While he ranks third in the Cup Series standings at the moment, it’s hard not to look back at what the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford did last season. That’s when he won a career-high eight races and also captured the NASCAR All-Star race.
“Those are once or twice in a career-type seasons,” said Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR champion. “When you look at all the race wins, it’s something I had never done before, and winning the All-Star race, it was a career year. You almost can’t even compare it to anything else we’ve done.”
What’s happening at Bristol — a fan guide
You can now compare the 43-year-old Harvick to many of the sport’s all-time greats. Going into Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, he has 45 career wins, which puts him one ahead of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott on the sport’s all-time wins list.
Two of those wins have come at Bristol, including the 2005 Food City 500 the weekend Harvick swept the Xfinity Series and Cup races. Three years ago, he won for the first time since the track was reconfigured. Once the harshest critic of the reconfiguration, he praised the speedway’s innovation of adding a sticky compound to the track surface.
“The addition of the PJ1 a few years ago brought the bottom groove back,” Harvick said. “As drivers, you know that top groove is going to come into play at some particular point. Just having that bottom groove available, it makes the racetrack more racy and brings it back closer than what it used to be.”
Harvick liked the old track surface because he felt like it gave him a leg up on the competition. Similar to Mesa Marin Raceway, his home track in California, he used Bristol’s unique layout to his advantage.
“It used to be where you could hook the bottom of the concrete,” he said. “You could crutch an ill-handling car with some places you could drive on the racetrack. I felt like when we came to Bristol we had an advantage because I could do things with the track. Now, there are different characteristics, but it’s still really fast for a short track.”
Harvick said the fans’ reaction to Bristol and the challenge it presents the drivers make it one of those marquee stops on the tour like Daytona, Indianapolis and Darlington.
“It’s always hard to win at Bristol,” he said. “As good as we were on the old surface, we only won there once. It seemed we always got caught up in a mistake or whatever. That’s what made Bristol what it is. Even with the new surface, it’s a tough place to win. When you do win there, it’s a big accomplishment.”