● The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard serves as the fourth of six road-course races on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The series’ first road-course race came March 27 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where Kevin Harvick finished 11th. The second road-course race was June 12 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Harvick finished fourth. In the series’ most recent road-course race July 3 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Harvick finished 10th. The two remaining road-course races after Indianapolis are Aug. 21 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.
● Harvick, driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has made a total of 52 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 21 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, four at the Charlotte Roval, two apiece at COTA, Road America, and the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and one on the road course at Indianapolis – last year’s inaugural Verizon 200 at the Brickyard where Harvick finished 14th. He has scored two road-course wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 11 top-fives and 26 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 Pro Series win at Sonoma in 1998 was three years before his Cup Series debut on Feb. 26, 2001 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.
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Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCHFord Mustang
When it comes to Indianapolis, you’ve been clear that you prefer its 2.5-mile oval over its 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. What is it about the oval that resonates with you?
“It’s definitely an oval thing for me. Driving through that tunnel and understanding the history and everything that comes with racing on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is something that I always look forward to. When you look at the oval and you look at the history of the racetrack and everything that comes with that – some guys may not have grown up like that, so some people will have a much different opinion – but for me the oval just holds a huge place in racing and it holds a huge place in the things that I look forward to every year. I remember the first time I pulled in there for a test in 2001 and you roll into the racetrack and you think, ‘Man, I just accomplished everything in my childhood dreams, rolling into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.’ Getting to go out on that racetrack and hearing the echoes of the cars through the grandstand is something that I’ll never forget.”
Have you been asked for any input on the curbing that will be placed on the Indianapolis road course?
“Last year, it was kind of trial-and-error. I think it was pretty obvious that we didn’t need curbs that were 90 degrees to the racing direction on the racetrack that did nothing but tear up cars. In the end, we even tore down the basic ones. I think they’ve got all that rectified this season and, hopefully, we won’t have any of that happen. I think permanent, concrete, smoother curbs – all of that is better.”
Last year’s road-course race at Indianapolis turned into a bumper-car race, particularly at the end when Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin traded bumps that sent them both off the track and into an animated post-race discussion on pit road. What’s OK and what’s not OK in road-course racing, because we saw similar bumping and banging earlier this year at COTA?
“Road-course racing in general has become rougher over the last decade just because of the stage racing and the double-file restarts and everything that comes with that. I wish we could implement our choose rule in some of these situations at places like that because I think it would make it even more entertaining. But road-course racing has just progressively gotten rougher, and now with the new car and not having to worry about caving in a fender or something, you can pretty much just lay it in there and see what happens.”
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, they just take away from the race.”
The NextGen car seems to have acclimated well to all the tracks, but does it perform best on road courses since the car carries a lot of sports-car DNA?
“It’s definitely leaning more toward handling well at the road courses just because that’s kind of the nature of how it was designed. I think for me, our first road course was a lot more comfortable in the car than what we were last year. For the braking and things that come with this particular car, it’s been good for us on the road courses, so far.”
With the sequential shifter in these cars, how is shifting on a road course? Do you have to be more methodical in what you do to ensure you’re in the right gear?
“That’s still a little bit of a transition just because the cars are not hard to shift, but they’re hard to constantly shift correctly, and the timing of it with the way the gears are cut, you can mistime the shift really easily. It’s definitely something that, as you go throughout the day, you have to pay attention to.”