KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – When Kevin Harvick takes to the racetrack this weekend for the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, his No. 4 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will sport the distinctive blue of primary sponsor ditech for the first time.
Ditech Mortgage Corporation, one of the mortgage industry’s best-known brands, maintains its corporate headquarters 90 miles from Dover – in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania – and Harvick would love nothing more than to host a party in victory lane Sunday for the new partner’s first primary race in its own backyard.
Stewart-Haas Racing welcomed ditech as an associate sponsor of Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet for the final 10 races of 2014 before ditech increased its involvement with the team to include two primary races in 2015. This weekend at Dover is the first of the two, with the second race scheduled for Sept. 27 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 ditech team have had Dover circled on their calendar since last September as unfinished business. In their most recent appearance at Dover in September 2014, Harvick and the No. 4 team won the pole position with a qualifying speed of 162.933 mph and went on to dominate the majority of the race by leading 233 of 400 laps. But a flat left-front tire with 150 laps to go derailed what looked to be a sure win. After dropping back to 21st, the team rebounded to score a 13th-place finish.
The fact Dover International Speedway is known as “The Monster Mile” is not lost on Harvick or the No. 4 team. The difficult racetrack is one of only five on the Sprint Cup circuit where Harvick remains winless. But, if the start to the 2015 race season is any indication, Harvick should be a favorite Sunday.
Twelve races into 2015, Harvick has scored eight top-two finishes – including wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. He sits atop the driver standings with 473 points. His five straight Sprint Cup finishes of second or better to start the season is a series record. He has led a series-high 1,032 laps with an average finish of 6.4 thus far. His 1,032 laps led are 373 laps more than the next-closest competitor – 659 by his SHR teammate Kurt Busch.
The Bakersfield, California, native leads several other statistical categories: 125.9 driver rating, eight top-five finishes, 11 top-10s, 22 bonus points, 621 fastest laps run, 19.5 percent of fastest laps run, 26.4 percent of laps led, 1,129.38 miles led, 3,606 laps in the top-15, 92.1 percent of laps in the top-15, average running position of 5.65, average finish of 6.4, and a pass differential of 222.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion has led at least one lap in 11 straight Sprint Cup points events in 2015. The only race he hasn’t led was the season-opening Daytona 500. That trend should continue this weekend based on last season’s performances at the high-banked concrete mile oval. Harvick led 247 laps in the two 2014 Sprint Cup races at Dover.
Harvick’s two Sprint Cup race wins in 2015 virtually secure his spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, but from this point on he is looking for race wins and bonus points to start the Chase. This weekend in Dover, he is hoping to welcome ditech to the team with its first visit to victory lane as a primary sponsor in Sunday’s FedEx 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is it like to take a lap around Dover?
“For me, Dover is one of those tracks where you feel the speed the most. You carry a lot of speed through the corners and, as you go from the straightaways, the elevation change as you go down in the corners is pretty drastic. And then you’re right back in the throttle and it kind of throws you back out of that hole and up the hill on the exit of the corner. Laps seem to happen very fast there and you want to try and have the best-handling racecar you can have there because, if you’re off even a little bit, you’ll go multiple laps down in a hurry. It’s a fun, very fast racetrack that’s really hard to get everything right.”
Talk a little bit about the physical demands on a driver at Dover. You always hear about how intense a lap around the track is, but 400 laps around there must really be taxing on a driver?
“Dover is definitely one of the most taxing places that we go to, for sure. There are just a lot of G-forces as you go off into the corner and it kind of throws you down into a hole. There’s a lot of banking with a lot of speed and it’s hard on your body. I usually leave out of there with sore heels from where my feet have beat on the floorboard through the day. It’s definitely a very taxing racetrack for a driver.”
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