The West Coast Swing Heads Home
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 20, 2016) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Fontana, California this weekend for the final race of the three-race West Coast swing – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
The visit to Fontana serves as a home game for the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway in Bakersfield.
The stop at Auto Club Speedway should provide confidence for the Bakersfield native. He is one of three drivers from California to win a Cup Series race at Fontana, joining Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Harvick scored his only Cup Series win in Fontana on March 11, 2011. Kyle Busch dominated the afternoon, leading 151 laps of the 200-lap event but, in the closing laps as Busch attempted to hold off a hard-charging Johnson, Harvick worked the top of the racetrack and ran down the leaders. On the final turn of the final lap, Harvick passed Johnson and beat him to the finish line by .144 of a second. He led only one lap on the day, but it secured the victory at his home track.
Both of Harvick’s last two Cup Series starts at the 2-mile oval came ever so close to victory. He started and finished second in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he led 34 laps but finished runner-up by .710 of a second to Brad Keselowski after a late-race restart. He led 143 of 200 laps in 2016 but finished runner-up to Johnson by .772 of a second in an overtime finish.
Harvick also has had success in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Fontana. He has one win, one pole, 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 20 career starts. He scored his lone Xfinity Series win there in 2015, when he started sixth, led 100 of 150 laps and beat second-place Brendan Gaughan to the finish line by 3.317 seconds.
The 41-year old Harvick also has four starts at Fontana in the Camping World Truck Series but has yet to score a win at his home track in that series.
He has two starts at Fontana in the K&N Pro Series West, resulting in a runner-up finish to Ken Schrader by 1.314 seconds in May 1998 and a trip to victory lane in July 1998, when he led 52 laps and beat Austin Cameron to the checkered flag by 1.15 seconds.
But, it’s more than winning on the Fontana track that makes Harvick a hometown favorite.
In March 2016, he and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. cut the ribbon to unveil the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park at the Boys & Girls Club in Bakersfield, which provides a clean and safe environment in which local youth can play, learn and grow. The Bakersfield facility marks the second collaboration between the two organizations, which commenced their alliance by opening the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park in Greensboro, North Carolina in November 2015.
The state-of-the-art facility in Bakersfield is designed for multisport use, featuring four outdoor fitness stations, a rubber track surface circling the field’s perimeter, and a digital scoreboard. The park, a gift to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, is maintained by the organization, with which the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation collaborate to create and implement character education programming and clinics for the children who utilize the facility.
The Boys & Girls Club of Kern County is not the only project Harvick has completed in his hometown to help area youth.
After he won the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship, he planned an additional stop as part of his champion’s tour – a visit to Bakersfield. Harvick wanted to bring the Cup Series trophy to his high school, where he spoke to more than 2,000 kids in the school’s gymnasium and encouraged them to follow their dreams.
In fact, Harvick regularly gives back to his hometown through donations from his foundation. Donations have included funds to provide wrestling, baseball and golf equipment to his high school in order to ensure that anyone who wants to participate can do so without worrying about paying for proper equipment.
Harvick hopes he can give his hometown fans another thing to cheer about at the track Sunday as he attempts to capture his first win of the season in the Auto Club 400.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
NASCAR used to be considered a Southern regional sport, but now so many drivers have come out of California. Can you describe what the culture was like here, racing-wise, when you and some of the other drivers came up and how it led to what we have now?
“I think, when you look at California, there are a lot of racetracks up and down the coast. Whether it’s asphalt, dirt tracks, go-kart tracks, there is a well-supported community of racing up and down the state of California, even into Washington and Oregon. As I was coming up, there was the Southwest Tour, Winston West Series, and the (NASCAR Camping World) Trucks that raced on the West Coast a lot. There was also a fairly good following for Late Models. Things have slowed down from what they used to be, but you have the Kern County Raceway in this particular area. There is definitely a lot of racing when you look at way back in the day it was mostly a Southeastern sport. I think Jeff Gordon was obviously somewhat responsible for being able to allow guys like myself in and pave the way for us to have a path to have an opportunity to come and race in NASCAR. It’s always been a well-supported racing area and I was fortunate to grow up in Bakersfield, California, which is a very well supported racing town no matter what you race. There is a lot of racing. It just took a while for everybody to figure that out.”
