|Kevin Harvick is a 9/2 co-favorite to win at Atlanta.|
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve led 100 or more laps in five of your last six races at Atlanta. Talk about that.
“It’s been a really good racetrack to us to be able to lead a lot of laps. We’ve won some Xfinity and Truck races there and we’ve dominated a lot of the Cup races and just haven’t gone to victory lane enough. So, it’s just one of those places where we went to a tire test there in 2008 and figured some things out and nothing’s really changed since then. A lot of the same techniques, cracks and crevices are still there. Last time, we saw some of the racing lanes move up the racetrack, but it’s a great place to race. I love going to Atlanta and I hope the nice warm weather this weekend brings a lot of race fans to Atlanta.”
You dominated last year and came up short in the end. What makes Atlanta such a fun place to race?
“I led 292 laps last year at Atlanta and screwed it up with a speeding penalty at the end of the race. But, I think if you would talk to the garage in general, this is one of the drivers’ favorite tracks. I think the reason it is considered one of the favorite tracks on the circuit is that the tires wear out so fast, cars slide around and you just have to do so much behind the wheel to be able to make your car go around the corner all day. It’s a very fun place to race but, for me, it’s been a very frustrating place to race because we’ve run so well through the years there and only been to victory lane one time – and that was my very first time. It’s a place we want to go to and run well and hopefully they keep putting a lot of patches down – a lot of patches. Anybody from a fan standpoint or a driver standpoint, feel free to find Marcus Smith on Twitter and tell him how great the old asphalt is and do not repave the racetrack. The campaign has begun – do not repave Atlanta.”
What do you like about the Atlanta Motor Speedway layout?
“I just love the abrasiveness of the racetrack. It still has a lot of speed for the first three or four laps, but then it has a lot of fall-off and a lot of bumps that give it character. As a driver, you just love the challenge that comes with racing at Atlanta. This is always one that I circle on my calendar as a favorite and I look forward to racing in Atlanta this weekend.”
At some point in time, if they have to repave, do you keep the same configuration or change it up a bit?
“I have told Ed Clarke this – he is the president of Atlanta Motor Speedway – I’ve told him face-to-face that if you repave Atlanta Motor Speedway, and you can remember back to the last time they repaved and gave it its current configuration, just how fast it was. Atlanta is just one of those racetracks where the banking is just really smooth getting into the corner and the transitions are really smooth off of the corner, the exits open up really nice – you can just carry a ton of speed. For me, that is not exactly what we need more of. If you’re going to redo the racetrack and you just have to repave it – and the only way I would repave it is if you can’t dry it like we had at Texas a few years back. I would do everything that I could not to repave it because of the fact it’s just a great place to drive and the competitors love it. I would definitely try to reconfigure it in some way, shape or form if you did have to repave it. I told Ed that, if it was me, I would just move the backstretch in a whole bunch and go back to the original tighter corners they used to have. If you’re going to go through the whole repaving process, have an open mind and the ability to have some ownership where they’ve redone their corners and some of their racetracks with the banking. They’re obviously willing to change things and make them different. There is no way I would just repave it in the current configuration because it would be lightning fast.”
What’s it like to be back at the site of your first NASCAR Cup Series win?
“You can’t ever win the first one twice. To come back here and know everything that was attached to that first win is something you look back on and realize the magnitude of the situation. I guess the second thing is, I can’t believe we haven’t won there since. It’s definitely one of my favorite racetracks and we’ve led a ton of laps there. For whatever reason, on Sundays, we haven’t been able to put the finishing touches on it. Fridays and Saturdays in the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series, we’ve won a ton of races but, hopefully, we can end that Cup Series streak this weekend. I’m looking forward to having Folds of Honor there this weekend. They’re a big part of all the sponsors on our car and I would call Major Dan a good friend. He participates a lot in the activities we do. Usually, for whatever reason, when we’re around Major Dan, we’ve had a lot of success over the next weekend’s race so, hopefully, we can go to victory lane and have someone from the Folds of Honor hand us that trophy.”