● As Kevin Harvick strides to his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang this weekend at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, those in the garage will see the veteran racer walking a little taller. Harvick is the NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent victor. He won last Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn to score his 59th career victory, his first of the season and his series-leading sixth at Michigan. It also punched Harvick’s ticket to the NASCAR Playoffs, as he became the 15th different winner this year to secure his spot in the 16-driver playoff field.
● Richmond marks the third-to-last race of the regular season before the NASCAR Playoffs begin Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Drivers who have won a race earn a playoff berth, and never in the history of the playoffs (2004 to present) have there been enough winners to fill out the entire playoff field. In 2022, however, history could be rewritten. As the 15th different winner this season, Harvick’s victory meant that only the 16th and final spot is available, a position currently held by Ryan Blaney, who is second in regular-season in points but has not yet won a race this season. If there is another new winner not named Blaney, that winner will take the 16th and final playoff spot and bounce Blaney from playoff contention. But wait, there’s more! With two regular-season races still remaining after Richmond – Aug. 21 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Aug. 27 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – there is the possibility of even more new winners this season. What happens in this scenario? The winning driver lowest in points gets bounced from the playoffs. Harvick is currently ninth in the regular-season standings ahead of fellow playoff drivers William Byron, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suárez, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. Harvick’s margin over Busch is 133 points. Harvick also holds a 94-point advantage over Hamlin and an 87-point edge over Cindric. The maximum amount of points any one driver can earn in a single race is 60 (40 points for the win and 10 points for winning the first or second stage).
● Speaking of winning, with his victory at Michigan, Harvick has now won in 18 of his 22 NASCAR Cup Series seasons. His first victory was on March 11, 2001 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick has 59 career Cup Series wins, 28 of which have come since he turned 40. Now, the 46-year-old Harvick is 10th on the series’ all-time win list, and with his last 24 victories being with Ford, Harvick is also 10th on Ford’s all-time win list, where he is one of only 13 drivers to win 20 more races with the manufacturer.
● Harvick has made 777 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, with 125 of those starts coming on short tracks. And of his 59 Cup Series wins, seven have been on short tracks, with Richmond accounting for three of those victories. Harvick scored his first Richmond win in September 2006, his second in September 2011 and his third in April 2013.
● Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2014 and has since recorded 36 of his 59 career NASCAR Cup Series wins. However, none of them have been at Richmond. But Harvick has remained stout at the .75-mile oval. In his last 16 starts at Richmond as a member of SHR, Harvick has three runner-up finishes, nine top-fives and 12 top-10s. He has only one finish outside of the top-15.
● Harvick comes into Richmond with back-to-back top-10s in his last two NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track. He finished eighth in last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400 and second in the series’ return to Richmond in April.
● Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in top-10s at Richmond. The driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang has 28 top-10s in 42 career starts (66.7 percent). Next best is Kyle Busch with 26 top-10s.
● Harvick has led 15,833 total laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, with 1,180 of those laps coming at Richmond.
● The Federated Auto Parts 400 will mark Harvick’s 43rd NASCAR Cup Series start at the Virginia short track. His first start at Richmond came on May 5, 2001. That race was won by SHR co-owner Tony Stewart, who beat then three-time champion Jeff Gordon by .372 of a second. Harvick finished 17th in what was his 10th career Cup Series start. Ten of the 43 drivers in that race have since been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – Stewart, Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Ron Hornaday Jr., Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte.
● Harvick is the winningest NASCAR Xfinity Series driver at Richmond with seven victories. Kyle Busch is next best with six wins. Harvick finished among the top-10 in all but six of his 21 career Xfinity Series starts at Richmond.
● The Mobil 1 branding on Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Mustang goes more than skin deep as the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand gives Harvick an added advantage. Mobil 1 products are used throughout his racecar and they extend beyond just engine oil. Power steering fluid, transmission fluid, gear oil and driveline lubricants from Mobil 1 give Harvick a technical advantage over his counterparts by reducing friction, heat and rolling resistance.Mobil 1 is a sponsor whose technology makes Harvick’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang faster.
You enjoyed a strong second-place finish at Richmond when we raced there in early April. What allowed you to secure that result?
“You’d like to be close enough to at least give yourself a chance. There at the end, we just kind of got jumbled up in traffic and never really got a chance to be close enough to make something happen. The team did a good job making a good pit call and our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was pretty decent all weekend.”
Did the NextGen car unload at Richmond fairly similarly to how you used to unload with the previous generation car, or were there some nuances that were specific to the NextGen car that you had to get used to?
“There were definitely some differences with the car just the way that it drove and it felt and the things that you did, but it was still the same basic line of driving, and the things that happened during the race with the tire falloff were pretty standard.”
You won last Sunday at Michigan. After developing the NextGen car and finally getting that coveted victory, what has this car been like to get it to where you want it to be?
“It’s all totally different. I think after the Roval test last year, I knew not to have any expectations for this year. We were either going to be on the front side of this thing or we were going to be behind. There wasn’t going to really be any middle road. We found out we were behind and had to start really going to work, and I think as you look at this particular car, everything about it is different. You’ve got an electronic mirror, which I love, because it’s just so easy to use, right in your line of sight, you don’t have to move your eyes as far. But when you talk about stuff like that, you have to be very open-minded to, just, change. For me, I was prepared for change. I was prepared for work. We had a pretty extensive plan this year of using the simulator and trying to make it better, to make it fit with what we do at the racetrack with the short practices.”
What have the challenges been?
“It’s been challenging trying to get the cars up to speed, but there’s also been a factor of it being kind of fun because we talk about things – and we use the pedals as an example – we literally just got my pedals to where I can function inside the racecar about four or five weeks ago. I hated the gas pedal. I hated the brake pedal. It all feels different and, honestly, I put red grease on the bottom of my shoe every week, and it’s like the greatest thing ever because my foot will now slide on this clunky gas pedal and work like it used to. It’s just working through stuff like that. The steering is different, the mirrors are different, the pedals are different, the things that you talk about to make the car work are different. We went from back of the car being up to the front of the car up. Everything is just different, and you have this constant evolution of things that are happening.”
We’re back racing at a short track and you’re a fan of short tracks. Recently, another short track roared back to life, quite literally. What were your thoughts of seeing grassroots racing return to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway?
“I think it caught everybody off guard how many people actually showed up to watch the Modified race. The people from the community showed up and, hopefully, they’ll keep showing up and keep participating in the event because it’s a cool facility. There’s just something about those old, nostalgic facilities that you can go back to and kind of go back in time. It’ll still be great when it’s repaved, but it still won’t be like it will be for this next month-and-a-half.”
Could a national NASCAR touring series race ever return to North Wilkesboro?
“I don’t know why you’d go through all that work and not have something like that there. That would be ludicrous to think that that track was going to survive on just Late Models and Modifieds, Saturday-night shows. There’s no way. There’s got to be some sort of plan for Truck or Xfinity or something that goes into that. There’s a lot of work that would need to be done there. I don’t know the workload, but we need more of those types of facilities. There’s just way more that goes into it than just saying that I think it’d be great to go there. I don’t dare say that because it’s not like a safety-item opinion that I have. That’s a business that would have to have lots and lots of money and infrastructure. But I think the short tracks, all of us who are old enough to have lived through this phase of mile-and-a-half tracks and getting rid of the short tracks, and now we’re back at ‘get rid of the mile-and-a-halves and get back to short tracks and road courses.’ So it’s a cycle that North Wilkesboro has fortunately survived through that I think it’ll still be in the conversation. It’s still close to Martinsville, it’s still close to Charlotte and Bristol, so there’s way more that goes into that equation. But for Trucks and Xfinity, it would be a no-brainer for those series, for sure. And it’s going to be way faster when they repave it, so it’s not going to be like it is now.”