Sunday, Nov 28

Unibet Racing: Kevin Harvick Martinsville Advance

Notes of Interest

 

●  Unibet is the primary sponsor for driver Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the Xfinity 500 Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Unibet is a part of the Kindred Group, one of the top online gambling operators with business across Europe, the U.S. and Australia. The Unibet brand is building on its years of European experience in the responsible gambling and player sustainability field and extending that mindset to its U.S. operations, with motorsports being a key platform.

 

●  Harvick is out of the NASCAR Playoffs, but he’s still competing at a playoff-caliber level. The 45-year-old racer from Bakersfield, California, comes into Martinsville fresh off a strong third-place finish last Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. It was his 10th top-five and his 23rd top-10 of the season. There are only two other drivers who have more top-10s this year than Harvick – championship leader Kyle Larson (25 top-10s) and Denny Hamlin (24 top-10s).

 

●  When it comes to finishing among the top-10 in NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville, Harvick is batting .500. The driver of the No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang has made 40 career starts at the .526-mile oval and recorded 20 top-10s, the second-highest tally among all active Cup Series drivers. Only Hamlin has more top-10s (22).

 

●  Among those 20 top-10s earned by Harvick is a win in April 2011. He defeated Dale Earnhardt Jr., by .727 of a second to win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was Harvick’s 20th NASCAR Cup Series start at the track and his 16th career Cup Series victory. Harvick now has 58 career Cup Series wins and is alone at 10th on the all-time win list.

 

●  Harvick’s next best finish outside of that lone Martinsville win in April 2011 was a third-place drive in the series’ prior visit to the track in October 2010. It was the start of a three-race run of top-fives at Martinsville, as Harvick followed his win with a fourth-place effort in the series’ return to the facility in October.

 

●  Harvick’s best Martinsville finish since joining SHR in 2014 is a pair of fifth-place results – Oct. 29, 2017 and March 20, 2018. He finished ninth in his most recent visit to the track in April.

 

●  Martinsville is the shortest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and its tight corners with only 12 degrees of banking means that beating and banging – be it door-to-door or bumper-to-bumper – is commonplace. But that also means accidents are prevalent, and being able to keep one’s car running from start to finish is easier said than done. In Harvick’s 40 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville, he has an impressive lap completion rate of 98.3 percent. That means that of the 20,039 laps available to him, he has failed to complete just 344 of those laps. Among active drivers, only Kurt Busch has completed more laps at Martinsville (20,381), but with two more starts than Harvick (42).

 

●  Harvick has tasted success in every type of car he has raced at Martinsville. In addition to his NASCAR Cup Series win, he has a NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph and three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories.

 

●  Harvick is undefeated in the Xfinity Series at Martinsville. He earned the equivalent of a walk-off homer on July 22, 2006 when in his only Xfinity Series start at the track, he led three times for a race-high 149 laps to take the win by .271 of a second over runner-up Clint Bowyer.

 

●  Harvick’s three Truck Series wins at Martinsville came in 17 starts. He won on March 30, 2009 (defeated Ron Hornaday Jr.), March 27, 2010 (defeated Hornaday again) and March 31, 2012 (defeated Ty Dillon).

 

●  The Truck Series is where Harvick made his first start of any kind at Martinsville – Sept. 26, 1998 when he finished 25th. Harvick earned his first top-10 at Martinsville on April 17, 1999 in a Ford F-150 for team owner Jim Herrick.

 

●  DYK? Harvick tested a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car at Martinsville on Jan. 21, 2020. The Modified Tour is NASCAR’s oldest division and it is the only open-wheel series sanctioned by NASCAR. Compared to a NASCAR Cup Series car, a Tour car is 11 inches shorter in height and a little more than 23 inches wider. It also weighs nearly 800 pounds less. Harvick’s test came via Ryan Preece’s No. 6NY Tour car. Preece was the 2013 series champion and he earned the first of his 25 career Modified Tour victories at Martinsville on Sept. 20, 2008, leading 265 of the race’s 300 laps. Harvick and his company, KHI Management, represent Preece, who is now in his third full season competing in the Cup Series.

