KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race looking for a reason to celebrate in Las Vegas on a Sunday.
Harvick has had many reasons to celebrate in Las Vegas over the years, including his most recent trip in early December 2014 when he was honored as the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion during Champions Week in Las Vegas. The week culminated with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet on Friday night, Dec. 5, at the Wynn Las Vegas.
The Bakersfield, California native has had reasons to celebrate at Las Vegas dating all the way back to 2001. Following his Sprint Cup debut Feb. 26 of that year at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, the series headed west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001, Harvick married his wife DeLana. That Sunday, March 4, Harvick scored his first career Sprint Cup top-10.
In the 14 years since his first start at Las Vegas, Harvick has gone on to win 28 Sprint Cup races among his 116 top-five finishes and 231 top-10s, and he’s earned 14 pole positions to go with last year’s Sprint Cup title.
The defending Sprint Cup champ has two wins on a Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Harvick’s first win at Las Vegas came on Saturday, March 6, 2004, when he started 11th, led 14 laps and raced his way to victory lane by 0.119 of a second over runner-up Kasey Kahne.
Harvick’s second Xfinity win at Las Vegas came on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. Driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc., he started second, led 82 laps and beat runner-up Denny Hamlin to the finish line by 1.361 seconds. It was the sixth win for Harvick’s team in the Xfinity Series.
Harvick is still searching for his first Sprint Cup pole at Las Vegas, but he did win the pole for the Xfinity race in 2007 when he turned a lap at 181.111 mph.
In 14 Sprint Cup starts at Las Vegas, Harvick has three top-five finishes and five top-10s, and he’s led 81 laps. He has an average starting position of 20.7 and average finish of 14.7, and he’s completed 99.1 percent of the 3,759 laps contested.
This weekend, Harvick will attempt to add that elusive Sprint Cup win at the 1.5-mile oval in Sunday’s Kobalt 400. He will also be in the broadcast booth Saturday afternoon for the Xfinity Series race.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You got married in Las Vegas, you have won Xfinity Series races in Las Vegas and, most recently, celebrated a Sprint Cup championship in Las Vegas. Does Las Vegas have a special meaning to you?
“I have raced there for a long time, but I don’t know that it has that special meaning other than the fact that we got married out there. It is different this year. This will probably be the first year ever that DeLana hasn’t gone. Usually, we eat at the same restaurant, we go to the same places, but with the West Coast swing the way it is this year and (son) Keelan, they are going to stay home. We will fly back and forth because we have to test on the Wednesday after the race. It’s definitely been a good racetrack for me. It’s still a place where I have a lot of family and friends and people I enjoy. It’s a busy weekend but, all-in-all, it’s still a fun place to go.”
Did you race around Las Vegas in your early days on the West Coast?
“I did. We never raced at the big track until we got to about ’97, ’98. But we always raced at what was previously – it wasn’t called ‘The Bullring,’ it was the – ‘Little Las Vegas Track’ that had really bad lights. Other than that, it was a fun racetrack to race on, and we raced our Southwest Tour cars and Late Models over there.”
What is your biggest memory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
“The biggest memory at the big track – gosh it’s been so long ago. Probably ’98, when we won the championship in the Winston West Series at the time, that was pretty neat. We have won some different races there in the Xfinity Series but never on Sunday. It is definitely one of those places that you want to mark off the list.”
How big would a win at Las Vegas this Sunday be?
“I think, right now you want to win as early as you can in the season. The first two weeks have gone really well. I think to win at a racetrack that we haven’t won at before would definitely be something. I think we are all looking forward to the challenge.”
You are broadcasting on Saturday, as well. How has your experience been in the broadcast booth?
“My first experience was really good. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I think just working with Michael (Waltrip) and Adam (Alexander) and all the folks from FOX Sports was very enjoyable. They made the process very easy. I’m looking forward to knowing what to expect because, last time, they just kind of flipped the switch and, next thing you know, you were talking about racing. You didn’t really think about the fact you were on the air talking to millions of people. It was definitely a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the second time.”
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