Monster Jam/Grave Digger Racing: Kevin Harvick Nashville Advance

Stewart-Haas Racing
●  Event:  Inaugural Ally 400 (Round 17 of 36)
●  Time/Date:  3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 20
●  Location:  Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway
●  Layout:  1.333-mile, concrete oval
●  Laps/Miles:  300 laps/399.9 miles
●  Stage Lengths:  Stages 1: 90 laps / Stage 2: 95 laps / Final Stage: 115 laps
●  TV/Radio:  NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio 
Notes of Interest
 ●  Introducing Grrraaaaaaaave Digger! That’s right, one of the most decorated Monster Jam trucks in the world will be represented in the inaugural Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway… and we have Keelan Harvick to thank for it. Keelan wanted to give his dad, Kevin, the most awesome Father’s Day gift ever, so the eight-year-old organized a surprise for his dad – a Grave Digger paint scheme on Kevin’s No. 4 Ford Mustang. It turns out the iconic paint scheme featured on the 12,000-pound, larger-than-life truck that rides on enormous 66-inch BKT tires transfers well to a sleek and fast Stewart-Haas Racing-built Ford Mustang. The No. 4 Monster Jam/Grave Digger Ford Mustang is sure to turn heads this Father’s Day weekend – in the stands and on the track as drivers do a double-take when they see Grave Digger looming large in their rearview mirror. 

●  Fans in Nashville who want to see the real Grave Digger only need to wait a month. Monster Jam visits Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville July 17-18. There are three events – two on Saturday at 1 p.m. CDT and 6:30 p.m., and one on Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased by clicking here

●  It’s been 10 years since NASCAR last competed at Nashville Superspeedway, and it was an Xfinity Series race on July 23, 2011 that was won by Carl Edwards. The NASCAR Cup Series has never competed on the 1.333-mile oval, but Cup teams tested there extensively back in the day when it was fashionable to race on Sunday, test somewhere on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then fly to the next Cup race on Thursday. Harvick, now in his 21st year of Cup Series competition, has logged many laps in a Cup car at Nashville Superspeedway despite the track never hosting a Cup race until this Sunday’s inaugural Ally 400. 

●  Harvick has, however, raced at Nashville Superspeedway and performed incredibly well. In four career Xfinity Series starts at the track, Harvick has two wins – April 15, 2006 and April 3, 2010. He finished third on June 10, 2006 and recorded his worst finish, seventh, in his first Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on April 14, 2001. It all gave Harvick an average finish of third. He also had a lap completion rate of 100 percent, running all 900 laps available to him, and he led 123 of those laps. 

●  Harvick also made one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Nashville Superspeedway. It was on April 2, 2010 when he finished second to Kyle Busch. 
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Monster Jam/Grave Digger Ford Mustang 
 So how does a Monster Jam truck – and not just any Monster Jam truck, but the Monster Jam truck of Monster Jam trucks – rank as a cool Father’s Day gift, and a surprise Father’s Day gift from your son, Keelan?“It’s THE monster truck. Loud noises, big engines, big wheels, big tires, fast racecars, and to have that be a surprise, it’s surprising to me because of the fact that it’s with Grave Digger and everything, the history, that goes with that truck. But it doesn’t surprise me that it’s something related to a car and tying it in to what we do. This one caught me off guard, though, because I had no idea that any of this was happening and, to have my 8-year-old son be able to pull that off and know more about it than I do makes me feel like I’m a little bit left out. So we’re going to have to talk to somebody.”

 How many times have you been to Monster Jam and what is it about those events that resonates with you and Keelan?“We have been to Monster Jam. We went to Charlotte. We went to Atlanta several years ago. We’ve been to a few of them. For Keelan and I, racing is a legacy, you pass it on from one generation to the next. And the same thing has happened with Grave Digger and the drivers of that truck. What we do, you see generations of families that have had their fathers, their sons and their sons move on through the ranks of racing. It’s something that you grow up around and are a part of and you learn to love the sport. And when you’re around it, you understand it’s a family sport and, for me, that’s the best part of it – that it’s something we can do together.” 

