As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits the halfway point of the season with Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, finds himself atop the driver point standings for the first time this year after scoring a seventh-place finish last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has earned three wins, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes so far this season. He’s also led 130 laps and has an average starting position of 20.5 and a series-best average finishing position of 10.7.
Harvick enters the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway very familiar with inaugural events at the 1.5-mile track. In 2001, Harvick scored an impressive win in the first-ever Nationwide Series race at the track. He started 11th, led 131 laps and took the checkered flag with a 1.311-second margin of victory over the second-place driver. In his only other start at the track, Harvick started 13th and finished sixth in the 2006 NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team will race chassis No. 288 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The team utilized this car eight times in 2010, earning one win (Michigan, 8/15), three top-five (Fontana, 2/21; Indianapolis, 7/25) and six top-10 finishes. Harvick also raced this car to a fifth-place finish earlier this year at Pocono (6/12).
As Sprint Cup Series teams prepare to compete at Kentucky Speedway for the first time this weekend, NASCAR has allotted nearly six hours of testing for the teams on Thursday. In addition to the extra track time this weekend, the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team was one of seven teams that participated in the Goodyear tire test at the track last month.
Harvick holds a number of impressive loop data statistics as he approaches the halfway point of the Sprint Cup Series season: third in fastest speed in traffic, third in percentage of laps run on the lead lap (90.99 percent), fourth in laps in the top 15 (3,356), fifth in average running position (13.4), fifth in closers, fifth in fastest late in a run, seventh in green-flag speed and ninth in fastest laps run (182).
Harvick will perform double duty this weekend at Kentucky and compete in his ninth NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season on Friday night. The two-time series champion will be at the wheel of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. in the 300-mile race.
Kevin Harvick discusses preparing for the race at Kentucky:
The series hasn’t been to a new Cup track in 10 years, with the last ones being Chicago and Kansas. What’s the biggest challenge when you head to a place like we head to Kentucky this week? “I’d say every one of us has been there in some way, shape or form. Some of the guys may not have raced there, but I know for me, when I first raced there was in 2001. Through the years, there has been a lot of testing that has taken place at that particular race track. I think it’s a race track everyone is pretty familiar with, but not familiar with this new-style car there, as everything was probably done with the old car. So it’ll still be a challenge for sure.”
What were you able to learn from the tire test? “I think just knowing that the tire is good. It’s a very durable tire. You’re not on edge. I think the biggest thing is just putting that to bed and knowing that we’re not going to have any tire issues.”
How long does it take you to feel comfortable in a car and find a rhythm? “For me, I’m a rhythm racer. I’m not going to be one of those guys who’s just going to go out there and shove the thing in the fence by just trying to go fast right off the bat. I’m going to creep up and kind of know the limits of my car and keep pushing them until I feel like that’s the edge.”