Sunday, Feb 05

Mobil 1 Racing: Kevin Harvick Atlanta Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  Atlanta’s sports venues seemingly age quickly. The Georgia Dome, which played host to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and was the site of two Super Bowls (1994 and 2000) and the 1996 Summer Olympics, only lasted 25 years before being demolished in favor of the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened its doors in August 2017. Nearby Turner Field was home to the Atlanta Braves for just 19 years before the MLB team moved to a brand-new stadium – Truist Park – just north of the city in March 2017. (Turner Field still exists, but it’s now a football stadium for Georgia State University, whose football program debuted in 2010.) Atlanta Motor Speedway has taken a page from the playbook of its stick-and-ball neighbors and reinvented itself for a second time after a massive reconfiguration back in 1997 changed the track from a regular, 1.522-mile oval to a quad-oval that measured in at 1.54 miles. That layout quickly became one of the fastest on the entire NASCAR Cup Series schedule, a point proven when Geoff Bodine ventured onto the new surface on Nov. 15, 1997 and turned a lap at 197.478 mph – a track record that was never broken. Now, 25 years later, like its Atlanta sports venue brethren, the Atlanta Motor Speedway we once knew is all new. It is still 1.54 miles in length, but the banking has been increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees, and the track has been narrowed from 55-feet wide to 40-feet wide, and it’s all covered in fresh asphalt. The goal of the reconstruction was to re-create the kind of pack-style racing seen at the behemoth, 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the even bigger 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Will it work? We’ll find out when cars hit the track this Friday for practice before qualifying on Saturday and the Folds of Honor 500 on Sunday.

 

●  The previous version of Atlanta Motor Speedway is all Kevin Harvick has ever known. The driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has made 32 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta – the most of any active driver. In fact, Harvick leads a bevy of categories at Atlanta….

  • He has a series-leading nine top-fives at Atlanta. Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch are next best with eight top-fives apiece.
  • He is tied with Kurt Busch for the most top-10s at Atlanta (16). Martin Truex Jr., is next best with 12 top-10s.
  • He has led a series-high 1,348 laps at Atlanta. Kurt Busch is next best with 948 laps led.
  • He has completed a series-high 10,127 laps at Atlanta. Denny Hamlin is next best with 6.983 laps completed.

●  Who is the all-time leader at Atlanta? That’s none other than Richard Petty. They call him “The King” for a reason: 65 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta with six wins, 22 top-fives, 33 top-10s and 1,827 laps led with 17,513 laps completed.

 

●  Harvick has three NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta. His first at the track was the first of his career, and it came a little over 20 years ago on March 11, 2001. The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 was just Harvick’s third race in a Cup Series car. He started fifth in the 325-lap contest and led twice for 18 laps, including the final six. But Harvick had to earn the win on the final lap and hold off a then three-time champion in Jeff Gordon. Harvick succeeded, outdueling the eventual 2001 series champion to take the win by a scant .006 margin of victory – the seventh-closest finish in NASCAR history.

 

●  Of course, the backstory to that first win is significant. Harvick wasn’t just driving any racecar when he won at Atlanta. He was driving the racecar that less than a month earlier had been piloted by the sport’s titan, Dale Earnhardt. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Team owner Richard Childress tabbed Harvick, who was racing for him in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, to pull double-duty and take over Earnhardt’s Cup ride. The No. 3, made iconic by Earnhardt, was changed to the No. 29 and Harvick made his Cup Series debut Feb. 25 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Harvick started 36th that Sunday at Rockingham, but rain washed over the 1.017-mile oval just 51 laps into the 393-lap race. The race resumed at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, whereupon Harvick drove to a solid 14th-place finish. He then traveled to Las Vegas on Tuesday, married his wife, DeLana, on Wednesday, and was back in a racecar on Friday, competing in both the Xfinity Series and Cup Series events at Las Vegas. After finishing eighth on Sunday to score his first career top-10 in the Cup Series, Harvick headed to Atlanta where the first of his 58 career Cup Series wins was secured.

 

●  Harvick is also incredibly good at Atlanta outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. He has five Xfinity Series wins at the track, including four in his last six starts at the 1.54-mile oval, the most recent of which ended in victory – February 2018 when he walloped the field, leading four times for a race-high 141 laps and cruising to the win with a 4.183 margin over second-place Joey Logano. In 17 career Xfinity Series start at Atlanta, Harvick has 11 top-fives and 13 top-10s with 973 laps led. And in his two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Atlanta, Harvick has a win and a second-place finish. He finished second in his Truck Series debut at Atlanta in March 2009, where he led four times for a race-high 68 laps before coming up .122 of a second short of beating Kyle Busch for the win. But in Harvick’s Truck Series return to Atlanta in March 2010, he dominated by leading twice for a race-high 100 laps and this time besting runner-up Kyle Busch by 1.308 seconds.

 

●  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 

 

How do you feel about the new Atlanta Motor Speedway?

“As a driver, there was nothing better than the Atlanta Motor Speedway and its old asphalt. Now it’s a new racetrack, and it’s obviously going to be different. But a lot of things this year are different, so it fits right into the theme.”

 

You’re going to a whole new Atlanta with a whole new car. How do you tackle that?

“Atlanta is a race where you have some actual practice, so that’s a good thing. It’s another element that you have to add in there with the grip level of the racetrack and the new asphalt and everything that comes with that, and where to run on the racetrack. So, you have things that are just going to chew up time on practice day as far as learning what you need to do from the driver’s seat, and that progression of the racetrack definitely affects the handling of the racecar. There are just so many challenges in the beginning of the year with new racetracks and new cars and logistics and you just have to be very open-minded. You have to take it one step at a time and not get too frustrated with everything that’s going to be going on because there’s going to be a lot to digest.”

 

Do you look forward to this challenge with all the experience the No. 4 Mobil 1 team has between you and crew chief Rodney Childers?

“Any moment can be the moment, right? So just approach it like any moment can be your moment. You have to be able to let everything go that happened in the last practice or the week before or the race before and apply yourself to the current, real-life situation of trying to achieve what everybody wants to achieve in that moment. So you have to stay in the moment and do the things that it takes to be successful right now.”

 

You’ve always embraced change. Do you feel that your willingness to accept change has you better prepared for this first race at the new Atlanta?

“That really goes back to when we started at SHR and that was a topic of conversation about the original building of the 4 team, and that Rodney (Childers) and I have always been open minded to progression and things that we haven’t done in the past and doing things differently – being open to doing things differently, even if you think they should be the same, and knowing the timing of when to change those things and talking through all those things. So, the communication part is going to be super important in order to not get lost with everything that’s going on. And being able to communicate that and work through it together is important because any moment can be your moment.”

 

You’ve written a lot of chapters in your career at Atlanta. Does the new Atlanta provide you with an opportunity to write a new chapter?

“Any place is a great place to have a moment, and that just shows the magnitude of our sport and the things that we do. Any town or any track can be a spectacular moment and a defining moment in your career. Obviously, you can’t ever repeat your first win, you can’t ever do that again. So that will always be there no matter what the facility looks like.”

 

How important is Mobil 1’s technology in the overall efficiency of your racecar, specifically in regard to reducing friction, heat and rolling resistance?

“Mobil 1 technology is a true difference maker, especially this year with the new car. With everyone essentially having the same parts and pieces, we have to maximize what we’ve got. Efficiency equals speed. The less friction, the less rolling resistance, the faster you’ll go. From the synthetic oil in the engine to all the lubricants throughout the car, it all adds up to a more efficient racecar, and that shows up on the stopwatch.”

 

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