Heading Home a Winner
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 16, 2015) – For the second straight season, Kevin Harvick heads to his home track, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, as the most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner.
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and current Sprint Cup point leader scored his first win of the 2016 campaign in dramatic fashion last Sunday in the Good Sam 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. He dominated the race by leading a race-high 139 laps, but a late caution set up an impressive overtime run that had him beating and banging all the way to the finish line, where he beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the line by .01 of a second for one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.
But, it’s more than winning on the track last week that makes Harvick a hometown favorite.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway in Bakersfield. While visiting his hometown last March, Harvick announced that his Kevin Harvick Foundation had partnered with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to remodel the gymnasium and outdoor playground at the Boys & Girls Club of Kern County.
Wednesday, Harvick and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. cut the ribbon to unveil the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park at that Boys & Girls Club, which will provide 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.
Much like the Greensboro park, 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, will be maintained by the organization, with which the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation will collaborate to create and implement character education programming and clinics for the children who utilize the facility.
This is far from the first project that Harvick has completed in his hometown to help area youth.
After Harvick won the 2014 Sprint Cup championship, he planned an additional stop as part of his champion’s tour – a visit to Bakersfield. Harvick wanted to bring the Sprint Cup 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, he regularly gives back to his hometown through donations from the Kevin Harvick Foundation. Donations have included funds to provide wrestling, baseball and golf equipment to the 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 on the track this weekend, as well. He will pilot the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Then, on Sunday, Harvick’s goal is to make it two Sprint Cup wins in a row by capturing the checkered flag in the Auto Club 400.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Will you have any trouble with the seams at Auto Club Speedway this weekend?
“No, we love the seams. If you hit them wrong, it definitely messes up the direction that the car is going, but it also can be a huge help to you, as well. If you look at those seams and you look at the amount of grip that’s on one side or the other of them, they’re also definitely slippery and you definitely have to keep them in mind. But I think everybody knows that when you come here. You’re going to have to deal with them.”
Do you have anything fun planned as you head to California?
“We have a few things planned with the (Kevin Harvick) Foundation that we will unveil Wednesday at the Boys and Girls Club there in town. I’m looking forward to that because it’s always fun to be able to give back, but this has been a pretty big project for us and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, to be involved with the Boys & Girls Club there. I look forward to showing it off to everybody on Wednesday.”
NASCAR used to be considered a southern regional sport, but now so many guys have come out of California. Can you describe what the culture was like here, racing-wise, when you and some of the other guys 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 is 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 raced on the West Coast a lot. There was also a fairly good following of 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.”
You’ve been coming to Fontana for a long time as a California guy. Now that there is just one race a year, talk about what the atmosphere has been and how the crowds have gotten better and what the drivers’ perceptions of the way things are starting to turn around at Auto Club Speedway?
“I think this racetrack is a great example of a lot of lessons that a lot of people who run racetracks obviously don’t pay attention to. Sometimes, if you take one really great thing, you can really 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. I think, 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 here as that track surface has aged. And, 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 can slide around, and you’re going to have fun from the driver’s seat. That bleeds over into the perception that the fans get, as well, because everybody is talking about enjoying racing on this particular track. I think 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 I think, 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, all in all, it’s all come full circle and I think everything is going well for this particular track.”
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