● Where’s Kevin? At Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, of course. The 2-mile oval is the site of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Cup Series race, and Busch Light Apple is taking a “Where’s Waldo?” approach to the live broadcast starting at 3 p.m. EDT on USA. Hidden items are scattered throughout the paint scheme of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Light Apple #BuschelOfBusch Ford Mustang, and Busch Beer is asking fans to find the secluded imagery, with the degree of difficulty increasing during each stage of the 200-lap race. Fans who find all the art can win some cool swag from Busch. To enter, just follow @BuschBeer, turn on notifications, and tweet #BuschelOfBusch and #Sweepstakes, along with the answer to each question, to win some loud-and-proud prizes.
● The FireKeepers Casino 400 will mark Harvick’s 42nd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan, the most among active drivers. Since making his first start at the track on June 10, 2001, Harvick has scored five wins, 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes while leading 699 laps, all of which are series bests. Harvick’s five wins are two more than Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, all of whom are tied with three wins apiece. Harvick’s 15 top-fives are five more than next best Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. (10 top-fives apiece). Harvick’s 21 top-10s are four more than nearest pursuers Busch and Logano (17 top-10s each), as are his 699 laps led, which is 109 more laps than Logano (590 laps led).
● Harvick’s first NASCAR Cup Series win at Michigan came on Aug. 15, 2010. Fifteen races passed before Harvick’s second win on Aug. 12, 2018, but in that span he finished second six times, including a run of four straight runner-up finishes (2013-2014).
● The victory on Aug. 12, 2018 might have been one of the most satisfying of Harvick’s career. Upon climbing from his car on the start/finish line, Harvick waved his son, Keelan, over to grab the checkered flag. Then after Harvick completed his TV interview, a then 6-year-old Keelan rode with his dad around the racetrack and on to victory lane. It was a tradition that continued a year later when Harvick successfully defended his win at Michigan. This time, Keelan joined his dad on pit road and rode in the car en route to the frontstretch, riding shotgun as Harvick performed an epic burnout on the way to the start/finish line to pick up another checkered flag.
● That batch of second-place finishes in 2013-2014 served as a prelude to Harvick scoring a batch of wins. From August 2019 through all of 2020, Harvick won every NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan. The three-win streak began with a victory on Aug. 11, 2019 and then culminated with a sweep of the 2020 doubleheader. In taking back-to-back checkered flags Aug. 8-9, 2020 at Michigan, Harvick became the first driver to win two Cup Series races on consecutive days since Richard Petty in 1971 when Petty won July 14 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, New York, and July 15 at Islip (N.Y.) Speedway. Harvick’s sweep of the 2020 Michigan doubleheader earned him an accolade no other driver had ever achieved – the first NASCAR Cup Series driver in history to win on back-to-back days at the same track.
● Harvick was a eyeing a record-tying fourth straight Michigan victory when he rolled into the 2-mile oval for last year’s FireKeepers Casino 400. Ultimately, it proved not to be as Harvick finished 14th, leaving Bill Elliott as the sole record holder for most consecutive NASCAR Cup Series wins at Michigan with four, as the NASCAR Hall of Famer swept the track’s slate of races in 1985 and 1986. Nonetheless, Harvick is one of just 10 drivers who have earned consecutive wins at Michigan, joining Bobby Allison (1971 sweep), David Pearson (1972 sweep-1973 and 1974-1975), Cale Yarborough (1983 sweep), Elliott (1985 sweep-1986 sweep), Bobby Labonte (1995 sweep), Mark Martin (1997-1998), Ryan Newman (2003-2004), Greg Biffle (2004-2005 and 2012-2013) and Kyle Larson (2016-2017 sweep).
● Harvick hasn’t finished outside the top-15 at Michigan since a 29th-place result in June 2015. To provide some context to the length of this streak, here are some pop-culture anecdotes from seven years ago…
● Gas was $2.08 a gallon.
● The No. 1 song was “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.
● The No. 1 movie was “Jurassic World”, which earned $1.67 billion at the box office.
● CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS”, in their ninth and 13th seasons respectively, were the most-watched comedy and drama on TV.
● The Golden State Warriors won its first NBA championship in 40 years, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The Warriors have gone on to win three more NBA titles, including this year’s championship.
● Harvick has flexed his muscles outside of the NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan. In 11 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, Harvick has a win (August 2003), four top-fives and nine top-10s. And in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Harvick has a win (August 2011) and two top-fives and four top-11s.
