● As a 22-year veteran of the NASCAR Cup Series with 58 career wins, Kevin Harvick has a lot of good racetracks. New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon is one of them. The driver of the No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has made 38 starts at the 1.058-mile oval and won four times – tied with retired driver Jeff Burton for the most all-time. And when he hasn’t ended his race in victory lane, Harvick has been well within the vicinity. He has 13 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes, both of which lead the series among active Cup Series drivers.
● Harvick has won two of the last four races at New Hampshire (2018 and 2019), and in his last eight starts at “The Magic Mile”, he only has one finish outside the top-six. Harvick finished sixth last year at New Hampshire, and he comes into this year’s Ambetter 301 looking to score his fifth straight top-10.
● Who is even close to Harvick at New Hampshire? There are three active NASCAR Cup Series drivers with three wins – Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin – but only Harvick has four victories. When it comes to top-fives, Harvick is in a class of his own with 13. Next best are Kyle Busch and Hamlin with 11 top-fives apiece. And it’s the same with top-10s. The only driver close to Harvick in this category is Hamlin, who has 17 top-10s.
● While Harvick has always been good at New Hampshire, his performance at the track took a dramatic turn upward when he joined SHR in 2014. In the 12 races contested at New Hampshire since wheeling the No. 4 car for SHR, Harvick has scored three wins and has only four finishes outside of the top-five. And of his 831 career laps led at New Hampshire, 512 have come in the last 11 races (46.5 percent).
● Harvick has proven quick at New Hampshire outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. In 12 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, he has a win (June 2007) to go with nine top-fives and 11 top-10s with 677 laps led. And in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Harvick has three top-three finishes and five top-10s. His worst result was merely a 15th-place drive back in August 1999.
● The “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing is Tony Stewart, and he has a pretty good track record at New Hampshire, too. The 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee won three races in 35 starts and logged 15 top-fives and 19 top-10s with 1,302 laps led. The only driver with more laps led at New Hampshire is fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon with 1,373 laps led.
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● Featured on the decklid of Harvick’s No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang during the Ambetter 301 is its FORGE AHEAD tagline. FORGE AHEAD reinforces the drive to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible. FORGE AHEAD also communicates the power, strength and reliability of GEARWRENCH’s premier line of hand tools. GEARWRENCH strives to deliver innovative solutions that accommodates speed, strength and access while delivering quality, durable products for people who use tools to make their living. GEARWRENCH. FORGE AHEAD.
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Phoenix Raceway is your best track, statistically, but New Hampshire isn’t far off from your results at Phoenix. Four career wins and eight top-fives in the last 11 races is proof of that. Are there similarities between Phoenix and New Hampshire?
“Flat tracks have always been really good for me in my career. When you look at SHR and the things we’ve been able to accomplish at Loudon and Phoenix, they’ve kind of followed that same trend. A lot of that goes back to that open test time we had at Milwaukee and Nashville. Those are the places where we would practice and practice and practice. Our guys have done a great job of having a good short-track, flat-track program, and Loudon is a place that has followed along with Phoenix and the success that we’ve had there and to be able to capitalize on that success and continue it at another track.”
New Hampshire always seems to be a race that is circled on your calendar. Is it even more so this year because of how you’ve run at Phoenix (sixth) and Richmond (second) – tracks that have some similar characteristics to New Hampshire?
“The flat-track stuff definitely has been good for us, and we’re going there knowing we’re going to have some options to move around the racetrack and be able to kind of hunt for a line that works for our GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang.”
What is it about this style of track when combined with the NextGen car that seems to really suit your driving style?
“The trend is that we’ve been good there in pretty much all the stuff that we’ve ever raced there, so hopefully we can keep that trend going as we go back.”
Is horsepower less of an issue at New Hampshire because it’s relatively flat and only a mile in length, or do you need to really be able to pull off the corner and down the straightaway to make a fast lap? Or is a fast lap more about getting through each corner well?
“For us, a lot of that depends on the tire falloff and where things go from the handling of the car and what the pace is. You definitely still have to have good power, it just comes in a different range, and a lot of places we’ve gone this year, we’ve shifted, so New Hampshire will probably be the same way. You’ll probably be shifting in every corner.”
New Hampshire has been treated with PJ1 and with resin. Have you lobbied NASCAR for one over the other – PJ1 versus resin – at New Hampshire?
“I would prefer nothing. With this particular car, it seems like they naturally move around the racetrack and slide and do things that the other car didn’t do, and I think they put so much PJ1 on all these racetracks that it’s going to be there forever. The last time we raced there, they didn’t spray it at all and we were still able to move around the track because the PJ1 was still there.”
You get a giant lobster for winning at New Hampshire. Other than scaring your kids with it in victory lane, what do you do with it?
“My lobster, they mounted on a board. It sat in a closet and his claws fell off and some of his arms and legs fell off, so we took the lobster off the board and we used the board for a skateboard ramp. That was what happened to my first lobster because he just fell apart and we used the board for Keelan’s skateboard ramp.”
You’re a big proponent of grassroots racing, and grassroots racing is big in New England. What’s your take on the racing scene in New England?
“I learned that back in 2009 when we ran the Oxford 250. We spent a week up there practicing and racing, and I think 110 cars showed up for the Oxford 250 and we were fortunate to win that race. You open up every newspaper in the region the next morning and it was about the Oxford 250. From that very day forward, the same guys that I raced with will come to the garage and say, ‘Hi,’ and talk about that particular weekend, and you hear fans talk about being at that particular race. Really, the Oxford 250 had kind of given me a little bit of a leg up on everybody because I was able to interact with those fans on a regional basis and be able to have that stick with me for a long time. I haven’t been able to go back and do that event again, but having that experience up there allowed me to connect and realize how big racing was in the Northeast.”