Kevin Harvick is still looking for his first win of 2021 and hopes it comes Sunday in the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
After leading the NASCAR Cup Series in victories a year ago with nine, Harvick has yet to find Victory Lane this season. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has had success at Sonoma before and overall his Cup road racing performance has been strong.
Harvick has made a total of 44 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 19 starts apiece at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, three at the Charlotte Roval, two on the Daytona road course and one at COTA. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 10 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s finishes with 195 laps led.
“I enjoy road racing,” Harvick said. “For us, it’s kind of up and down as far as what we’ve been able to do on the racetrack from a performance side, but a lot of that was track specific, too. Sonoma has been a really good racetrack for us.
“You do have more in your hands, for sure, especially when it comes to shifting and all the different things that could happen. But strategy and track position are a big part of that element too. It’s just like anything else, you’ve got to have the whole piece of the puzzle to put it all together.”
NASCAR has made a major foray into more road racing this year with seven on the Cup Series schedule. But Sunday’s race at Sonoma marks a return to the northern California track for the series since last year’s race was not held due to COVID-19 restrictions. Harvick is looking forward to getting back to a track that he feels very comfortable competing on.
“For sure, and it will be nice to know every nook and cranny because we haven’t been there in a little bit,” he explained. “We didn’t go there last year, and going back this year definitely makes it a little bit different because of the fact that you’re not going to have any practice or qualifying. Plus, you took a year off from the racetrack, so it’s not as relevant as somewhere that we raced last year with the notes and the things we have. It’s definitely a racetrack I have a lot of laps at.”
Harvick does believe there are some similarities between Sonoma and other road circuits now on the calendar including COTA, where the Cup Series made its debut a few weeks ago. Despite the torrential rain and challenging conditions drivers dealt with at COTA, Harvick did learn something he thinks will help his cause to find another Sonoma win on Sunday.
“I think COTA and Sonoma are going to be more similar than a lot of people think,” he said. “I know that Sonoma doesn’t have a big, long straightaway with a bunch of elevation changes into a fast corner, but Sonoma does have a lot of elevation change, it’s just a much slower pace of racetrack just because of the fact that you have so many corners. I think with all the sharp corners and all the little timing sections you have through the esses at COTA, it’s more similar to Sonoma than anywhere else.”