Now that there is just one race a year at Fontana, talk about what the atmosphere has been and how the crowds have gotten better and how the drivers’ perceptions of the way things are starting to turn around there.
“This racetrack is a great example of lessons that a lot of people who run racetracks don’t pay attention to. Sometimes, if you take one really great thing, you can easily make them into two mediocre things. I don’t understand that with racetracks a lot of the time, but this one has come full circle. When you look at the crowds that we’ve had over the last couple of years, they’ve been really good. The racing has been really good as that track surface has aged. As a driver, you look forward to coming here now because it’s one of those tracks where you can run all over the place, the cars slide around, and you’re going to have fun from the driver’s seat. That bleeds over into the perception that the fans get because everybody is talking about enjoying racing on this particular track. Some markets are just one-race markets. I would say ninety percent of them are one-race markets, but a lot of them still have two races and you just see those mediocre crowds and, when people know that you’re only coming once a year, you have to go to that one particular race. Having a race with a good date is obviously good for the weather and the people to come out and enjoy it. It’s not 115 degrees in August, which was always fun to be a part of in the racecar (laughs). But, I think, it’s all come full circle and everything is going well for this particular track.”
Busch Beer Racing Team Report
Round 5 of 36 – Auto Club 400 – Auto Club Speedway
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kevin Harvick
Hometown: Bakersfield, California
Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Car Chief: Robert Smith
Hometown: Whitewater, Wisconsin
Engine Builder: Roush-Yates Engines
Headquarters: Moorseville, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Robert Brandt
Hometown: Mobile, Alabama
Spotter: Tim Fedewa
Hometown: Holt, Michigan
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Justin White
Hometown: Lynnville, Tennessee
Front Tire Changer: Eric Maycroft
Hometown: Algonquiin, Illinois
Second Gas Man: Marc Wulf
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
Front Tire Carrier: Matt Holzbaur
Hometown: New Egypt, New Jersey
Windshield: Matthew Custer
Hometown: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Jackman: Stan Doolittle
Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina
Rear Tire Carrier: Mike “Shrek” Morneau
Hometown: Oxford, Maine
Road Crew Members:
Truck Drivers: Rick Hodges and Stephen Mitchell
Hometowns: Raleigh, North Carolina, and Woodville, Ohio, respectively
Tire Specialist: Dustin Keath
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania
Shock Specialist: Mike McCarville
Hometown: Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Engineers: Dax Gerringer and Billy Keubler
Hometowns: Gibsonville, North Carolina, and Saline, Michigan,respectively
Mechanics: Richie Bean and Allen Mincey
Hometown: Bradford, Vermont, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida,respectively
Fuel Runner: Evan Kureczka
Hometown: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Chassis Information – Chassis No. 4-995:
Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-995 in the Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Built new in 2016, Chassis No. 4-995 made its NASCAR Cup Series debut in the All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Harvick started first, led 21 laps in the first segment and overcame a mechanical issue related to the car’s steering to finish 11th. It made its second appearance the very next week in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, where Harvick started eighth and finished second. Harvick started from the pole position at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway after rain cancelled Cup Series qualifying. He led 214 laps and scored a runner-up finish. Its final start of 2016 came at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in October, where Harvick started 11th, led 74 laps and crossed the finish line 1.183 seconds ahead of runner-up Carl Edwards to advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs.
Auto Club Speedway Notes of Interest:
· Earning It Since 2014: Harvick enters his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. In their first three seasons together, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 12 victories, 11 poles, 54 top-five finishes and 75 top-10s; led 5,815 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016.
