● Kevin Harvick is on the hunt for his first win of 2023 and the 61st of his NASCAR Cup Series career, so it’s only appropriate that he rolls into Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s NOCO 400 with Realtree on his No. 4 Ford Mustang. The unique car design features Realtree’s Hardwoods 20-200 camouflage pattern, and it’s a throwback to Harvick’s first race with Realtree – an ARCA Menards Series race on Oct. 16, 1999 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Richard Childress Racing (RCR) where Harvick finished third. Realtree is the world’s leading designer of photorealistic camouflage and the company has more than 2,000 licensees utilizing Realtree patterns and the brand. Thousands of outdoor and lifestyle products are available in Realtree camouflage patterns. Said Bill Jordan, president and CEO of Realtree: “Realtree has been a proud supporter and friend of Kevin Harvick since he first drove our car 24 years ago. Having Kevin run a Realtree paint scheme for one of his final races only seems fitting. We know the relationship extends far beyond what we’ve done together in NASCAR, and we cannot thank Kevin enough for all he has meant to the Realtree brand for all these years. We wish him the best in retirement and have a feeling we’ll see him in Realtree again – even if it’s not on the racetrack.”
● In his 23-year career as a NASCAR Cup Series driver, Harvick has proven to be incredibly consistent at Martinsville. The driver of the No. 4 Realtree/Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has made 43 Cup Series starts at the .526-mile oval and recorded 20 top-10s, the third-highest tally among active Cup Series drivers. Only Denny Hamlin (23 top-10s) and Kyle Busch (21 top-10s) have more.
● Among those 20 top-10s earned by Harvick at Martinsville is a win in April 2011. He defeated Dale Earnhardt Jr., by .727 of a second to win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was Harvick’s 20th NASCAR Cup Series start at the track and his 16th career Cup Series victory. Harvick now has 60 career Cup Series wins and is 10th on the all-time win list.
● Harvick’s next best finish outside of that lone Martinsville win in April 2011 is a third-place drive in October 2010, the race that preceded Harvick’s victory. It was the start of a three-race run of top-fives at Martinsville, as Harvick followed his win with a fourth-place effort in the series’ return to the facility in October.
● Harvick’s best Martinsville finish since joining SHR in 2014 is a pair of fifth-place results – Oct. 29, 2017 and March 20, 2018.
● Martinsville is the shortest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and its tight corners with only 12 degrees of banking means that beating and banging – be it door-to-door or bumper-to-bumper – is commonplace. But that also means accidents are prevalent, and being able to keep one’s car running from start to finish is easier said than done. In Harvick’s 43 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville, he has an impressive lap completion rate of 98.4 percent. That means that of the 21,443 laps available to Harvick, he has failed to complete just 344 of those laps. Among active drivers, only Kurt Busch has completed more laps at Martinsville (21,285), but with one more start than Harvick (44).
● Harvick has tasted success in every type of car he has raced at Martinsville. In addition to his NASCAR Cup Series win, he has a NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph and three NASCAR Truck Series victories.
● Harvick is undefeated in the Xfinity Series at Martinsville. He earned the equivalent of a walk-off home run on July 22, 2006 when in his only Xfinity Series start at the track, he led three times for a race-high 149 laps to take the win by .271 of a second over runner-up Clint Bowyer.
● Harvick’s three Truck Series wins at Martinsville came in 17 starts. He won on March 30, 2009 (defeated Ron Hornaday Jr.), March 27, 2010 (defeated Hornaday again) and March 31, 2012 (defeated Ty Dillon).
● The Truck Series is where Harvick made his first start of any kind at Martinsville – Sept. 26, 1998 when he finished 25th. Harvick earned his first top-10 at Martinsville on April 17, 1999 in a Ford F-150 for team owner Jim Herrick.
● DYK? Harvick tested a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car at Martinsville on Jan. 21, 2020. The Modified Tour is NASCAR’s oldest division and it is the only open-wheel series sanctioned by NASCAR. Compared to a NASCAR Cup Series car, a Tour car is 11 inches shorter in height and a little more than 23 inches wider. It also weighs nearly 800 pounds less. Harvick’s test came via Ryan Preece’s No. 6NY Tour car. Preece was the 2013 series champion and he earned the first of his 25 career Modified Tour victories at Martinsville on Sept. 20, 2008, leading 265 of the race’s 300 laps. Harvick and his company, KHI Management, represent Preece, who joined SHR fulltime this season as the driver of the No. 41 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Martinsville is one of those tracks where you’ve made a lot of starts, dating all the way back to 1998 when you raced there in the NASCAR Truck Series with Spears Manufacturing. The track is celebrating its 76th anniversary and you’ve been racing there for 25 of those years. Does the history of Martinsville resonate with you?
