● Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza/Realtree Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has an impressive streak of top-10 finishes at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Würth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 at Dover since a 17th-place result in October 2017. That’s a run of eight straight races, kicked off by a win in May 2018 and punctuated by another victory on Aug. 23, 2020. During this stretch, Harvick’s worst finish is ninth, earned last year.
● What was happening back in October 2017? We’ll tell you…
● The Las Vegas Golden Knights made their NHL debut in Dallas on Oct. 7, winning 2-1 over the Stars. The Golden Knights were the NHL’s 31st team.
● Catalonia voted for independence from Spain.
● Pixar’s animated film “Coco” premiered at the Morelia International Film Festival. The film ended up grossing more than $814 million worldwide.
● Nearly 3,000 files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were released.
● Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard were all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
● Harvick has three NASCAR Cup Series wins at Dover. In addition to the aforementioned victories in May 2018 and August 2020, Harvick won his first Dover race in October 2015. Harvick provided a prelude to that win by finishing second when the series raced at the 1-mile, concrete oval five months earlier for the FedEx 400.
● DYK? Harvick’s victory at Dover on Aug. 23, 2020 was Ford’s milestone 700th all-time NASCAR Cup Series victory. Ford’s first victory came on June 25, 1950 when Shirtless Jimmy Florian upset the field at Dayton (Ohio) Speedway, beating the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Lee Petty and Curtis Turner. Overall, there have been 88 drivers who have won at least one Cup Series race in a Ford. NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, who won Ford’s first series championship in 1965, is the manufacturer’s all-time leader with 43 victories. Ford’s current win tally stands at 721 victories.
● Harvick will make his 43rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Dover when he takes the green flag on Sunday. The only active driver with more Cup Series starts at Dover is Kurt Busch, who made his Cup Series debut at Dover on Sept. 24, 2000, giving him one more Dover start than Harvick. The all-time leader in Cup Series starts at Dover is Ricky Rudd with 56. Rudd made his Cup debut at Dover on May 16, 1976, and his last start at the track came on June 4, 2007, a span of 31 years.
● No active driver has led more laps at Dover than Harvick. His 1,666 laps led are 350 more laps than next best Kyle Busch. That difference is just 50 laps short of an entire race distance at Dover. After Harvick and Busch, only one other active driver has cracked the 1,000 laps-led mark at Dover – Martin Truex Jr., with 1,001 laps led. However, the all-time lap leader at Dover is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson with a staggering 3,113 laps led.
● Dover’s nickname is the Monster Mile due to its propensity to chew up and spit out even the most seasoned veteran, yet Harvick has seemingly tamed the Monster. Beyond his three wins, 10 top-fives, 23 top-10s and 1,666 laps led, Harvick has only one DNF (Did Not Finish) at Dover – and it wasn’t even a crash. It was an engine failure in the 2006 Dover 400.
● Harvick has also racked up miles at Dover outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. The Bakersfield, California-native has made 17 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Dover, finishing among the top-10 10 times, with a best result of third – earned three times (June 2001, September 2006 and September 2013). Harvick has also made two NASCAR Truck Series starts at Dover, finishing among the top-five both times with a best result of third in June 2012.
● The 2023 season marks the 14th 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 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 9,000 locations across the country, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. 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 have three NASCAR Cup Series wins at Dover and 23 top-10s. Is there something specific about Dover that augments your driving style?
“Dover is a racetrack that everything about it is unique. The concrete, itself, all the way around the racetrack, is unique. Dover is a racetrack where you can get away with being aggressive every single lap. You have to drive the car as hard as it will go every single lap, and that’s hard to do there because there are all the little bumps that come with the concrete, the change of elevation as you go in and off the corners, and all the banking in the corners – it’s just a really, really fast racetrack. It’s also a very physical racetrack just because of all the G’s and the bouncing and everything that comes with driving around Dover. It’s a racetrack where you have to have your hands gripping on the steering wheel and gritting your teeth all at the same time in order to go fast every single lap. When your car’s off, there’s just nowhere to hide there. You wind up going a lap down, probably two laps down, because you pit early and then the caution comes out. It’s a beast of a racetrack and there’s a reason they call it the Monster Mile because you can get yourself in trouble really quick.”
What is Dover like now after a year with the current car and different rules packages?
“Dover is more familiar because there’s actually no shifting. But Dover is still just hammer-down, and car placement is the most important thing there, and knowing when to move your car around in order to get through traffic because it’s always been a difficult racetrack. If you’re stuck to one line, you can get yourself in big trouble at Dover. Usually, the fast line is on the bottom, but you have to be able to figure out how to move around the racetrack. But it’s more straightforward than a lot of the places we go because there’s no shifting, so it’s still got a lot of the characteristics of Dover, but with the big, wide tire and everything we have going on, it’s a lot of throttle.”
Is there something inherent about Dover that resonates with you and makes you so good there?
“Dover is one of those racetracks where if we don’t win, we feel like we’ve let everybody down. It’s been a great racetrack for us and we’ve had some really dumb luck there with lug nuts and valve stems, but outside of those few races, it’s been a very successful racetrack for us. Dover is just one of those grind-it-out-type of races. The harder you can drive it and the more aggressive that you can be lap after lap after lap by being more aggressive and consistent, you can grind a lot of them into the ground there just because 400 laps around Dover, staying focused, and being able to grind away with your racecar that hard for that long is tough mentally and physically. It’s a fun race.”
How did you go from initially struggling at Dover to finding success at Dover, and what role did your crew chief, Rodney Childers, play in that?
“When I came to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, there were a few tracks that we had circled, and Dover was definitely one of those racetracks where, I’m sure he looked at the results and thought, ‘Man, what in the world? This guy is scared to death of something or he can’t drive’ or whatever the problem was at Dover. But he sat down with me before we went to Dover for the very first time and was like, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re going to do. We are not going to run bad at Dover. Just forget everything that you’ve experienced before and we’re going to start over right here because it’s one of my favorite racetracks.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh, great, the racetrack that I would consider probably one of my top-three worst racetracks is one of his favorite racetracks.’ So immediately that put a lot of pressure on me to have to go out and try to do the best that we can, and really from day one at Stewart-Haas Racing, we have run well at Dover and it’s been one of our best racetracks. But that’s purely because of the focus and mental mindset that Rodney instilled from day one.”
Dover has a very unique trophy. It’s the track mascot, Miles the Monster, and he’s got the winning car held in the air. Is it one of the sport’s best trophies?
“My kids love Miles. There are so many racetracks that have terrible trophies – the plastic trophies – I feel like they smash up and I’ll take them home and Keelan will be like, ‘Man, Dad, that’s a terrible trophy.’ That is not the case at Dover. They have a very unique trophy that is easily known as to what racetrack it came from and that’s what every racetrack needs.”