Monday, Sep 25

Busch Light Peach Racing: Kevin Harvick Michigan Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  Kevin Harvick has a sweet ride this weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion will drive the No. 4 Busch Light Peach Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at the 2-mile oval. Busch Light Peach is a crisp, refreshing, peach-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 in 12-, 24- and 30-packs nationwide.

 

●  The FireKeepers Casino 400 will mark Harvick’s 43rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan, the most among active drivers. Since making his first start at the track on June 10, 2001, Harvick has scored six wins, 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes while leading 737 laps, all of which are series bests. Harvick’s six wins are three more than Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, who are tied with three wins apiece. Harvick’s 16 top-fives are five more than next best Denny Hamlin (11 top-fives). Harvick’s 22 top-10s are four more than nearest pursuer Logano (18 top-10s), as are his 737 laps led, which is 147 more laps than Logano (590 laps led).

 

●  Harvick’s first NASCAR Cup Series win at Michigan came on Aug. 15, 2010. Fifteen races passed before Harvick’s second win on Aug. 12, 2018, but in that span he finished second six times, including a run of four straight runner-up finishes (2013-2014).

 

●  The victory on Aug. 12, 2018 might have been one of the most satisfying of Harvick’s career. Upon climbing from his car on the start/finish line, Harvick waved his son, Keelan, over to grab the checkered flag. Then after Harvick completed his TV interview, a then 6-year-old Keelan rode with his dad around the racetrack and on to victory lane. It was a tradition that continued a year later when Harvick successfully defended his win at Michigan. This time, Keelan joined his dad on pit road and rode in the car en route to the frontstretch, riding shotgun as Harvick performed an epic burnout on the way to the start/finish line to pick up another checkered flag.

 

●  Ever since Keelan got to take a victory lap with his dad at Michigan, Harvick’s daughter, Piper, wanted to do the same thing. Harvick delivered last August by winning the FireKeepers Casino 400. Harvick led the final 38 laps and took the victory by 2.903 seconds over second-place Bubba Wallace. After doing some burnouts and collecting the checkered flag, Harvick scooped up Piper and put her in the No. 4 Ford Mustang, just like he did with Keelan four years earlier. They took a victory lap together on their way to the winner’s circle.

 

●  The batch of second-place finishes in 2013-2014 served as a prelude to Harvick scoring a batch of wins. From August 2019 through all of 2020, Harvick won every NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan. The three-win streak began with a victory on Aug. 11, 2019 and then culminated with a sweep of the 2020 doubleheader. In taking back-to-back checkered flags Aug. 8-9, 2020 at Michigan, Harvick became the first driver to win two Cup Series races on consecutive days since Richard Petty in 1971 when Petty won July 14 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, New York, and July 15 at Islip (N.Y.) Speedway. Harvick’s sweep of the 2020 Michigan doubleheader earned him an accolade no other driver had ever achieved – the first NASCAR Cup Series driver in history to win on back-to-back days at the same track.

 

●  Harvick is one of just 10 drivers who have earned consecutive wins at Michigan, joining Bobby Allison (1971 sweep), David Pearson (1972 sweep-1973 and 1974-1975), Cale Yarborough (1983 sweep), Elliott (1985 sweep-1986 sweep), Bobby Labonte (1995 sweep), Mark Martin (1997-1998), Ryan Newman (2003-2004), Greg Biffle (2004-2005 and 2012-2013) and Kyle Larson (2016-2017 sweep).

 

●  Harvick hasn’t finished outside the top-15 at Michigan since a 29th-place result in June 2015. To provide some context to the length of this streak, here are some pop-culture anecdotes from eight years ago…

    ●  Gas was $2.08 a gallon.

    ●  The No. 1 song was “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.

    ●  The No. 1 movie was “Jurassic World,” which earned $1.67 billion at the box office.

    ●  CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS,” in their ninth and 13th seasons respectively, were the most-watched comedy and drama on TV.

    ●  The Golden State Warriors won its first NBA championship in 40 years, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The Warriors have gone on to win three more NBA titles, including the 2022 championship.

 

●  Harvick has flexed his muscles outside of the NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan. In 11 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, Harvick has a win (August 2003), four top-fives and nine top-10s. And in the NASCAR Truck Series, Harvick has a win (August 2011) and two top-fives and four top-11s.

 

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

 

How important was your win last year at Michigan? It punched your ticket to the playoffs in a season where every playoff driver had won a race.

