● With Kevin Harvick in his 23rd and final year of NASCAR Cup Series competition, a familiar name backs the driver of the No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. Rheem, America’s No. 1 water heating brand and major air conditioning and heating manufacturer, is in its 16th consecutive year as a NASCAR sponsor. It’s also the 16th year of the company’s friendship with Harvick – a bond that began in 2007 and one that Harvick quickly galvanized when he won the season-opening Daytona 500. It was a victory for the ages as Harvick beat NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin by .02 of a second in a frantic, green-white-checkered finish. It led to Rheem serving as a primary partner for Harvick’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team, Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI), in 2008. Rheem’s debut with KHI came on May 2, 2008 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway where Harvick finished second in the Lipton Tea 250. Harvick delivered Rheem its very first victory as a primary sponsor 13 years ago on Feb. 27, 2010 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he took the checkered flag in the Sam’s Town 300. Rheem aligned as a primary partner with Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2011 and remained with him until Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Rheem reunited with Harvick in 2022 and came back for another three-race slate in 2023, which kicked off with a ninth-place finish March 5 at Las Vegas and continued with a solid 10th-place drive July 30 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Rheem is a primary partner once more this weekend at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, and will be hosting a large group of customers at its Harvick Legacy Event in honor of the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, his Hall of Fame-worthy career, and his loyal support of Rheem.
● The No. 4 Rheem Ford Mustang has always looked sharp, but at the Bank of America Roval 400, the Rheem Mustang will be pretty in pink. Rheem is promoting its Chasing a Cure campaign to support cancer research by adding a touch of pink to the No. 4 machine for the 109-lap race around the 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course. Rheem first launched its Chasing a Cure campaign in 2022, and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Chasing a Cure serves as a call to action for fans to support breast cancer research by visiting BreastCancer.org and donating via this link. Meanwhile, Rheem’s Heart of Comfort program will donate $10,000 to the organization.
● The Bank of America Roval 400 marks the sixth and final road-course race on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Harvick finished 13th in the first road-course race of the year March 26 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, 11th June 11 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, 29th in the series’ inaugural street race July 2 in downtown Chicago, 23rd Aug. 13 on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and 21st Aug. 20 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
● Harvick has made a total of 60 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 22 starts at Sonoma, 22 at Watkins Glen, five on the Charlotte Roval, three at COTA, three on the road course at Indianapolis, two apiece at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, and one on the Chicago Street Course. He has scored two road-course wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 12 top-fives and 27 top-10s with 199 laps led.
● When Harvick scored his first road-course victory at Watkins Glen in 2006, he had to beat his current team owner to do it. Tony Stewart – the “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing – had won the previous two NASCAR Cup Series races at The Glen and was poised to capture a third straight win as he was leading Harvick with four laps to go in the 90-lap race. But Harvick, who had already led once for 24 laps, passed Stewart on lap 87 as the two drag-raced down the frontstretch and into turn one. Harvick held onto the lead despite Stewart in his rearview mirror, earning a margin of victory of .892 of a second.
● Harvick’s second career road-course win also had a connection to Stewart. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he gave Stewart-Haas Racing its second straight victory at the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course. The winner in 2016? None other than Stewart. It ended up being his 49th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory as Stewart retired from NASCAR racing at the conclusion of the season.
● Harvick’s last road-course win was his first in a Ford. When Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017, he became the 83rd different driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race behind the wheel of a Ford. Harvick has now won 25 Cup Series races with Ford, which makes him one of only 13 drivers to win 20 or more races with the manufacturer. He stands 10th on Ford’s all-time win list and is now only one win away from tying Brad Keselowski, Junior Johnson and Fred Lorenzen for ninth. Harvick has won more races driving a Mustang (15) than any other driver since the iconic muscle car became Ford’s flagship model in 2019.
● Harvick has four road-course wins outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. Two came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007 and Watkins Glen in 2007. And two were in the NASCAR Winston West/K&N Pro Series West – Sonoma in 1998 and again in 2017. The 1998 win at Sonoma was three years before his Cup Series debut on Feb. 26, 2001, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.
