● The Save Mart 350k Sunday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway will mark the second of six road-course races on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The series’ first road-course race came on March 27 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where Kevin Harvick drove his No. 4 GEARWRENCH® Ford Mustang to an 11th-place finish. The four remaining road-course races after Sonoma are July 3 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, July 31 at the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Aug. 21 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, and Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.
● Harvick has made a total of 50 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 20 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, four at the Charlotte Roval, two on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, two at COTA, and one apiece at Road America and the road course at Indianapolis. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 10 top-fives and 24 top-10s with 195 laps led.
● Harvick is one of six NASCAR Cup Series drivers competing in the Save Mart 350k who hail from California. The driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang is from Bakersfield, and the native Californians joining him on the grid at Sonoma include his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch), reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick (Corning), AJ Allmendinger (Los Gatos) and Joey Hand (Sacramento).
● When Harvick scored his first road-course victory at Watkins Glen in 2006, he had to beat his current team owner to do it. Tony Stewart – the “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing – had won the past two NASCAR Cup Series races at the 2.45-mile, seven-turn road course and was poised to capture a third straight win as he was leading Harvick with four laps to go in the 90-lap race. But Harvick, who had already led once for 24 laps, passed Stewart on lap 87 as the two drag-raced down the frontstretch and into turn one. Harvick held onto the lead despite Stewart in his rearview mirror, earning a margin of victory of .892 of a second.
● Harvick’s second career road-course win also had a connection to Stewart. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he gave Stewart-Haas Racing its second straight victory at the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course. The winner in 2016? None other than Stewart. It ended up being his 49th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory as Stewart retired from NASCAR racing at the conclusion of the season.
● Harvick’s last road-course win was his first in a Ford. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he became the 83rd different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race behind the wheel of a Ford. Harvick has now won 23 Cup Series races with Ford, which makes him one of only 13 drivers to win 20 or more races with the manufacturer. He is currently tied with Rusty Wallace and Carl Edwards for 11th on the all-time Ford win list.
● Harvick has four road-course wins outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. Two came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 and Watkins Glen in 2007 – and two were in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – Sonoma in 1998 and Sonoma in 2017. Harvick’s K&N Series win at Sonoma in 1998 was three years before his Cup Series debut on Feb. 26, 2001 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.
● GEARWRENCH, a premier hand tool brand from Apex Tool Group, joined Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing as a primary partner in 2022. GEARWRENCH is the No. 1 worldwide professional-grade mechanics’ hand tool brand, offering products that are designed and manufactured to meet the requirements of pros, mechanics and auto techs who make a living with their tools. GEARWRENCH understands the problems mechanics face every day and provides tools that increase productivity through speed, strength and access. Since the launch of the original five-degree ratcheting wrench, the GEARWRENCH brand has led the industry with breakthroughs in pass-thru ratchets, sockets, screw/nut drivers, pliers, extraction tools and specialty tools. Learn more at GEARWRENCH.com.
● Featured on the decklid of Harvick’s No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang during the Save Mart 350k is the 90T line of ratchets and wrenches from GEARWRENCH. 90T stands for GEARWRENCH’s 90-tooth platform, a design that creates a four-degree swing arc for easier turns in tight spaces. They feature longer and wider beams, allowing improved reach and leverage while providing better ergonomics and comfort. The sets also have an improved jaw design of the open end of the wrenches. This dual-direction off-corner loading gives a better fit on a nut or bolt, reducing the risk of slippage and fastener rounding. Lastly, the size markings on the wrenches make for quick identification. Each wrench features color-filled markings, with molten orange for metric sizes and black for standard sizes.
● What is molten orange? We’re glad you asked. Back in September of 2017, GEARWRENCH embraced the color of molten orange, a standout identifier of its premier line of tools that had seen remarkable growth since the brand’s introduction in 1996. The bright color, combined with the impactful and strong GEARWRENCH logo, reflects the power and personality of the brand. Known for tools that deliver speed, strength and access, the molten orange palette that is now synonymous with GEARWRENCH emphasizes these attributes. Just as quality work stands out, GEARWRENCH tools stand out in the hands of those who work with their hands.
