Kevin Harvick is bringing a broom with him this weekend to Watkins Glen International, looking to complete a sweep of the NASCAR Cup Series road course races with a victory in the I Love New York 355.
Harvick will drive the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Busch Beer Ford. He was victorious in the only other NASCAR Cup Series road course stop, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, Calif., on June 25. It was Harvick's 36th NASCAR Cup Series career win. He also won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma earlier that same weekend. Now he hopes to complete the tw- race NASCAR Cup Series season road course sweep at The Glen.
Harvick will also compete at Watkins Glen in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 behind the wheel of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing FIELDS Ford.
"I think for us we definitely talked about our road course program after last year and wanted to do some things differently," Harvick said. "We just really didn't approach the program like we might have wanted to so Rodney (Rodney Childers, crew chief) and I sat down and came up with a new plan to try to run better and obviously that worked out okay at Sonoma winning the K&N and the Cup race on that weekend. When we come to Watkins Glen we're going to run the Xfinity race and try to gather some notes there and hopefully it will carry over to the Cup race and have some good results.
"The first couple years the road racing stuff was good for us and last year wasn't so good for us so I had to think about things a little bit differently."
In 2016 at The Glen, Harvick qualified 15th and finished the race 32nd after being involved in an accident on lap 83.
Harvick was victorious in the 2006 NASCAR Cup Series race at The Glen when he came out on top in a thrilling late-race battle with Tony Stewart. Harvick was driving for Richard Childress Racing at the time.Now Harvick is now driving for SHR, the team co-owned by Stewart.
"It's kind of strange to think about it in that perspective just because of the fact that I still view Tony as a guy that sometimes I forget that I don't race against anymore, " Harvick said. "Obviously Tony was a very good driver at Watkins Glen, so to beat him on that particular day was something that I'm really proud of. I think as you look at The Glen in general its been a place that over the years I've run pretty well at. Obviously there's times you go up there and it doesn't all work out but through my whole career I've had at Watkins Glen it's been a place I enjoy and I've run well but only won once there. It's a very challenging place to get a good finish."
Harvick has one other victory at Watkins Glen, that the 2007 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
Harvick almost won the 2015 edition of the Glen, but cruel fate intervened. His car ran out of fuel on the final lap during a 30-lap green flag run just two turns from the checkered flag, handing the victory to Joey Logano. Harvick coasted home third. Harvick led a race high 29 of 90 laps in 2015.
"It really wasn't much to manage trying to hold Logano off," Harvick said. "He actually ran off the race track going into Turn One and I had a huge gap and at that particular point it was just a matter of whether I made it back around or not and trying to save all the fuel that you can. I ran out going into the next-to-last corner and it kind of picked up for a second and then completely ran out. So I was within one corner of getting that second win but it just wasn't meant to be on that particular day. Hopefully we can figure it out this time and get that one last corner that I needed in 2015."
NASCAR has made big changes this year in their season points championship format. This season stage racing has been implemented at all NASCAR Cup Series races. NASCAR races are being run with predetermined stage breaks, with stage wins and additional bonus points awarded for stage finishes. Stage breaks for Sunday's race at The Glen will come on laps 20 and 40 of the 90-lap contest. Also at four events this season, Pocono, Indianapolis, Martinsville and The Glen qualifying and the race take place on the same day, as opposed to the more traditional separate days. This Sunday's qualifying is at 12:05 p.m.; the race at 3:18 p.m.
"It will definitely be a different setup for sure," Harvick said. "I think as you look at it to put it all into perspective I think they'll probably be a little bit less than what you do at other places. But putting it all on the line it will probably be better just for the fact that it saves the teams a ton of work with the things they have to do to the car and the setups they have to put into the car for qualifying. You just take all that out of the equation. So for us it will actually be better and for me it really doesn't change a lot just for the fact that you'll know what you have and how the cars driving. It's not as big a deal at the road course as it would be at the mile and a half ovals or some of the bigger race tracks.
"We gave up both stages at Sonoma in order to preserve what we wanted our track position to be for the last stage. With the stage racing you have to make a decision before the day of what you think your strategy will be and as the day progresses see how your cars running, circumstances that you've had to deal with in order to try to preserve the day by gaining stage points, and if you're fast enough to put yourself in a position for a race win. So there's definitely alternative strategies and that's what has made stage racing really good for us and the sport this year."