You nearly won last year’s race on the Roval and ultimately came home second after a green-white checkered finish. What happened?
“We were in position to win the race, and if the caution doesn’t come out, we probably would have. I knew we needed to have a good restart, and I got a good restart, but Christopher Bell just rolled through so much faster than I could possibly roll through the corner there in turn one, and then he drove away. Look, you’ve won some of them that way, you’ve lost some of them that way, and I knew there was obviously a lot on the line for Christopher at that particular point. For us, we wanted to win the race, but you also don’t want to be that guy and cause a complete pileup at the end of the race and knock a bunch of guys out of the playoffs. I wanted to race him hard, but he just had fresher tires at that particular point and that was the end of it.”
What do you like about the Roval?
“The Roval has really evolved into being one of our better racetracks. It’s very similar to Sonoma with a lot of partial throttle and light braking and a place that we’ve always been able to run really well at. I think the Roval isn’t a typical, well-laid-out racetrack. It’s more of a parking lot. It’s not as much of a parking lot as Indy, as it does have a lot of elevation changes and things like that, but it’s got some unique corners that aren’t your typical, free-flowing, nicely laid-out, natural road-course-type corners. I think the Roval has been intense and exciting over the last several years, and I think this car is going to be a little bit different just because it’s more of a road-course-style vehicle than we’ve driven there in the past. The Roval is aggressive with some of those tough, aggressive passes into some of those braking zones and some of those odd corners. It’s another of those racetracks that has its own characteristics.”
The notion of road-course ringers has come back in vogue after Shane Van Gisbergen’s shock win on the Chicago Street Course. But the original road-course ringer was Ron Fellows. How successful do you think he would be in the current-generation racecar?
“Ron was really everybody’s mentor on the Chevrolet side back then, along with Boris Said. Both of those guys have had moments where they’ve helped and coached. The car leans much more toward people coming in and being able to be successful on the road course just because of what it is. Our cars were much different in that particular time as far as how you had to drive them, and how you’d have to control the wheel hop – everything that went with how the car handled. It was much more specialized as far as the car in those days. Ron was always good, and did great on the ovals, as well, in the Truck Series. He was, definitely, somebody everybody looked up to, to help kind of change the course of road-course racing – how you looked at it and the things that went with it. Because when I started, the road courses were just, ‘Ah, we have to go to the road courses so we’ll just find a car, find a motor. We’ll go out there, make some laps, and then go home.’ Now, it’s very technical and I think a lot of the things that go with it – many of the things that they pushed then, but it wasn’t as competitive in the early-2000s as it was in the mid-2000s to now. It’s at another level now with a lot of guys who are just very good at what they do on the road courses, and they’re able to come in here and adapt to the car.”
This is your 23rd year in the NASCAR Cup Series. How valuable is that kind of experience in this sport?
“Today’s sport is so engineering-minded that the simple, everyday things sometimes get forgotten. It’s very important to do all the little things right, and you have to execute the simple things right, too. Don’t overcomplicate it because sometimes overcomplicating results in a worse result than just say, ‘OK, today we finished fifth and next week we’re going to try to do two or three things to finish first, not 20 or 30 things and finish 30th.’ Keeping the simplicity of our process in the middle of our engineering-minded process is very important. It used to be trial-and-error when you tested. Nowadays, it’s try it and prove it or debunk it, so that it’s either right or wrong.”
You’ve represented Rheem since 2007, when you won the company’s debut race – the Daytona 500. Talk about your longevity with Rheem.
“I think the biggest thing about Rheem is they really utilize the sport in ways that it was utilized 20 years ago. With their hospitality program and the amount of dealers and people they bring to the racetrack, it’s really kind of the way I was brought up in the sport and how you maximize a sponsorship. It’s a relationship that goes back a long way, and having a lot of the same people involved makes that a lot of fun to be able to go through this part of my career and have them on the car and realize the commitment they’ve made to the sport. A lot of the same people who were with me in victory lane at Las Vegas back in 2010 when we first won with Rheem are still there today. Their customers have continued to show up and they’ve continued to support it and that makes you feel valuable. Rheem sees the value in NASCAR and they continue to use that to their benefit.”