|Kevin Harvick is going for his third consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win this weekend as the series heads to ISM Raceway near Phoenix for Sunday afternoon’s TicketGuardian 500k.
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is off to a “Freaky Fast” start to the 2018 season, having scored back-to-back Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’s been so fast that he has led more than 49 percent of the total laps run in regular-season points-paying events thus far.
Last weekend at Las Vegas, Harvick scored a perfect 150.0 driver rating, starting second, leading 214 of 267 laps and finishing 2.906 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch.
The last Cup Series driver to win three consecutive races was Joey Logano, who won three October races in a row during the 2015 NASCAR playoffs at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Talladega (Ala.) Speedway.
While Harvick has racked up 39 wins in his Cup Series career, he has never won three Cup Series races consecutively.
Logano is one of only three active Cup Series drivers to have ever accomplished the feat. The others are Kyle Busch, who won at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2015, and Jimmie Johnson, who has done it twice. Johnson’s first three-race streak came at Charlotte, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Atlanta in 2004. Johnson also has the longest win streak among active drivers when he won four in a row at Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix in 2007.
If history is any indication, ISM Raceway could very well be the place Harvick joins that elite list.
Harvick’s career numbers at Phoenix feature a series-high eight NASCAR Cup Series wins, including five in his last nine outings. He became the only Cup Series driver to win four consecutive races at the track when he won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won again in March 2015. Only five drivers have won consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only one to win consecutive races twice. He swept both races in 2006 to go with his back-to-back wins in 2014. His most recent Phoenix win was last March.
According to NASCAR loop data, Harvick is the only driver to score a perfect 150.0 driver rating on three different occasions at Phoenix. Harvick scored his first perfect rating at the mile oval in November 2006, when he started second and led 252 of 312 laps on his way to victory lane. He accomplished the feat a second time in winning the November 2014 race. His third perfect score came in March 2015, when he won the pole, led 224 of 312 laps and beat Jamie McMurray to the finish line by 1.153 seconds.
In addition to his series-high eight wins in NASCAR’s top series, the 2014 Cup Series champion has four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Phoenix and one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His Truck Series wins came in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009. His lone Xfinity win came in 2006.
A win this weekend would continue the No. 4 team’s blistering start to the season. It currently sits atop the point standings with a three-point advantage over Joey Logano after its back-to-back wins, its 395 laps led and 13 playoff points accumulated for race and stage wins through the first three races.
|KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:|
|Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. talked on pit road after Las Vegas about how you looked like did in 2014, and Truex said, “There goes Kevin Harvick off in his own ZIP code again.” Does it really feel that way, or has so much changed in that time, is it difficult to compare?
“For me, there were a lot of questions coming into the weekend. I think Atlanta is its own beast, but I think we answered a lot of those questions for ourselves. And now it’s about navigating the rest of it, and how do you push yourself forward, what do you need to work on, even though things are going good. Sometimes you have to trick yourself and everybody else into thinking, ‘OK, well, everything is going good.’ Well, I can promise you that the 78, the 18, the 2, the 22, everybody is going to work, and they’re going to get better. I mean, we did that last year. We’ve been in this position before, and you have to keep pushing forward to try to keep your advantage of things that are working well for you, but you also have to find out what your weaknesses are. This weekend, we’re going to a flat track, and we didn’t run well there in the spring. We ran better in the fall but not like we expect to run. So that’s an important playoff race. So we have to figure out how to motivate everybody to keep pushing forward, to not sit idle in the things that we’re doing, and become complacent in the things that you’re doing because it’s good enough right now but it won’t be when you get to summertime.”
Does your car feel that much better than it did near the end of last year?
“You’ve got to remember, at the end of last year, our car was as competitive as anybody. We drove to victory lane there at Texas and led the most laps and won both stages and just had some things not work out for us at Charlotte. So, the mile-and-a-half stuff has been on point since we got to Chicago last year. I think as you have the whole winter to step back, take a deep breath and work on some things, I think as you look at everything that’s changed, it’s obviously not hurt us as much as it hurt some other people. There’s still a lot of racing left to go. But it’s good to have momentum. It’s good to have things going early. It’s good to score playoff points because we saw how important they were last year for the 78, and you want to, when things are going good, you need to hammer it home. You need to capitalize on it. You need to win stages because there will be a point where you go through that lull where somebody else is hot, and you hope that your hot streak is longer than theirs so you can score more points and put yourself in a better position for the playoff points than anybody else.”
You just scored your 100th win in NASCAR’s top three series and your next Cup Series win will be your 40th, tying you with Mark Martin for 18th on the all-time list. What do those accomplishments mean to you?
“I think any place you get on the list at this particular point, for me, I just kind of laugh, just because of the fact that I don’t think you ever really – I never really thought that I would actually – get to the point of putting yourself beside Mark Martin and some of the guys who are on that part of the list. I think as you look at the last five years and you look at the wins and the championship and the way that things have gone, it’s really kind of rejuvenated everything that I’ve done and the way I feel about coming to the racetrack. You feel obligated to be a part of it during the week and try to put in the maximum amount of effort because (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and (race engineer) Dax (Gerringer) and the engineers and everybody who’s working at the shop, they’re digging, and they’re not worried about where you’re at on the list. That, for me, is a good thing because it’s really week-to-week. They’ll go home and we probably won’t ever talk about what we did at Vegas until we come back to Vegas. It’s all about Phoenix this week and what we’re going to do and what we did wrong and what we did right at the fall race and where we’re at with the cars at this particular point and what do we need to work on and how do we need to work on things. Then we’ll fly home and have a good time and talk about how the weekend went. There are always things you can make better. There’s really no time to sit and reminisce about where you’re at on a list because, when things are like this, you want to capitalize on them and you want to capitalize on your cars and your people and your enthusiasm and the momentum and all the things that come with that. So, you’re almost scared to even really step back and say, we did this or we did that, and your name is on the list here. It’s just, ‘How do we keep doing this?’,And, ‘Let’s just keep pushing things forward and try not to stumble along the way and screw up what’s going on.’ To me, it feels a lot like 2014, except now you’ve got a team with five years of experience, and that’s pretty scary.”