"Happy" heads to the Lone Star State
A Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat. It’s the symbol of success at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Along with a trophy, the race winner and his team each receive one to commemorate the victory.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has six of those Charlie 1 Horse hats. Five of them have come from wins in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition, and one came from his lone victory in the Camping World Truck Series. From dominant performances to late-race shootouts, it seems Harvick has won at Texas in every type of scenario.
But despite all his success there, there is one victory that has eluded Harvick thus far – a Sprint Cup win at Texas. Harvick would like nothing more than to complete his hat collection by adding to his impressive win list at Texas and finally putting a mark in the Sprint Cup column. Should he be able to accomplish that, Texas would become the sixth racetrack where Harvick has claimed victory in all three of NASCAR’s National Touring Series.
Not only would a win this weekend at Texas complete Harvick’s hat collection, it would also move him ahead of his fellow 2014 race-winning competitors in pursuit of a berth in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. While Harvick’s win at Phoenix International Raceway in March virtually guarantees his No. 4 team a spot in the playoffs, he and his Rodney Childers-led crew want to score additional wins. As the 2014 season has seen six different winners in the first six races, there is plenty of reason to believe that the trend of single-race winners will likely continue. While there might be just a slim chance of seeing 16 race winners – the number of drivers who will qualify for the Chase – another win for Harvick would certainly cement his presence in the postseason.
Harvick knows the strength of SHR’s intermediate track program. He was in contention at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. At Las Vegas, he was leading the field and appeared to be on his way to another win until suffering a left-front wheel hub failure. He had a strong run going early at Fontana until a left-rear tire failure heavily damaged the left-rear quarter panel of his Jimmy John’s Chevrolet. After spending time on pit road to make repairs, Harvick restarted at the back of the field. He was able to race his way back to the front of the field before an unfortunate tire failure struck again. Lengthier repairs saw him fall off the lead lap and left him with a less-than-desired finish.
Heading to Texas fresh off a seventh-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last weekend, the driver of the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet is looking forward to this weekend’s 500-miler and his chance to finally earn that Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat for a Texas Sprint Cup win Sunday afternoon.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Considering that Texas Motor Speedway is extremely bumpy and is notorious for wearing tires, what are some of the other challenges it presents?
“I expect it to create a few more challenges. As we’ve seen the first part of the year, the cars are very fast with the new ride-height rule, the new spoiler height and everything that comes with it. I believe the tire we’ll be using this weekend comes from the same family as what we had at Fontana a few weeks back. I think we’ll see a lot of the same characteristics we saw there with the bumps on the racetrack and the tire wear. We’re going to be taking the bumps at a much higher rate of speed with a lot more load on the left-side tires than we’ve had there before. So, I think we’re going to see some new challenges pop up. As we’ve gone through these first five or six weeks, we’ve been to racetracks that we’ve been to before, but we have different things to work on the cars with a lot of new things to understand. We’re still trying to get our arms around everything because there are so many new things to understand. Texas is the first racetrack that’s similar to a track we’ve raced at already, so it’ll be an interesting race.”
How important is qualifying and track position at a place like Texas Motor Speedway?
“Qualifying is definitely very important on the mile-and-a-half racetracks. Texas is one of those places where track position is so important to keep the handling on your car. There is never a dull moment because you’re trying to drive the car to the edge every lap. You’re trying to make the car go as fast as you can. When you’re in traffic, it’s harder to drive the car than it is when you’re out there by yourself for the fact that it takes downforce off of the car and it feels like the car is lifting out of the racetrack. It’s definitely a challenge every lap.”