Kevin Harvick became a NASCAR All-Star back in 2001 and has been one every year since.
He was 26 years old in March of 2001 when he scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was in his third-ever Cup Series race and immediately qualified him for that year’s All-Star Race.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has two wins, four second-place finishes, six top-fives, 12 top-10s and has led 157 laps in 19 previous All-Star events.
But those all took place at the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and, Wednesday night, the event will take for the first time at the .533-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval.
Harvick will also have Busch Light Apple on his car for the All-Star Race, as well as on July 23 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and the doubleheader Aug. 8 and 9 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Busch Light Apple is a refreshing, light lager, which combines the crispness of Busch with the light sweetness of apple flavor. It’s like the sound of refreshment meets the taste of the orchard, and is the first flavor innovation in the history of the Busch Light brand.
The All-Star Race will feature several new wrinkles Wednesday night.
Each driver’s car number won’t be centered on the driver-side door panel as normal. Instead, it will move back toward the rear wheel, giving teams more room for the sponsor logos on the sides of the cars. Also, the cars will feature underglow lighting beneath them that should add a visual effect never seen at a Cup Series race.
Additionally a choose rule will be in effect Wednesday night. When drivers emerge single file after pit stops under caution, a lap or two before the restart they will drive to a designated spot on the track marked by a cone, where they must commit to either the inside or outside lane. Failure to make a clear choice, or changing lanes after the designated spot, will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane.
Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision on whether to start in the inside or outside lane, and strategy will come into play in every instance. For example, the second-place driver could choose to start behind the leader or on the front row. Or, if the first four drivers pick the same lane because it is the preferred groove, the driver in fifth might decide to restart on the front row, even though it may be the non-preferred groove.
The All-Star Race will have four stages with Stage One lasting 55 laps, Stages Two and Three at 35 laps apiece, and Stage Four lasting 15 laps. Only green-flag laps will count in the final stage, and the final stage will end with a checkered flag. If the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, then there will be unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.
It doesn’t matter if a driver has been an All-Star for almost 20 years running come Wednesday night. There is a $1 million first price is on the line, which means it should be a heck of a show.
Thoughts on the All-Star Race moving to Bristol?
“It’s going to look much different than the All-Star Races we’ve had over the past several years. I think all of us, from the drivers’ perspective and the fans’ perspective, have been itching for our All-Star Race. I think it’s going to be very similar to old Bristol because they are going to spray the traction compound on the bottom of the racetrack and there are very short races that are going to happen (starting with the All-Star Open). What I think is going to happen is the majority of the race is going to be run on the bottom of the racetrack, which means, in order to pass somebody, you’re probably going to have to use the front bumper, which could get pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to it and I’m really excited about the change for the All-Star Race.”
How strange has it been with no fans at any of these races?
“Anything I’ve ever competed in, whether it’s fantasy football, racing or park league basketball, you always had someone to share it with. And right now they really don’t let us be around anybody at the racetrack. And they just abandon us (laughs). Once the TV people leave, I drive the car to victory lane, I take a few pictures and then they make me leave (laughs). You have all that enthusiasm and excitement and it’s the strangest thing, but it’s a good reminder of how much enthusiasm you have to share with the fans and how much you feed off of that after you get out of the car. I’m looking forward to getting back to that, but am I excited that we are racing and that brings some normalcy with what’s going on.”