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You’re from Bakersfield, California, and you cut your teeth on the NASCAR Southwest Tour and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. How big of a deal was it to race at Sonoma when the NASCAR Cup Series was in town?
“Sonoma and Phoenix were always the two biggest races of the year for the West Series and for the Southwest Tour. I ran my first race in the Southwest Tour at Sonoma in 1995 and ran it a few more times after that. I ran the West Series race there a few times and a few years back, as well. It’s always been a staple of regional, West Coast racing because of the fact that that’s where the Cup guys raced, and Phoenix was the same way. Just getting to do something at the highest level, at the same time and at the same venue as the Cup guys, was really cool for the grassroots racers. At one point, I was that grassroots racer that wanted to be in that environment for that particular weekend because it was just cool.”
After an experiment last year at Sonoma when the NASCAR Cup Series ran “The Carousel” portion of the racetrack, you’re back to running “The Chute”. After sampling both layouts, is there one you prefer?
“I think probably ‘The Chute’ just because our cars didn’t do well with ‘The Carousel’. ‘The Chute’ creates a little bit more passing going into (turn) four and also going down what I would call (turn) seven. I think that’ll fit our cars better.”
Now that we’re back to “The Chute”, there’s one spot that looks incredibly tight, at least to the TV viewer, and that’s the exit off turn four and down into “The Chute”. Cars go wide off turn four but then they have to funnel back into line to avoid hitting a wall that seems to jut out at the start of “The Chute”. Is that section of the track as tight as it seems on TV?
“You have to funnel back in just because the wall comes out all the way to the racetrack. It’ll be interesting to see how our cars navigate the curb and all the things that slam into the ground when we cross that curb.”
If a guy is hung on the outside of you as that wall comes up, do you treat it like an exit ramp where you give him room to merge back into traffic, or is it more like, ‘Sorry, dude. You should’ve planned better’?
“It depends on where they are. It could be messy if you run them into that barrier, so you have to see how far alongside you they are.”
With the speed that you carry down through “The Chute”, what do you need to do to both maintain control and not scrub off speed as you exit turn seven and head through the esses?
“The trick to the exit of turn seven is just keeping the rear tires driving forward because, as the run goes, the car loses rear grip, and tire wear is obviously something that you have to keep track of. That exit of turn seven is older asphalt that kind of transitions to some newer asphalt as you get through the exit of that corner, so you just have to take care of the rear tires there, and it just gets worse as the day goes.”
What’s OK and what isn’t when you’re racing with someone else as you head into the hairpin in turn 11?
“I think a lot of that just takes care of itself. It’s a pretty straightforward corner as far as braking, and that’s really what it comes down to – just who can get in there the hardest on the brakes and be able to keep the car under control and still make the bottom of the corner.”
The NextGen car seems to have acclimated well to all the tracks, but does it perform best on road courses since the car carries a lot of sports-car DNA?
“It’s definitely leaning more toward handling well at the road courses just because that’s kind of the nature of how it was designed. I think for me, our first road course was a lot more comfortable in the car than what we were last year. For the braking and things that come with this particular car, it’s been good for us on the road courses, so far.”
Does having run COTA earlier this year give you an idea of what to expect with the NextGen car at Sonoma?
“I think so, and I think everybody knew that was the easiest thing that we did, the road courses. For me, it was just getting comfortable maximizing the braking, and I felt good about that.”
With the sequential shifter in these cars, how is shifting on a road course? Do you have to be more methodical in what you do to ensure you’re in the right gear?
“That’s still a little bit of a transition just because the cars are not hard to shift, but they’re hard to constantly shift correctly, and the timing of it with the way the gears are cut, you can mistime the shift really easily. So it’s definitely something that, as you go throughout the day, you have to pay attention to.”