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Relieved Harvick Takes Aim at Second Brickyard Victory after Sonoma Breakthrough

It’s easy to admit in the afterglow of a victory, but Kevin Harvick acknowledged he doubted whether he would drive into Victory Lane this year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Harvick and the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing team, co-owned by two-time Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart, switched from Chevrolet to Ford before this season. That transition is more challenging than just a new body style, as the setups developed for one manufacturer don’t easily translate to a different auto maker’s car.

But now that 2003 Brickyard 400 winner Harvick broke through for his first win of the season in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 25 at the Sonoma Raceway road course, he could be unleashed and poised for more summer success, including at the Brickyard 400 on July 23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I can say this now, but I had mixed emotions about how the year was going to go just because of the fact that we had a lot on our plate to switch over,” Harvick said. “And I think as we started the year, we had good performance, and we went through a little bit of a spell where it wasn't as good as the first three or four weeks, and then the last month and a half has been really good.

“So it's just a big undertaking, and one day I think when we get done with this year, I think everybody will actually learn all the details of all the things that it took to get to this particular point. But it's a huge undertaking, and I think it says a lot about our people at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Harvick executed a perfect fuel strategy from crew chief Rodney Childers during the second half of the race at Sonoma, building a lead of eight seconds. He won under caution when Kasey Kahne crashed on the final lap, shortly before Harvick saw the checkered flag. Harvick had just enough fuel left for a celebratory burnout in his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford.

Teammate Clint Bowyer finished second, capping a 1-2 result for Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick’s win was the second of the season for the team, as Kurt Busch won the season-opening Daytona 500.

Harvick has finished in the top 10 in eight of his last 10 starts starting with the April 9 race at Texas Motor Speedway. But none were victories. He ended up a disappointing second on Father’s Day weekend at Pocono, falling just short in scalding pursuit of rookie Ryan Blaney.

But Harvick remained undaunted despite the win drought. The strong, consistent results confirmed his time was coming.

“I felt like I knew we were going to win again just for the fact that our cars were running good,” Harvick said. “Pocono and Michigan, our cars were fast the last couple weeks, and all weekend here this weekend our cars have been good. Our speedway cars have been good. I felt like three or four races where we had the best cars we wrecked out and had the speeding penalty at Atlanta after leading 300-some laps.

“It's been a good year; we just hadn't been to Victory Lane. Today it all went our way, and hopefully we've gotten all that bad luck out of the way and we can enjoy days like this where it all goes our way and capitalize on the fastest car.”

Harvick always has been one of the fastest drivers on the challenging 2.5-mile oval at IMS since his Brickyard 400 debut in 2001. He has produced 10 top-10 finishes in 16 Brickyard 400 starts, including his victory in 2003.

2014 Cup Series champion Harvick is on a consistent roll at IMS. He has finished eighth or better in his last three Brickyard 400 starts – eighth in 2014, third in 2015 and sixth in 2016.

That consistent brilliance at IMS is reminiscent of another native of Bakersfield, California – four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, one of Harvick’s racing heroes.

A second Brickyard 400 victory would put Harvick within two of Mears’ record-tying Indy 500 win total. But for now, Harvick is just relieved he has secured a spot in the NASCAR postseason Playoff.

“Well, I think winning makes everything better,” Harvick said. “I think it definitely takes a lot of pressure off of us to not have to answer those questions anymore.

“We've been through good stretches and bad stretches, and I think that's the great part about our team. We know we're capable of winning races at any type of racetrack and confident in each other in what we do. And there's still a lot of room for growth.”

Visit IMS.com to buy tickets for the Brickyard 400 and Lilly Diabetes 250 weekend, to buy tickets for the other remaining events in 2017 at the Racing Capital of the World – the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational, Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim and the Red Bull Air Race – and to renew tickets for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 27, 2018.

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Kevin Harvick
 
Relieved Harvick Takes Aim at Second Brickyard Victory after Sonoma Breakthrough
Harvick executed a perfect fuel strategy from crew chief Rodney Childers during the second half of the race at Sonoma, building a lead of eight seconds. He won under caution when Kasey Kahne crashed on the final lap, shortly before Harvick saw the checkered flag. Harvick had just enough fuel left for a celebratory burnout in his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford.
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