● All of these statistics and anecdotes make Harvick the apple of one’s eye at Michigan, which is fitting since the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion will race the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang at the 2-mile oval. Busch Light Apple is a crisp, refreshing, apple-flavored lager with a touch of sweet on the front end and a clear, beer finish on the back end. It is available for a limited time only NATIONWIDE for its LAST YEAR EVER in 12-, 24- and 30-packs at a store near you.
Michigan marks a return to a high-speed intermediate track after running a variety of tracks through the summer. Can the knowledge learned early in the year at Fontana and Las Vegas be applied to Michigan, or were those races so long ago that it’s no longer applicable?
“I think it’s going to make it a bit irrelevant just because of the fact that California is so rough, and I think a lot of those things – you’ll be able to run the car a lot lower, a lot closer to the stops, things that you can’t do at California. I think it’ll be more aerodynamically sound than probably what it was at California because you can be more aggressive on the shock stops.”
We’ve heard the adage of, “Slow down to go fast,” and that seems to be used a lot at Michigan. What does that mean and how does it apply to Michigan?
“Michigan is one of those places where you don’t want to miss the center of the corner. You want to be on the throttle at the center of the corner and get that good exit speed to make the straightaway as long as you can. So the less you can touch the brake pedal and the more time you can spend on the throttle to make those straightaways as long as possible, the better speed you’re going to make. And Michigan in the past has been pretty line-sensitive, so you’ve just got to be careful about where you are on the racetrack. And if you miss that on the entry, it just screws the whole corner up.”
You’ve enjoyed a lot of success at Michigan. Does that experience have any bearing when you return there with the NextGen car?
“Maybe. You can have a baseline interpretation, but it seems to have migrated in a number of different directions at different racetracks and different scenarios this year just because of the different characteristics that come with the car. Places that we haven’t been, you just don’t really know where it’s going to go. You go to some of these places, I think Darlington is a good example, where California, Darlington, places that have been super rough, have been really difficult to navigate in traffic, and even by yourself sometimes, because of the way that the cars bounce around.”
Your son, Keelan, has helped you celebrate victories at Michigan. Describe those moments and how it all came together.
“Honestly, that was something we had talked about beforehand. That was what he wanted to do. He wanted to get into the car and ride around after we won. He likes going to Michigan because they have a great ice cream shop and he can go to the golf course and drive a golf cart. That was after he had stuffed a golf cart into the big pine tree in the morning, and then during the day he told me, ‘Dad, if you win today, can I come out on pit road and ride in the car?’ My biggest concern right there was making sure he didn’t burn his butt because those cars and bars and everything are hot. So he had to sit over there and ride along. But what a cool experience. During pre-COVID races and things that we were doing, he was not racing and he was traveling with me, and a lot of times it was just he and I and we found all these spots at different places. But Michigan became one of his favorite places because that’s where he drove his quarter midget and we got to go to the go-kart track and go to the golf course, and the ice cream shop is always the biggest hit. And, obviously, that was his creation, riding in the car.”
Looking back, was it more special for him or for you?
“For me, those moments are really cool just because of the fact that they don’t stay that small very long. I look at how small he was in the videos from that race and, as you look through those old videos, it seems like it was forever ago because now I look at him and he’s twice the size as he was then. So those are just things you will have forever, and to be able to experience that was pretty neat.”
What kind of an influence do moments like that have on his affinity for racing?
“That’s really hard to tell. At that particular point, he drove the quarter midget at the little oval in Michigan for the first time. We had raced a little bit a year-and-a-half or so after that but, up until that point, his love of racing was really just going to the racetrack and being around the things that we could do before they kick all the kids off the pit box. He loves sitting on the pit box and being in the garage and being around all the guys and, still to this day, every time he’s there he helps Turkey (Jamie Turski, tire specialist) sets the air pressures on the car, so he just likes being around it. And you watch him race now, you realize how much he’s been around racing because he does things that you don’t tell him about or to do. And you say, ‘Why did you do that?’ And he’ll say, ‘Well, I saw this happen or that happen.’ He’s been around racing, really, since he’s been born and been at the racetrack because that’s just what we did. We took him to the racetrack and we went and raced and those experiences that we’ve gathered over the years are something that he’s just watched happen. His love of racing is really just his life of racing. We’re just a family who grew up around racing as kids, and now our kids are growing up around racing in a sport that’s just a generational sport, where you go from one generation to the next, and the kids just learn about it.”