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Busch Light Racing: Kevin Harvick Watkins Glen Advance

Monday, Aug 15 450

Notes of Interest

 

●  After enduring a 65-race winless streak, Kevin Harvick is now undefeated in his last two NASCAR Cup Series starts. Harvick earned a breakthrough win Aug. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and promptly followed it with another victory in the very next race last Sunday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. It marked the eighth time in Harvick’s 22-year-and-counting Cup Series career that he has scored back-to-back wins. This Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in the Go Bowling! At The Glen, Harvick will attempt to do something he’s only done once before – win three straight Cup Series races. Harvick’s run of consecutive Cup Series wins are as follows…

    1. Richmond on Sept. 9, 2006 and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sept. 17, 2006

    2. Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, on March 27, 2011 and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April 3, 2011

    3. Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 9, 2014 and Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16, 2014 (clinched championship)

    4. Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8, 2015 and Phoenix on March 15, 2015

    5. Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 25, 2018 and Las Vegas on March 4, 2018 and Phoenix on March 11, 2018

    6. Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on May 6, 2018 and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on May 12, 2018

    7. Michigan on Aug. 8, 2020 and Michigan on Aug. 9, 2020

    8. Michigan on Aug. 7, 2022 and Richmond on Aug. 14, 2022

 

●  The Go Bowling! At The Glen serves as the fifth 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. Next up was Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on July 3 where Harvick secured a 10th-place result. In the series’ most recent road-course race July 31 on the layout inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an accident relegated Harvick to a 33rd-place finish. The final road-course race after Watkins Glen comes on Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.

 

●  Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has made a total of 53 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 21 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, four at the Charlotte Roval and two apiece at COTA, Road America, Indianapolis and the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. 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 Glen 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 25 Cup Series races with Ford, which makes him one of only 13 drivers to win 20 or more races with the manufacturer. He stands 10th on Ford’s all-time win list and is now only one win away from tying Brad Keselowski, Junior Johnson and Fred Lorenzen for ninth. Harvick has won more races driving a Mustang (15) than any other driver since the iconic muscle car became Ford’s flagship model in 2019.

 

●  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.

 

●  Compared to the other road courses on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Watkins Glen is a power track – less finesse, more get-on-the-gas-and-go. Here’s a turn-by-turn explanation of the 2.45-mile, seven-turn road course that is Watkins Glen.

    Turn 1: Once drivers take the green flag, they are immediately faced with a downhill trek into the first corner. Carrying a ton of speed down the straightaway, this is a heavy braking zone in order to get the car slowed down enough to make the right-hand turn. This is one of the best opportunities to make a pass, and this turn can get chaotic very quickly, especially on restarts.

    Turn 2: After making it through the first turn, the drivers hop on a short straight which leads them gradually uphill and into the second right-hand corner. This turn begins the ascent through the “esses” portion of the track.

    Turn 3: Continuing the uphill climb through the esses, this sweeping left-hander can be treacherous as drivers begin to carry more speed up the slope.

    Turn 4: This corner is the final portion of the esses. Drivers complete the uphill climb and the corner starts to level off, building up more speed as they enter the backstretch of the circuit.

    Inner Loop, a.k.a. the “Bus Stop”: The backstretch allows the drivers to gain a ton of momentum, which leads them into another heavy braking zone and into the inner loop, better known as the “bus stop” section of the course. Hot on the brakes upon entry, this is a great place to overtake someone before making a quick series of right- and left-hand turns. Lots of slipping, sliding and spinning happens here.

    Turn 5, a.k.a. the “Carousel”: This is a long, sweeping right-hander. Banked at 10 degrees, it is the steepest turn of the course, and it allows drivers to build up speed as they make their way onto the straightaway leading into turn six.

    Turn 6: After gaining speed while traveling down the 2,040-foot chute, drivers are approached with another heavy braking zone at the entrance of this left-hand corner. Competitors use this turn to either make a quick pass or to set themselves up for a pass heading into the final corner.

    Turn 7: Once they are through turn six, a short chute gives the drivers just enough time to adjust to make a good angle through the final corner. This is another chance to make a quality pass as the right-hand bend trickles drivers onto the frontstretch and down to the start-finish line.

 

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

 

In Formula One, there’s talk of classic venues like Monaco and Silverstone and their respective places on the F1 calendar. Is Watkins Glen one of NASCAR’s classic venues, at least when it comes to road courses?

“Watkins Glen is kind of a road-racing treasure in our country, just because of all the history and things that it has between the town and the track. That venue has held some great races throughout the years, and our races up there during the last decade have been full of fans and a lot of fun to see how road racing has progressed through the years. It’s fun to go up there. You get a lot of Canadians that come to that particular race at the end of their summer break and it just turns into a fun event.”

 

What’s a Watkins Glen moment that stands out for you?

“Watkins Glen is home to one of my favorite wins because I was able to beat Tony (Stewart). That was a fun day. Tony has always been really good at Watkins Glen and had a lot of success up there. It’s just a fast racetrack with some unique corners that determine the amount of speed that’s in the lap just because of where the car placement is. The thing that I remember about racing Tony that year is just how good he was in the braking zone going into the ‘bus stop’ in the back. He was always a good road racer and, in those years, he was getting in the Grand-Am cars and he wouldn’t even practice. He would just show up at the races and jump in the car and be competitive. That was just what he did, and he could do that in pretty much anything, and Watkins Glen was just another one of those places that stood out for him through the years where he just dominated.”

 

What are your challenges at Watkins Glen?

“The big thing for us about Watkins Glen is we’ve been a little weak in the braking zones there over the last couple of years. Hopefully, that comfort level from the road racing we’ve done beforehand carries over to there because that would definitely make up our deficit that we’ve had over the last couple of years.”

 

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.”

 

What differentiates Watkins Glen from the other road courses on the NASCAR schedule?

“Watkins Glen is just a fast, fast track, and as you look at the speed that you carry at Watkins Glen, as far as corner speed, straightaway speed, I feel like it’s the fastest road course we go to with the grippiest asphalt that we go to. You go to Road America, you get some high straightaway speeds, but the asphalt is worn out and you have these long straightaways that lead to corners where you blow the tires off. There’s just not going to be any corners at Watkins Glen where you blow the back tires off. You’ve just got to get the car turned and keep your momentum up to be good in the braking zones.”

 

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.”

 

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.”

 

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