 

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

 

How are you approaching this Sunday’s race at Martinsville, where you’re racing the track and those eight drivers still in the playoffs? More specifically, do you approach this race differently than you did when you raced at Martinsville back in April?

“It’s pretty much the same. You have to be on the offensive a lot of the time, but you also have to put yourself in good positions defensively, as well, to make sure you don’t get your car torn up, or get it torn up as little as possible as you go through the day. It’s definitely a little bit different at the end of the year just because of the fact that everybody’s agenda is different. You have eight guys who are left racing for a championship. You’ve got guys that want to win races and you’ve got guys who just want to have a good finish. So, there are a number of different agendas that, really, we’re dealing with all the way through the playoffs.”

 

If you make a mistake at Martinsville and it impacts someone else, how and when do you deal with it?

“You only have so much time, so you just have to deal with it after the race. The repercussions of doing something on purpose are usually pretty noticeable. You have to balance that, especially with guys who have been doing this for a long time.”

 

Where’s the best place to be at Martinsville to help avoid trouble on the racetrack?

“The best position to be in at any racetrack is in the lead. You want to be in control of the race and try to get yourself in a position to where you can have a good, clean restart and have as much clear track, especially at Martinsville. There is so much pushing and shoving on the restarts to get to the bottom lane that I want to have our Unibet Ford Mustang as far forward as possible.”

 

Martinsville is a place known for beating and banging, but there’s a discussion of late about how younger drivers are racing and where the line is between being aggressive and over-aggressive. What’s your take on all of this?

“You race hard, it’s kind of an eye for an eye, but it’s also kind of self-policing. Somebody pulls you in the corner, puts their arm around you where you have to take a look at how you do things. But it is different now, and that’s one of the side effects of not having any Cup drivers in the Trucks and Xfinity Series as much because you don’t really learn the proper way to do it until you get here to Cup, and it’s kind of trial and error and it teaches you through the years. When I started, there were 20 to 25 Cup drivers that would show up for the Xfinity Series races and you kind of learned those lessons before you got here. Same thing for the Truck deal. We have a lot of really great young drivers here in the Cup Series, but it takes really two or three years for them to really get their feet on the ground, to show their potential, how to take care of their car. I think Ross Chastain is a great example of learning how to race the proper way. He’s just done it faster than most. I think his progression has been fun to watch just because that’s how you’re supposed to do it. It’s about maximizing that potential. Here, you have to finish races.”

 

In addition to there being a new era of drivers, we’re embarking on a new era of racecars with the debut of the NextGen car in 2022. You were able to test the NextGen car earlier this month at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. What’s it like?

“The current car has been a great car for us as far as safety and competition and different rules packages and body styles. The teams have designed their own chassis and their own parts and their own pieces. The NextGen car is definitely different but, in the end, it’s still a racecar. I don’t think we’re going to have really any advantage just because of the fact that everybody was there at the test and everybody was focused on the NextGen car and trying to figure out exactly what you need to do and where you need to do it. It was interesting to see all the crewmembers and engineers and everybody back in the garage. It’s been a long time since we had a test like that. From the NASCAR standpoint, they obviously put everybody in a position to be able to test at the same racetracks and have the same opportunities. It’s interesting, because it is drastically different. Teams have a lot less control over what they can make and how they can get parts – you’re at the mercy of vendors. As you go through these tests, there are a number of things that need to be worked on. They’ve done a good job of addressing the heat inside the racecars and coming up with something that we can fix there, but the only way to really go about finding all those problems is to have cars at the racetrack, like we did at the Roval. You’re seeing real-life problems that you have to solve quickly, before the season starts next year. But you have a lot of really smart people with all those engineers and all those team members, and that’s when all those problems start getting solved. It’ll be fun to watch the progression. It’ll be quick, now, because of the fact everybody is in the car and in the garage and working on the NextGen car.”

 

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