AVONDALE, Arizona: Kevin Harvick will make his 500th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup start on Sunday (Monday in Manila) in the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Reaching that milestone couldn’t come at a more fitting place.
Harvick has been dominant at the one-mile (1.6-kilometer) track in the Arizona desert, about 15 miles from Phoenix. He’s won seven times at Phoenix and had a four-race victory streak snapped last November when he finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a rain-shortened race.
Harvick hasn’t won this season, but he is at a track where he has had few peers in recent years. A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Harvick started racing at Phoenix in NASCAR’s Southwest Series when he was 20.
“It’s obviously been a great race track for me personally, but really for the last two years at Stewart-Haas Racing it’s been phenomenal,” Harvick said. “We have won three of the four races and got beat by the rain in the last one. All in all it’s been a lot of fun to come here. For me personally, this is a fun place to come just for the fact that I started racing here in the mid-90s, and you still see a lot of the same fans and people that followed your career up through the ranks.”
Harvick’s experience at Phoenix is but one factor in his success. Naturally, he’s reluctant to give away any other secrets of why he’s done so well. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his competitors, who know what they’re up against in Harvick.
“That is tough when someone figures a track out that well,” Carl Edwards said. “But, at this time in the sport for anyone to be that dominant at a track, it really must have something special. The whole field is chasing Kevin at this race track. We’ll learn everything we can. We’d like to end that.”
Harvick’s consecutive-starts streak is third longest among active drivers (Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman are both at 507) and tied with Darrell Waltrip at 14th on the all-time list (Jeff Gordon leads with 797).
Harvick, a career Chevy driver, said he’s not planning any kind of career change next season, when Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) switches to Ford.
“I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t happen,” Harvick said of staying at SHR. “For me I’m in the best position that I’ve been in with my team. I feel like I have the best crew chief [Rodney Childers] in the garage. It would be pretty tough to turn around and walk out on everybody who has been a part of building everything that we have built so far.”
Harvick sits third in the points standings with three top-10s (fourth at Daytona, sixth at Atlanta, seventh at Las Vegas). He was probably at a disadvantage at Las Vegas, where he drove with the lingering effects of a stomach virus. He had brake problems at Atlanta.