishes because you have to go all the way down the front straightaway before you get to the finish line. Talladega’s tri-oval is a little bit different than Daytona’s. That bottom groove has a little less banking than the rest of the racetrack, so it’s almost like you’re dipping down into a hole. Sometimes you see guys get loose down into the tri-oval and spin out, so it ends up being where some of the wrecks are caused. It’s really hard to push through that tri-oval, especially as you’re heading down into that bottom lane. It’s tough to know exactly where you need to be at the end of the race. I’ve only won one of them there. In that particular race, we were tandem racing and I was second coming into the tri-oval and was able to get past Jamie McMurray. But I would still rather be leading and in control. It’s a chess match all day. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but you can also put yourself in a good position by making the right moves, having a good day on pit road, and not making any mistakes.”