When Dennis Anderson, the patriarch of Grave Digger, was behind the wheel of his Monster Jam truck, he was crushing cars. That doesn’t typically work too well in a stock car. How are you going to live up to Grave Digger’s legacy?“You’ve got to set yourself apart from everybody else, right? The best way to do that for us is to run faster than everybody else, so hopefully we can have this No. 4 Monster Jam/Grave Digger Ford Mustang doing what it’s supposed to do and running fast – scare them right off the track. They’re all going to be jealous because I get to drive Grave Digger’s car.” 

You last competed at Nashville in 2010 during a NASCAR Xfinity Series race. What are your expectations when you roll back in there in 2021?“I didn’t ever go to Nashville without the expectation of winning. It was one of our best racetracks throughout the years and we’ve always had good success there and always enjoyed the racetrack itself. I’m looking forward to Cup finally going there. I know that facility was built to entertain having a Cup date and I can’t believe it’s taken this long because Nashville is such a great area for us as a sport. I’m excited to be there because we have just a ton of fans. Obviously, it’s the home of Hunt Brothers Pizza, as well. So there’s just a lot of good things that are happening when we go back to Nashville.”

 In addition to Xfinity Series racing at Nashville, that track was the go-to track back when you had unlimited testing. Outside of the Xfinity Series, how many testing miles do you think you have at Nashville?“Not many in the last little bit, but there was a period of time that we spent a lot of time at Nashville. We developed a lot of the coil binding in the front and rear springs there and at Milwaukee. When Nashville was built, I actually was part of the very first tire test – the first time that anybody was on the racetrack. Obviously, I’ve had a little bit of a layoff there, but from the very first moment I’ve been a part of that racetrack.”

 Talk about those days of unlimited testing, where after a three-day race weekend, you’d go test for two or three days somewhere, oftentimes at Nashville.“Really, we can go back to 2000. I did all the testing for Dale Earnhardt as we went through the year. So, we would go race and then we would go to a racetrack, whatever racetrack that would be, and I also did my own testing. We probably did four or five tests – I think at that point they could only do seven tests in the Cup Series – and then I had all my tests that you could do in the Xfinity Series. But you could also go to any racetrack that wasn’t on the schedule, and at that particular point, Kentucky wasn’t on the schedule, so we spent a lot of time at Kentucky developing stuff for Dale and the Cup program. But for the most part, we did, midweek, probably 20-25 tests a year as we went through the season, and most of them would be two-day tests. And that’s what you did. You were never home. You tested all the time. When you had a problem, you just went somewhere and tested. Whether it be Greenville-Pickens or Caraway or VIR, Milwaukee, it didn’t matter, you could go to any racetrack if it wasn’t on the schedule. Through the years they just changed that because we would spend so much time at the racetrack. We would test on different brands of tires and different series of cars, and we would do whatever it took. But, for the most part, you probably spent 20-25 two-day tests away from what you did on those three-day weekends.”

 Do veterans like yourself who have actual, on-the-ground experience at Nashville have a leg up on those who have only driven Nashville on a simulator?“I don’t think so. Some of the younger guys haven’t been there before, but with all the information and all the technology that we have in today’s world with the tire test already happening there, the information is already spread through all the manufacturers. They’ll have all that stuff plugged into their simulators and have the track measured and do all the things that they do. I think there are a lot of guys who grew up even after I started a decade later, they were still racing there, so a lot of guys have experience at Nashville and I don’t think there will be a huge advantage.” 

Technology advances quickly. Can you just go out onto the track there at Nashville and start ripping around, or do you need to see what’s it’s like after a 10-year absence?“The good news is it’s concrete, so it’s always had what I always called the sidewalk hop, like if you’re riding your bike or your skateboard over the sidewalk. And I think as you go through the weekend, a lot of those little cracks and things start to fill in with rubber, so hopefully the tire will actually lay some rubber on the racetrack because that was always the biggest thing there, getting the racetrack rubbered up. Once the racetrack rubbers up, it becomes much better to race on because the groove just becomes so much wider. It’ll be interesting to see if we race on the track as it is, or if we race on the track with PJ1 sprayed on it somewhere.”