Tuesday, May 24

GEARWRENCH Racing: Kevin Harvick COTA Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  GEARWRENCH®, a premier hand tool brand from Apex Tool Group, makes its debut as a primary partner on the No. 4 Ford Mustang of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver Kevin Harvick this weekend at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. GEARWRENCH is the No. 1 worldwide professional-grade mechanics’ hand tool brand, offering products that are designed and manufactured to meet the requirements of pros, mechanics and auto techs making a living with their tools. GEARWRENCH understands the problems mechanics face every day and provides tools that increase productivity through speed, strength and access. Since the launch of the original five-degree ratcheting wrench, the GEARWRENCH brand has led the industry with breakthroughs in pass-thru ratchets, sockets, screw/nut drivers, pliers, extraction tools and specialty tools. Learn more at GEARWRENCH.com.

 

●  Featured on the decklid of Harvick’s No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang during the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA is Bolt Biter™, a line of extraction tools from GEARWRENCH that has quickly become a major force in the extraction tool category through its innovative design and unmatched durability. Bolt Biter reliably removes corroded, rusted, rounded and frozen fasteners, keeping fastener extraction problems from slowing pros, mechanics and auto techs down. The line includes unique products specific to removing a wide range of fasteners including sockets, standard nuts, lugnuts, screws and more. For full details, visit GEARWRENCH.com/extraction-tools.

 

●  This weekend marks NASCAR’s second appearance at COTA. The 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course was constructed in 2011 and has been America’s home to Formula One since the global motorsports series returned to America with the 2012 United States Grand Prix. The United States Grand Prix dates back to 1950 when the Indianapolis 500 counted as a round of the world championship. Eleven times from 1950 to 1960, points scored at Indy were added to a Formula One driver’s season tally, and in 1959 America hosted two Formula One races when in addition to Indianapolis, the United States Grand Prix was held at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. It served as the ninth and final round of the 1959 season. In 1960, Formula One moved to Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway before finally settling down for a 20-year tenure at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International from 1961 to 1980. From 1976 to 1980, Watkins Glen was joined by Long Beach, California, on the Formula One schedule, with the United States Grand Prix West taking place until 1983. After Watkins Glen fell off the calendar, Las Vegas took its place for two seasons (1981-1982) with the Caesars Palace Grand Prix being held on its hotel parking lot. In 1982, America hosted three Formula One races when in addition to Long Beach and Las Vegas, Detroit was added to the schedule. Detroit hosted Formula One on a bumpy street circuit for seven years, with its last grand prix coming in 1988. Dallas made a one-race appearance in 1984 when Fair Park was converted to a Formula One circuit for the Dallas Grand Prix. Phoenix was next up for Formula One from 1989 to 1991 before a nine-year absence of the sport from America’s shores. But then Indianapolis Motor Speedway built a road course within the confines of the historic 2.5-mile oval and Formula One returned with the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis from 2000 to 2007. Sadly, Formula One in America fell off the calendar again. It wasn’t until COTA was constructed, becoming the first purpose-built Formula One facility in the United States, that Formula One was able to return to America.

 

●  Contrast best describes a lap around COTA. High speed and rapid changes of direction comprise the layout between turns two and 10, with this first sector akin to the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex at the famed Silverstone Circuit in England. The end of the lap from turn 12 through turn 20 before hitting the frontstretch features low-speed combinations. The long backstraight, however, is where drivers want to retain as much speed as possible to either attack or defend through the tight turn 12. This corner, along with the uphill run to turn one and the hairpin in turn 11, provide good passing opportunities.

 

●  Harvick has made a total of 49 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 20 starts at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, 20 at Watkins Glen, four at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, two on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and one apiece at COTA, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 10 top-fives and 24 top-10s with 195 laps led.

 

●  Harvick has two starts at COTA – one in the NASCAR Cup Series and one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – and both came last year in NASCAR’s inaugural visit to the track. Harvick finished a strong fourth in the Xfinity Series race before suffering a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the Cup Series race due to an accident 19 laps into the 54-lap race, which was shortened 14 laps from its scheduled 68-lap distance due to heavy rain.

 

●  When Harvick scored his first road-course victory at Watkins Glen in 2006, he had to beat his current team owner to do it. Tony Stewart – the “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing – had won the past two NASCAR Cup Series races at the seven-turn, 2.45-mile road course and was poised to capture a third straight win as he was leading Harvick with four laps to go in the 90-lap race. But Harvick, who had already led once for 24 laps, passed Stewart on lap 87 as the two drag-raced down the frontstretch and into turn one. Harvick held onto the lead despite Stewart in his rearview mirror, earning a margin of victory of .892 of a second.