“I think Michigan took a load off because we weren’t going to make the playoffs unless we won a race, and we’d gotten so far behind in the first half of the season that it just put us in that position to have to win. In that position, you feel a little bit more pressure because you only have one option and points really weren’t an option last year. It definitely was a relief to put that behind us and then worry about the last part of the season.”

 

That win broke a 65-race winless streak. How satisfying was it?

“I think the most gratifying part of it all was the fact that we all worked through it together. Last year, this car was so drastically different from what we had before, and it forced you to look at things a lot differently than what you did before. For myself and Rodney (Childers, crew chief), we’ve been around this for a long time, and having to forget all of the stuff that you’ve done – you’re going to the same racetracks, but it’s a different thought process. It’s a different process of how you get to that answer than what it used to be. You had to be open-minded.”

 

Michigan marks a return to a high-speed, intermediate track after running a variety of tracks through the summer. Can the knowledge learned early in the year at Fontana and Las Vegas – or even at places that we’ve raced at more recently like Kansas and Charlotte – be applied to Michigan, or were those races so long ago that it’s no longer applicable?

“Michigan is just unique because of the speed and the things that you have at Michigan. California Speedway is just so much different. And while you have the mile-and-a-half stuff that we do on a normal basis at some of those places, it’s something that is just different at Michigan. So you just kind of go off of what you’ve done in the past with the differences in the tracks and apply that to the new car with that mindset. But everything in the new car is different. We had a good car there last year and were able to get the track position we needed to show it off and we wound up going to victory lane. Last year will be more of a base than the evolution of the things that have happened this year since the rules on the big tracks are the same.”

 

We’ve heard the adage of, “Slow down to go fast,” and that seems to be used a lot at Michigan. What does that mean and how does it apply to Michigan?

“Michigan is one of those places where you don’t want to miss the center of the corner. You want to be on the throttle at the center of the corner and get that good exit speed to make the straightaway as long as you can. So the less you can touch the brake pedal and the more time you can spend on the throttle to make those straightaways as long as possible, the better speed you’re going to make. And Michigan in the past has been pretty line-sensitive, so you’ve just got to be careful about where you are on the racetrack. And if you miss that on the entry, it just screws the whole corner up.”

 

You’ve enjoyed a lot of success at Michigan, and you were able to continue that success last year in your first race at Michigan with the NextGen car. How have you been able to be so consistently good for so long at Michigan, all while so much around you has changed?

“For me, the places where car placement comes into play and being able to repeat that lap after lap is something that kind of fits my driving style. I think Michigan is one of those places where car placement and just putting yourself in the right position lap after lap after lap, and not making the mistakes that cost you a half-a-second a lap, and just making a half-a-tenth-of-a-second mistake instead of making those big mistakes and losing track position, and just doing all the little things right, is what you need to do at Michigan.”

 

In your last two Michigan wins, you’ve also been able to win Dad-of-the-Year honors by taking Keelan and Piper around the track in victory laps. Obviously, those are special, one-of-a-kind moments. What have those moments been like for you?

“Those are definitely cool dad moments. Piper was kind of frustrated that she didn’t get her turn to be able to ride in the car, so I was able to deliver on that after doing it with Keelan.”

 

How did that first moment, when you put Keelan in the car, come together?

“Honestly, that was something we had talked about beforehand. That was what he wanted to do. He wanted to get into the car and ride around after we won. He likes going to Michigan because they have a great ice cream shop and he can go to the golf course and drive a golf cart. That was after he had stuffed a golf cart into the big pine tree in the morning, and then during the day he told me, ‘Dad, if you win today, can I come out on pit road and ride in the car?’ My biggest concern right there was making sure he didn’t burn his butt because those cars and bars and everything are hot. So he had to sit over there and ride along. But what a cool experience. During pre-COVID races and things that we were doing, he was not racing and he was traveling with me, and a lot of times it was just he and I and we found all these spots at different places. But Michigan became one of his favorite places because that’s where he drove his quarter midget and we got to go to the go-kart track and go to the golf course, and the ice cream shop is always the biggest hit. And, obviously, that was his creation, riding in the car.”

 

Looking back, was it more special for him or for you?

“For me, those moments are really cool just because of the fact that they don’t stay that small very long. I look at how small he was in the videos from that race and, as you look through those old videos, it seems like it was forever ago because now I look at him and he’s twice the size as he was then. So those are just things you will have forever, and to be able to experience that was pretty neat.”

 

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