Thursday, Aug 18

Busch Light Apple Racing: Kevin Harvick Road America Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  The Road America 250 Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, serves as the third of six road-course races on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The series’ first road-course race came on March 27 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where Kevin Harvick finished 11th. In the series’ most recent road-course race June 12 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Harvick finished fourth. The three remaining road-course races after Road America are July 31 at the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Aug. 21 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, and Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.

 

●  Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America will mark just the third time NASCAR’s premier division has competed at Road America. Prior to last year’s race, it had been 65 years since the Cup Series first raced at the road course located 65 miles north of Milwaukee. The genesis of racing at Road America began in the early 1950s when sports cars raced on the streets in and around Elkhart Lake – until the Wisconsin state legislature banned racing on public roads. So, Clif Tufte, a civil engineer and racing enthusiast who was president of the Elkhart Sand and Gravel Company, went to work. He organized a group of local citizens and leaders of the Chicago region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and they collectively developed plans and sold stock to build a permanent road course. It helped that Tufte’s company just happened to own 525 acres of virgin land outside the Village of Elkhart Lake. Ground was broken for Road America in April of 1955 and the track’s first SCCA national race weekend was held on Sept. 10, 1955. At 4.048 miles in length and with 14 turns, the track is virtually the same today as it was when it was first laid out. The natural topography of the glacial Kettle Moraine area was utilized for the track, sweeping around rolling hills and plunging through ravines, making it one of the most challenging circuits in the world. The first Cup Series race at Road America was on Aug. 12, 1956. An estimated crowd of 10,000 braved terrible weather to watch the event, which was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tim Flock driving a Mercury for car owner Bill Stroppe. Flock led 17 of the race’s 63 laps, making just two pit stops en route to his victory. Flock won with an average speed of 73.858 mph and did it in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 50 seconds. It was his fourth victory of the 1956 season and he claimed it with a 17-second margin over second-place Billy Myers

 

●  The second NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America was much nicer. Full sun and warm temperatures created a festive atmosphere for last year’s Fourth of July race, which was won by Chase Elliott with an average speed of 86.271 mph in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 33 seconds. Harvick finished 27th as he fought an ill-handling racecar that was loose in the right-hand corners and tight in the left-handers.

 

●  Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has made a total of 51 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 21 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, four at the Charlotte Roval, two on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, two at COTA, and one apiece at Road America and the road course at Indianapolis. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 11 top-fives and 25 top-10s with 195 laps led.

 

●  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 2.45-mile, seven-turn 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 1.99-mile, 10-turn 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.

 

●  All of these statistics and anecdotes make Harvick the apple of one’s eye at road courses, which is fitting since the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion will race the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang at Road America. Busch Light Apple is a crisp, refreshing, apple-flavored lager with a touch of sweet on the front end and a clear, beer finish on the back end. It is available for a limited time only NATIONWIDE for its LAST YEAR EVER in 12-, 24- and 30-packs at a store near you.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang 

 

What were your overall thoughts last year racing at Road America?

“Being in that part of the country and seeing the way that the Cup Series was taken to by the fans, and seeing all the fans – I mean, they were hiding between the trees, campers, all over the place. It was definitely a lot of fun to see all the people, and just a neat place to be during that time of the year.”

 

At 4.048 miles in length, Road America makes for a long lap. How do you navigate it?

“I haven’t spent a lot of time at Road America, but the thing I did take away from last year is there are a lot of heavy braking zones. So, I think that’s still going to be the ticket to passing – making the time into the heavy braking zones and being able to out-brake somebody.”

 

You ran the NASCAR Xfinity Series race last year at Road America in addition to the NASCAR Cup Series race. How valuable was that time on Saturday to better prepare you for Sunday?

“Just being able to make laps and being able to memorize the racetrack is something that’s important. The more laps, the better, but the cars were quite a bit different, so some of it helped, some of it hurt.”

 

Because a lap is so long at Road America, pit strategy is a big factor, and your pit strategy can be undone by an untimely caution simply because there is so much real estate there for someone else to bring out a caution when you’re on pit road. Is Road America a race where your crew chief, Rodney Childers, truly is your co-pilot because he has a view of the race you don’t?

“They definitely have a better view, but I think stage racing has taken some of that out of play because you have to put tires on at the end of those stages because Road America does eat the tires up pretty good. It’s such a long lap that you have to think so far ahead, but the stages have definitely minimized the strategy that comes with it because of where the stage ends fall.”

 

Do we need actual stage breaks with full-course cautions on road courses?

“In my opinion, there should be no stage breaks. I think the stages should be rolling laps and when the stage ends, the stage ends, and you score points on that lap. But I think that the stages, and all the extra cautions, especially at a place like Road America, they just take away from the race.”

 

 

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