KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is leading the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to Las Vegas for this weekend’s Kobalt 400. His impressive start to the 2017 campaign through the series’ first two events has led to a four-point lead over the 2017 Daytona 500 champion, fellow SHR teammate and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch, in the season standings.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the No. 4 Mobil 1 team securing the top spot in the Cup Series standings is that it has done it while transitioning through the offseason to Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Company as its manufacturer.
The new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point system rewards racing at the front of the field throughout each event and, ultimately, winning stages. The No. 4 team has three stage wins through the first two events of the season and has led 342 of 525 total laps – more than 65 percent of the possible total. The driver who ranks second in laps led is Chase Elliott with 39.
Harvick’s three stage wins have also allowed him to score three playoff points. He ranks second behind teammate Busch and Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski, who each have five playoff points.
The Bakersfield, California native has reason to believe his strong start will continue at the 1.5-mile track in Las Vegas this weekend.
Harvick dominated the Kobalt 400 in 2015 to score his first win of the season and his first at Las Vegas in only the season’s third race. His No. 4 car led five times for a race-high 142 laps en route to his 29th career Cup Series win.
The 41-year-old driver also has two wins in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition at Las Vegas. His first came in March 2004, when he started 11th, led 14 laps and raced his way to victory by .119 of a second over runner-up Kasey Kahne.
Harvick’s second Xfinity win at Las Vegas came in February 2010. Driving his own No. 33 car 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.
He is still searching for his first Cup Series 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.
Harvick’s goal now is to score his first win of the 2017 campaign and score his second Kobalt 400 win Sunday on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval.
You got married in Las Vegas, you’ve won a Cup Series race there, two Xfinity Series races, and celebrated your Sprint Cup championship in Las Vegas. Does the city 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. Usually, DeLana and I eat at the same restaurant, we go to the same places and try to have some fun. 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.”
Mobil 1 Racing Advance – Kobalt 400 Page Two
From the driver’s seat how does the new points system change your approach to a race?
“For us, that’s the good thing. For us, Rodney Childers (crew chief) has always been pretty pressing on going out there and trying to get everything you can out of the car in practice, qualifying and at the beginning of the race to try and position yourself for the end as early as possible. That opens up a lot of windows, you know, where your car is, and we’ve tried to race that way for the last three years. When you go back and look at the history, the regular-season points, the segment wins and those types of things have been very good for us and hopefully that trend continues as we move forward.”
Does the new race format and points system fit your driving style?
“I think that fits our team well just to the fact that we’re an aggressive bunch of people. We want to go out and lead laps. We want to go out and try to position ourselves as far forward as we can because you just never know when it’s going to change and what’s going to happen. We’re definitely going to treat it aggressively and try and gain as many bonus points as you can.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine