Trying To Tame Texas
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is still looking for his first NASCAR Cup Series win there even though he has had success there in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick has five wins and two poles at Texas in the Xfinity Series. He’s also scored 10 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and led 779 laps. He has an average starting position of 7.0 and finish of 7.5.
In the Truck Series, Harvick has one Texas victory, which came in 2011. He also has two top-fives and led 64 laps in four starts.
In 28 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas, Harvick has six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s with an average finish of 12.0.
While he is still chasing that elusive Cup Series win at Texas, Harvick’s recent starts there show he may be close to finally breaking through. He has finished in the top-10 in eight of his last 10 races at Texas, including five straight dating back to November 2014, and he’s led 110 laps in his last five starts.
What should make Texas even more challenging this time around is the new surface on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Since the series last visited the speedway in Fort Worth, the track laid an entirely new asphalt surface that no drivers or teams have had the opportunity to test. The one constant with most repaved racetracks in recent history is that the racing typically changes significantly.
Six races into 2017, Harvick is ranked 10th in the championship driver standings with 154 points, but has struggled to find the finishes he has over the previous three seasons to start the season. Since joining SHR prior to the start of the 2014 season, Harvick has never gone to Texas Motor Speedway in April without a win to his credit. The string of tough luck has included a pit-road speeding penalty at Atlanta that cost the No. 4 team a win; a cut tire at Las Vegas resulting in a 38th-place finish; and a damaged nose coming to the green flag at the start of the race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, followed by a cut tire in the same race, which forced Harvick to battle back from two laps down to finish 13th.
The No. 4 team also had to work without veteran crew chief Rodney Childers last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway as he was serving a one-race penalty for an infraction discovered after the race at Phoenix.
Harvick and the No. 4 team are hoping their luck changes Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and he can win a brand new cowboy hat and, most importantly, add one more racetrack to his list of NASCAR Cup Series victory lane appearances.
Normally you have a test or some helpful information before heading to a newly resurfaced racetrack for the first time. Does it feel like you’re going in blind this weekend at Texas?
“It does feel like we’re going in somewhat blind. I think there might be some rough data, maybe, and some video of people driving pace cars around the racetrack, but it’s going to be a unique weekend just for the fact that the track is different in turns one and two. Eddie Gossage spent a lot of time talking to the drivers and really trying to figure out what they could do to make their racetrack better since they were going to have to repave it. Texas was at a point where they were going to repave it because they basically just had a big sponge. They couldn’t get the water out of the ground in the asphalt and they had to repave their track. Turns one and two are much wider with a little bit less banking. The hope is that we’ll be able to carry a little more speed in there and have to use some brakes to slow the cars down. Turns three and four are virtually the same. They put a lot of thought into making things different. But, we’re just showing up at the racetrack and having two hours of practice basically for the Cup cars and then a couple Xfinity practices before jumping in the car to qualify. It’s going to be very unique because, usually, we have an open day of testing in these situations. I think it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s like going to the roller-coaster park and getting on a roller coaster that scares you to death the first time. There’s nothing like going out there and getting scared to death, sliding around trying to figure out where you’re going. There’s a lot more to think about than normal.”
Does running both the Xfinity and Cup races at Texas work as a benefit for you?
“I think the progression throughout the weekend is definitely going to feed off both cars. This is the second race that I get to drive the No. 41 Xfinity car. It’s the first weekend that we’ve got Hunt Brothers Pizza with their four races on the Xfinity car this year. When we picked Texas, it was just a racetrack I like to race at and a market they wanted to be in. Little did we know it was going to be part of a repave and now it’s part of this weekend. It’s really going to be beneficial for me to see how the racetrack evolves and progresses throughout the weekend. To get a race underneath my belt on Saturday before we have to get in the car on Sunday is something where you can take a lot of information from the same tires and same air pressures. Just from the driver’s standpoint, to see where to drive on the racetrack is going to be very beneficial.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine