● Kevin Harvick will be seeing red this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. His No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang has eschewed its traditional green livery in favor of a red paint scheme for Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. Why? Check out this video.
● Harvick has a stout track record at Texas, especially in his time since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2014. In his last 14 NASCAR Cup Series races at the 1.5-mile oval – all of which have come with SHR – Harvick has only one finish outside of the top-10. That lone result came in the 2020 AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 when Harvick finished 16th after his No. 4 Hunt Brothers PizzaFord Mustang slipped off turn two while leading and brushed the outside wall as a heavy mist made the track slick. Harvick rebounded in his next point-paying start at Texas, finishing fifth in last year’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500. In the 12 races prior to that 2020 race where Harvick finished 16th, he scored nine top-fives, three of which were wins, while three others were second-place results.
● In those three wins at Texas – November 2017, November 2018 and November 2019 – Harvick led a total of 334 laps, which is the exact same lap total for a 500-mile race at Texas.
● Prior to joining SHR, Harvick’s laps-led total at Texas was five, an amount earned over the course of 22 races. In his 15 Texas starts since being a part of SHR, Harvick has led 677 laps. His total of 682 laps led at Texas is the second-most among all NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Kyle Busch has led more laps at Texas (1,069).
● Before joining SHR, Harvick’s best finish at Texas was third (November 2016). It was one of just three top-fives and 11 top-10s he had at the track
● Harvick will make his 38th NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500, the most among all Cup Series drivers, past and present. Texas will mark Harvick’s 783rd career Cup Series start.
● Harvick also leads all NASCAR Cup Series drivers in top-10s at Texas with 24. Next best on this list is Kurt Busch with 23 top-10s and Jimmie Johnson with 22 top-10s.
● Harvick is good at Texas even outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. He has five wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and has led a total of 779 laps, the second-most among all drivers despite not competing in an Xfinity Series race at Texas since 2018. Only Kyle Busch has led more laps in Xfinity Series competition at Texas (1,795). Busch led those laps across 23 starts and Harvick earned his tally in 21 starts. In four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Texas, Harvick owns a win (November 2011) and one other top-five – a fourth place drive in his first Truck Series start at the track in June 1998 when Harvick was just 22 years old and still three years away from his Cup Series debut.
● The only times when Harvick hasn’t been good at Texas is when the track has hosted the annual NASCAR All-Star Race. He finished 15th in the 2021 event and 17th in the 2022 version. Thankfully, the All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 2023.
● Riding along with Harvick in the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 is Sidney Thirlwall. Via a decal over the passenger-side window of Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Mustang, Thirlwall’s life is being highlighted by the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation’s Honor a Cancer Hero program. The wife and mother from Papillion, Nebraska, fought a 12-year battle with cancer before succumbing to the disease on Nov. 2, 2022. She was nominated for the Honor a Cancer Hero program by her husband, John Thirlwall.
● The 2022 season marks the 13th year of partnership between Harvick and Hunt Brothers Pizza. The nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry has sponsored Harvick for years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hunt Brothers Pizza joined Harvick fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 and has been a mainstay in NASCAR’s premier division ever since. With more than 8,000 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin-crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go Hunk A Pizza®, perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Hunt Brothers Pizza is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and is family owned and operated. For additional information, visit www.HuntBrothersPizza.com or download the app.
● Said Harvick about his more than decade-long partnership with Hunt Brothers Pizza: “Our fans are pretty loyal to the brands that are on our cars. Many of my pictures come from the standees in the store. People take selfies next to them. There are a number of reasons you have sponsorships – you want that brand recognition, the brand integration. Hunt Brothers Pizza is a very family-oriented company and we’re a very family-oriented group. Those relationships you build through the years with brands that recognize and reflect what you believe in are few and far between. We’ve grown with the Hunt Brothers Pizza brand. They’ve grown with us and have been very loyal to us, and I think our fans are very loyal to Hunt Brothers Pizza. It’s fun to see that brand recognition and that understanding of loyalty and partnership. You realize how many Hunt Brothers Pizza stores there are as you drive to racetracks.”
You’re out of the playoffs, but racing continues. Without a championship to strive for, how do you stay motivated through these final seven races?
“That’s just something from when I wrestled in high school and raced our Late Models, it was always pounded into my head that it’s OK to not be good, but it’s not OK to quit. It’s never OK to not give it 100 percent. It’s never OK to quit grinding away for every single second of whatever it is you’re doing because you’re letting yourself down. And in this deal, you’re not only letting yourself down, you’re letting your whole team down, and I think that’s contagious, because nobody ever lets down. We can be off and struggling in a race, but we can keep ourselves on the lead lap and have a good pit stop and all of a sudden show up and finish fourth or fifth at the end of a race just because five or six of them have crashed and we’ve ground away all day at the little things and made our car a little bit better and hung in there and all of a sudden here we are. Sometimes it’s just about grinding away and doing the little things right. You don’t have to be the fastest, but if you just do more right than everybody else, you’re probably going to be pretty successful. There’s a lot of details that go into what we do to be good. Even with a slow car you can still find 100 details to make a slow car faster, and sometimes making a slow car faster is OK on certain days. Every day is different. Every day you have to find something to improve on and it’s a constant improvement. There’s a saying that we live by and it’s, ‘Evolve or die,’ and this year that saying has never been more relevant.”
At this level of racing, what does it mean to put in the work?
“Long before you get in the car on Sunday, you have a meeting with the team and the crew chiefs and the drivers on Tuesday. You try and get as much information as possible from all parties involved so you can make the right decisions, because you only have a short amount of practice come the race weekend. And then you have the evolution of everything that happens in the lead up to the weekend. For us, that’s a Wednesday simulator session. Usually in that simulator session, you start on next week’s race and then you end on that week’s race and then they decide, ‘OK, we took this, this and this from this particular session and we took it back to the shop and we put that in the car.’ And then there’s the physical part, where you work to stay in shape. Overall, it’s a lot of work.”
You’re in your 22nd year in the NASCAR Cup Series. What’s important to you now at this stage in your career compared to where you were 15-20 years ago?
“I worry less about what I want to accomplish and just try to accomplish what I need to accomplish, and that is to engage with my team on a week-to-week basis to get the most out of our cars and our vehicles. You want to do everything you can to try and take as much as you can out of every single week that you’re at the racetrack because, at some point, there won’t be a next week. It’ll be what you used to do, and you want to give it your all while you can.”
Your only experience at Texas with the NextGen came in May during the NASCAR All-Star Race. What is your expectation as you return to Texas with the NextGen car, but this time, for a points-paying race?
“We can’t do any worse than we did in the All-Star Race. I think we ran last and next-to-last, us, Aric (Almirola) and Chase (Briscoe), so we had them covered from the wrong end of the field. But I really think that was part of the progression of the new thought processes we had in working on the car, and we’ve come a long way since Texas. That was one of those nights where it was, ‘OK, let’s do this. This is going to be a great night to test some things.’ It definitely ended with, ‘Don’t ever do that.’ Usually you find out more things at a test – which is kind of what the All-Star Race was for us – to not do than you actually find that are better.”
Back in 2017, Texas was repaved and turns one and two were reconfigured. How has the track aged since then and has it changed how you drive the track?
“It changed where you drive on the racetrack. You move up the racetrack, so you don’t have to be as technical through (turns) one and two as you used to. Just put it on the grip strip and hope for the best. It’s still a good racetrack for us, still a lot of good things that have happened for us, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Explain a lap around Texas, specifically, how you approach turns one and two and how you approach turns three and four?
“Texas is unique in the fact the two ends are so different. When they changed the racetrack, they made the width of the racetrack a lot wider through (turns) one and two than what it used to be. It’s a lot flatter, as well. It’s a very technical corner both in order to get your car positioned correctly and in order to make your car turn and stay in the throttle. It’s not as technical as it used to be now that the PJ1 is there, but you still have to put your car in the right spot in order to make a good lap time.”