Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sonoma has been a part of Kevin Harvick's entire racing life

Kevin Harvick is 7/1 to win at Sonoma.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion: 

What is the first thing you think of when you think of Sonoma? 
“The first thing I think of when we are going to Sonoma is that we are going road racing. It’s definitely the first road race of the year and Sonoma is a very technical, slower-type road course. I’ve been fortunate to race there for a long time and look forward to going there every year.” 

Sonoma is one of only two road courses on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule and it’s widely regarded as the more technical of the two. What are the big differences between Sonoma and Watkins Glen? 
“I think the biggest difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is that the speeds are drastically different. Sonoma is a much tighter course with sharper corners and a lot less speed, where you don’t really even use fourth gear, unless you’re saving gas. It’s a much slower track than Watkins Glen and the tires fall off a lot more than they do at The Glen. So, you’ve got to get your car to technically be very good as it turns the corner, but also keep track of the forward grip as you go through a run.” 

What can you tell me about your days in the late 1990s running in the West Series? 
“I guess it was the middle of 1997, I went to work for Wayne and Connie Spears to basically be a mechanic for about $24,000 a year. I just wanted the opportunity to race something. We had kind of gone through the point of all of our family stuff and where we were on that stuff because we couldn’t really afford to keep going racing cars and doing all the things that we were doing. I went to work there as a mechanic hoping I would get a shot to drive. I got the shot to drive my first race in Bakersfield (California) in the Winston West Series. Then I got to drive in the Truck Series at Louisville (Kentucky). I think the track in Louisville was nine turns and a jump. That was the coolest racetrack. Every time we showed up, there would be 15,000 people packed around this little D-shaped racetrack. It was one of those racetracks that you never got full throttle. You’d wait for the jack stub to hit in the last corner, then you’d jump toward the finish line. I only went there a couple years but, every year I went there, someone would back into the fence in qualifying trying to get to the start-finish line. If you drove it to the finish line, you’d back into the fence in turn one. Mike Wallace can vouch for that because I remember seeing him back it into the fence there. 

“That all led into the 1998 season. I drove the second half of the Truck Series season for Wayne and Connie Spears. So we decided going in to 1998 that we were going to start off running the full truck series schedule and the first part of the Winston West schedule. I think we started (the K&N Pro Series West season) off in Tucson (Arizona). We had a good run there. We wound up going to Las Vegas and winning the race. The next thing we know, we are two or three races into the season and leading the points. So Wayne – you just have to know Wayne to be able to understand his enthusiasm for racing and the way that he approaches things, he’s a cool old dude – he said, ‘Alright, we’re going to run them both.’ So I’m like, ‘Perfect.’ I was 21 or 22 years old and I was going to go run the full Truck Series schedule and the full West Series. We wound up winning the third (West Series) race of the season in Las Vegas. I think we won five West Series races that season – we won in Las Vegas, Altamont Raceway, Pikes Peak – which is one of the coolest racetracks I’ve ever raced at, Sonoma, and probably the biggest win that we had that year was at California Speedway. I got to race against Ken Schrader. It was the first time I’d ever been around his car close enough on a racetrack to even see what was on the back bumper, the side of his car or what the front bumper looked like, because he won pretty much every Southwest Tour race, Winston West race and he ran pretty much every type of race you could run in the country. It was just one of those years where we had fun everywhere we went. 

“So we get done with the second or third race of the season and Wayne decides we are going to run the whole schedule, but he said he had some rules about what we have to do in order to get to that. He told me he wasn’t buying another truck and trailer and you only have one car. I was like, ‘OK.’ We were all pretty enthusiastic about the things we were doing. Well, he told us there was a 1977 Winnebago that sat outside for 15 years. He told us that was our tow vehicle and there was a 28-foot trailer and that’s all you get on the weekends, where there is no truck and trailer that’s gone racing trucks. So we went out back and we fixed this 1977 Winnebago to get it running. That’s what we traveled up and down the road with when the truck hauler was gone. It had green shag carpet throughout the whole thing and the tires were literally buried halfway up. We had to put all new tires on this thing. It wouldn’t run. We got it running and had a lot of fun going up and down the road. We won some races and had a lot of good stories. 

“We ended up winning the West Series championship in Las Vegas. We had gone out and had too much fun the night before and I apparently showed up to the racetrack the next day still hung over, so we qualified that morning and they sent me back home to take a shower. Then we came back and won the championship on that particular night. This was 20 years ago, so don’t hold that against me. Things have changed and we’re more responsible these days, but that was a time. Riding in the Winne.”

Chassis Information
: Chassis No. 4-1034: Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-1034 in the Save Mart 350k NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Built new in 2017, Chassis No. 4-1034 will make its NASCAR Cup Series debut Sunday afternoon. 

Sonoma Raceway Notes of Interest

 Fast and Reliable Since 2014: Harvick is in his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. In their first three seasons together, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 12 victories, 11 poles, 54 top-five finishes and 75 top-10s; led 5,815 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016. 

 Points Position: Harvick arrives at the Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway ranked fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 508 points after a 14th -place finish at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. He trails leader Kyle Larson by 132 points. Harvick is not currently qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs as he has yet to record a win in 2017. 

 Leading Laps: Through the first 15 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series events of 2017, Harvick ranks fourth in laps led with 514 of 4,666 total laps contested – more than 11 percent. Harvick has led at least one lap in eight of the 15 points-paying events of 2017. 

 Harvick at Sonoma in the NASCAR Cup Series: Harvick will make his 17th NASCAR Cup Series start Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. His career-best Cup Series effort at Sonoma came in June 2007, when he finished runner-up to Juan Pablo Montoya by 4.097 seconds. Harvick’s Sonoma resume shows four top-five finishes, seven top-10s and 36 laps led with an average finish of 14.6. Sonoma remains one of only four current Cup Series venues where Harvick has yet to reach victory lane in NASCAR’s premier series. Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth are the other three. 

 Harvick at Sonoma in the K&N Pro Series West: Harvick won his only start at Sonoma in the K&N Pro Series West in October 1998. Harvick, driving for Spears Motorsports, started third and led only the final lap to secure the victory over Brandon Ash by 0.154 of a second. 

 Passing a Legend: Harvick scored his 49th career second-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono in June, breaking a tie with Lee Petty and taking sole possession of 10th on the all-time Cup Series second-place-finishes list. 

 Upcoming Milestone: Harvick also needs 245 laps led to become the 17th Cup Series driver of all-time to lead 11,000 or more laps. 

 Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 35 wins, 159 top-fives, 292 top-10s and 20 poles in 589 career Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s event at Sonoma.

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