· Back Where it Started – Harvick, a native of Bakersfield, California, grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway. He graduated from Bakersfield’s North High School in 1994. When he wasn’t racing, he competed on the high school’s wrestling team. Harvick competed at local racetracks in the Late Model division while attending high school and won the Late Model track championship in 1993 at his home track, Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield. After high school graduation, Harvick decided to follow his dreams and pursue a professional racing career. He advanced to the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour full-time in 1995 and made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut late that year. Harvick kept a busy racing schedule, competing full-time in both the Truck Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1998. Harvick’s commitment to his racing career paid off as he won five races en route to the K&N Pro Series West championship. His hard-charging style and success behind the wheel caught the eye of team owner Richard Childress, who put him behind the wheel of the No. 2 car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the 2000 season. Harvick graduated to full-time competition in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2001.
· Points Position: Harvick arrives at Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California ranked seventh in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings with 123 points after a sixth-place finish Sunday in the Camping World 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
· Leader of the Pack: Through the first four NASCAR Cup Series events of 2017, Harvick has led 342 of 1,106 laps. That’s 30.9 percent of the total laps contested. Martin Truex Jr. ranks second in laps led with 152.
· Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway: The Auto Club 400 will mark Harvick’s 24th career NASCAR Cup start at Auto Club Speedway. Harvick has one win, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s at the 2-mile oval. The 41-year-old driver has led 237 laps, has an average starting position of 15.9, an average finish of 15.1, and has completed 98.6 percent (5,281 of 5,354) of the laps he’s contested there.
· California Boys: Harvick is one of only three California natives to have claimed NASCAR Cup Series victories at Auto Club Speedway. The others are Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
· Harvick in the Xfinity Series at Fontana: Harvick has made 19 starts in the Xfinity Series at Fontana. In 2015, he started sixth, led 100 laps and crossed the finish line 3.317 seconds ahead of runner-up Brendan Gaughan. Harvick has one win, one pole, 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s. He has led 376 laps, has an average starting position of 9.6, an average finish of 6.6, and has completed 98.7 percent (2,818 of 2,854) of the laps he’s contested there.
· Harvick in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Fontana: Harvick has two starts in the K&N Pro Series West at Fontana, both driving for Spears Motorsports in 1998. He started and finished second with 32 laps led in his first start at the 2-mile oval in May 1998, when he finished runner-up to Ken Schrader by 1.314 seconds. His only other Fontana start in the West Series came in July 1998, when he won the pole with speed of 173.779 mph, led 52 of 100 laps and beat runner-up Austin Cameron to the finish line by 1.15 seconds. In his two starts, he led 84 of 200 total laps.
· Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 35 wins, 154 top-fives, 286 top-10s and 18 poles in 578 career Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
· Harvick the TV Broadcaster: Harvick has served as a featured broadcaster in the FOX TV booth for the NASCAR Xfinity Series races Feb. 25 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and March 18 at Phoenix. Healso will be in the booth for Xfinity races April 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, May 6 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and June 10 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. He is slated to broadcast NASCAR Truck Series races April 1 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, July 21 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Oct. 13 at Talladega.
· Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: On March 14, Harvick announced that he will host Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio. The show is set to debut on March 28 and air every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. ET, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on his sport and life outside the track. Harvick and co-host Matt Yocum will take calls from listeners and give NASCAR fans a unique view on the driver’s life and interests when he is away from the racecar. In June, the show will begin airing every other week.
· Kevin Harvick Foundation Park: On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, Harvick and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. cut the ribbon to unveil the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park at the Boys & Girls Club of Kern County in Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield, California. The park serves as a clean and safe environment in which local youth can play, learn and grow. The facility was the second collaboration between the two organizations, which commenced their alliance by opening the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park in Greensboro, North Carolina, in November 2015. The facility in Bakersfield is designed for multisport use, featuring four outdoor fitness stations, a rubber track surface circling the field’s perimeter, and a digital scoreboard. The park, a gift to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, is maintained by the organization, with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation collaborating to create and implement character education programming and clinics for the children who utilize the facility.