Phoenix a Favorite for Harvick
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 28, 2014 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Harvick has reason to smile this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, where he's logged four Sprint Cup Series wins. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick has reason to feel confident this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 22 career Sprint Cup Series starts on the one-mile desert oval, Harvick has collected four wins, seven top-five finishes and 11 top 10s. He’s tied with Jimmie Johnson as the track's career Sprint Cup win leader and enters Sunday’s "The Profit" on CNBC 500 on the heels of his PIR win last November.
Throw in Harvick’s Phoenix success over the years dating back to his days in NASCAR’s old Southwest Tour and its no surprise why the track is one of his favorites.
"I’ve always liked racing on flat tracks like Phoenix," said Harvick. "It’s similar to the tracks that most of us grew up racing on. Phoenix is a very challenging racetrack. It has a unique layout that is different at both ends.
"I feel like I’ve been racing at Phoenix my entire career and what I’ve learned there has helped me be successful on the other flat tracks we race on. The racetrack continues to change as it ages, so you’re always tweaking to keep up with the changes every time we head out there."
The track was significantly changed a few years ago when it was repaved and reconfigured. While it still bears characteristics of its previous layout, including the signature backstretch dogleg, Harvick says there are definitely new challenges.
"You really have to have an understanding of the track," he said. "Every time we go back, I feel like we learn something different. The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy. The track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago."
However, since the makeover Phoenix has changed for the better, which Harvick believes will make the racing product even better.
"The weather really helps wear the track," said Harvick. "It’s incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt. It’s been an interesting track to race on under both configurations, but I think it’s even more exciting now and most of that comes from having the design right."
Sunday’s race will be Harvick’s second as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing. Although he was competitive during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona, his time at "The World Center of Racing" wasn’t without its challenges.
After finishing second in his Budweiser Duel, Harvick was disqualified for a splitter problem with the No. 4 Chevrolet. And although he ran near the front of the field in the Daytona 500, he was involved in a last lap multi-car crash.
But Harvick is still positive about the direction of his race team and particularly his relationship with new crew chief Rodney Childers. He feels confident going into Week No. 2 of the season at Phoenix.
"I felt good about the communication and performance of the No. 4 team during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona," said Harvick. "We were in position to win both the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500, and that's all you can ask for at the end of the day.
"We’re starting the rest of the season this weekend at Phoenix. Rodney has always built fast short-track racecars and I’m really looking forward to building off what we’ve accomplished thus far."
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Sunday's "The Profit" on CNBC 500 beginning at 2 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.