“Martinsville has a deep history in our sport. It’s a place that’s just a part of NASCAR racing, and I think you have to respect that.”
You most recently sampled the new-for-2023 short-track package two weeks ago at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. What are your expectations for it at Martinsville?
“I don’t know if it’ll look much different than it did last year. It depends on the weather and the tire wear. We didn’t have great-handling vehicles at the two races there last year, but sometimes it’s just about doing everything right. The first race, we did everything OK and got a decent finish. But, honestly, I think we’ll just have to kind of wing it. The car doesn’t feel drastically different and it hasn’t raced drastically different, but it’s obviously a little bit different, and I don’t think we’ll really know how it will react at Martinsville until we race there. At Richmond, nothing really seemed that much different.”
Even with a new rules package and the subsequent uncertainty of how the racing will be when you return to Martinsville this weekend, the track has always made drivers feel a bit apprehensive because of its tight confines and close racing. How do you handle racing at Martinsville?
“It’s just a challenging racetrack. Martinsville can eat you up pretty quickly with somebody else’s mistake, or you can get behind pretty quickly. You just have to be able to be aggressive without getting your stuff torn up. If something’s not right, it’ll put you behind in a hurry.”
With all the shifting and braking that you have to do at Martinsville, how physical is 400 laps?
“It’s just so compressed. There are so many upshifts and downshifts, and you have to transition from asphalt to concrete. You kind of get into a rhythm and sometimes you get a little bit lazy and you go over the transition. So, you have to be on your toes all the time. You don’t want to slide the tires and you don’t want the back of the car to start snapping around over those transitions. You’ve got to be pretty methodical because it’s probably going to be as difficult to pass as anywhere we go, so you’ve got to try to minimize the losses on restarts and make your proper lap time as you go through the laps.”
Is Martinsville as mentally exhausting as it is physically exhausting?
“With the way that we race right now, it is mentally exhausting just because you upshift and downshift so often. You don’t race in fifth gear. You race in third and fourth gear, so there a lot of little nuances that are different.”
You’re coming to Martinsville with Realtree on your No. 4 Ford Mustang. Your relationship with Realtree has spanned more than two decades. How did it begin?
“Realtree was my first sponsor on my ARCA car at RCR in 1999. I had to run two races to get approved to move from the Busch Series to the Cup Series, as NASCAR required at the time. Talladega was the first race, and Richard (Childress) went to Bill (Jordan) and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this kid and we need to run him in an ARCA race.’ Realtree was on the sides of my racecar, and really from that day forward, Bill Jordan and I became great friends. He introduced me to the outdoors – not that I wasn’t an outdoors person, but I grew up in Southern California, and I just wasn’t exposed to hunting. From 1999 forward, Realtree has been on my car or on my helmet for every race I’ve run. It’s a great partnership that has turned into a friendship. I’ve watched his kids grow up. Bill has always been one of those people who, whenever I’ve had a decision to make, he’s one of the people I call. I’ll call him even when I’m sitting in my car driving down the road just to see what he’s going. It’s been that way for a number of years and I’m proud to have Realtree back on my car this weekend at Martinsville.”
What aspects of the outdoors did Bill Jordan expose you to and what has resonated the most with you?
“I went on my first duck hunt, my first elk hunt, my first deer hunt, my first turkey hunt, my first bird hunt – everything I did from a hunting standpoint was with Bill and Realtree. Really, just teaching me how to do things safely, appropriately, what’s right, what’s wrong, whatever that is, Bill taught me. Through the years of Realtree Outdoors and everything that we’ve done together, we’ve been able to go on some really neat hunts at different times with different drivers or athletes – just great people. And part of hunting is the camaraderie and the people that you meet and the time you spend just being outdoors and doing something you enjoy and learning about other people. There really isn’t anything from a hunting standpoint that Bill didn’t introduce me to.”