 

●  Harvick’s second career road-course win also had a connection to Stewart. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he gave Stewart-Haas Racing its second straight victory at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. The winner in 2016? None other than Stewart. It ended up being his 49th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory as Stewart retired from NASCAR racing at the conclusion of the season.

 

●  Harvick’s last road-course win was his first in a Ford. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he became the 83rd different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race behind the wheel of a Ford. Harvick has now won 23 Cup Series races with Ford, which makes him one of only 13 drivers to win 20 or more races with the manufacturer. He is currently tied with Rusty Wallace and Carl Edwards for 11th on the all-time Ford win list.

 

●  Harvick has four road-course wins outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. Two came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 and Watkins Glen in 2007 – and two were in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – Sonoma in 1998 and Sonoma in 2017. Harvick’s K&N Series win at Sonoma in 1998 was three years before his Cup Series debut on Feb. 26, 2001 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.

 

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

 

Last year’s race at COTA was your first at the track. How did you prepare to race on a track you had never been to before?

“My big thing is just memorizing what’s next on the racetrack. You’re never going to get a good feel for the elevation, but I think the Ford simulator gives the best sense of how our GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang will perform at COTA. You’re able to sit in your own seat and have your own steering wheel and you’re just in a more realistic surrounding. In iRacing, I spent a lot of time in the V8 Supercar just making laps and trying to make sure I knew the direction of the corners before I got to the simulator so I understood what I was getting into.”

 

When it comes to road-course racing, do you feel that more of the race is in your hands?

“You do have more in your hands, for sure, especially when it comes to shifting and all the different things that could happen. But strategy and track position are a big part of that element too. It’s just like anything else, you’ve got to have the whole piece of the puzzle to put it all together.”

 

There are now six road-course races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule compared to just two a few years ago. Do you feel that’s good for the sport?

“I think the additions of all of these road courses has been great for the sport. Road racing is the way to expand the sport because there are so many great road courses around the world.”

 

How do you approach these road-course weekends?

“There’s just a lot more time that goes into a road-race week. You have to spend a lot of time in the simulator. You have to spend a lot of time with your previous notes and make sure you have the shift points and all the things that you remember as far as curbs you need to hit and things you don’t need to hit, where you need to be on the racetrack, tire falloff. You have to have everything memorized before you get there so that the first few laps are valuable because you’re still going to be learning the real-life tolerances of the grip level. And you’re going to have to blend that into also trying to do it in a short amount of time and get something out of those practices to give some feedback about the cars. It’s a different preparation week for the road courses than it is anything else.”

 

Has the diversity of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, combined with the NextGen car, made NASCAR the most prominent motorsports property in the United States?

“I think it’s the most relevant motorsport in our country, and I think this year is a huge reminder of that just in the relevance of the way that the car looks to the street car. You can look at everything that’s involved, and you see the sponsors and the big shops and everything that goes with that, but for the most part I would tell you that the drivers and the crew members are very blue collar, very relevant to the common person in our country. So I think that seeing normal people doing pretty exciting things and being able to do what we do, people can relate to the drivers and the team members because they all came from somewhere that was pretty normal. I think it’s just very relatable from being able to watch it on TV or go to the racetrack, and it’s been here for more than 70 years. It’s just become a generational thing because of families watching. In the end, I think the competitors are very relatable to the common person.”

 

NASCAR is filled with racers – people who are working at the pinnacle of the sport after starting at the grassroots level. Does it takes a racer’s mentality to make it to this level and then stay there?

“NASCAR is the pinnacle of motorsports in our country, just because of the fact that whether you raced at a local short track, worked on a car, drove a car, your goal was to wind up in NASCAR and be at the top level at some particular point. We see people come from all forms of racing and try to be a part of it. It’s just where everybody wants to be. No matter how you get here, where you came from or what you worked on or drove, NASCAR is really the top level of racing in our country.”

 

COTA is a race weekend that features all three of NASCAR’s top national touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. How important is it for the drivers in the Xfinity and Truck Series to be racing on the same weekend at the same track where the Cup Series is racing?

“It’s important to have these training grounds at the same facilities, with a lot of the same officials, and to be able to see what’s happening during practice and how teams function. It all happens at such a young age for a lot of the drivers who come up, now. You have to be able to see the professionalism of what’s happening and how it functions, the marketing side of what happens. There’s a lot more to it than just jumping into the racecar. And you see the huge production of the race weekends, and coming to your first Truck race, and coming on a Truck weekend and being able to see the facilities that you get to race in, it’s an eye-opening experience. But you have to have somewhere that you can do that. The good news is, in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, you can see all that, and there are a lot of things you can check off the list in the Xfinity and Truck Series before you get to Cup.”

 

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