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Stewart, Harvick Celebrate Shared Love of Indy after Dominant Brickyard Win

Tony Stewart called his shot before Kevin Harvick went out and won the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line on Sunday.

“He walked up to the car, he said: ‘Yep, you’ve done a good job so far this weekend. Congrats on the pole,’” Harvick said of his co-owner’s pre-race message. “‘Now go out there, and I want you to destroy them today, and then after you’re done, we’re going to climb the fence.’”

That’s what Harvick did in the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing as he led 118 of 160 laps to join his boss, the Hoosier legend, as a two-time Brickyard winner in the 26th annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After Harvick made history for the longest gap between Brickyard wins, 16 years, he reminded Stewart of the pre-race promise. Not that Stewart needed a reminder. “Smoke” had celebrated both of his Brickyard wins by climbing that fence next to the “Yard of Bricks” start/finish line with his winning crews.

Fittingly, Stewart was first to grab that fence and make another celebratory climb with Harvick and his crew.

“He knew how to do that already,” Stewart said of Harvick. “I just kind of jump-started him.”

The previous longest stretch between Brickyard wins was 10 years, when Jeff Gordon prevailed in 2004 and 2014.

Harvick’s previous Brickyard victory was for Richard Childress Racing.

“He’s had the speed to do it, it’s just been circumstances,” Stewart said. “Today was just a day where he had a dominant car. He had one run where it went too tight, but other than that, the day went exactly how you wanted and you planned for it to. You hope you get on the pole, and you hope you can stay out front all day. This is one of those places that if you’ve got a good car, you can stay out front all day and not worry too much.”

As Stewart spoke, crew members started to spray champagne nearby. He quickly ducked for cover to stay dry.

“It ain’t my first day at the rodeo,” Stewart said with a smile.

Nothing ever needs to be said about how much this race means to Stewart, who reiterated the obvious as the celebration continued. This was Stewart’s fourth trip to kiss the bricks — twice as a driver in 2005 and 2007 and the first time as an owner with fellow Hoosier native Ryan Newman driving in 2013.

“It means the world,” Stewart said. “Of the crown jewels, this is the one that obviously sentimental-wise means the most to me because of where it is. To have it go the way we wanted and have those guys do the job they did all day, we don’t prepare for this any different than we do anywhere else, but you sit there and hope it goes this way. It’s a big deal to us. It’s home. I literally live less than an hour from here.”

Stewart, 48, resides in Columbus, Indiana.

Harvick, 43, grew up in the same hometown of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears in Bakersfield, California, so he’s always had a shared affinity for IMS.

“Obviously I know how much the place means to Tony,” he said, “and you can just see that in the way that he walks around here. He’s got a little more pep in his step when he walks around here than he does anywhere else.”

As Stewart and Harvick stood on that fence and reveled in the accomplishment, the owner reached over with his left hand and gave the driver an enthusiastic tug. Fans responded euphorically.

“I just wanted to see him climb that fence,” Harvick said. “That was his tradition, so that was kind of fun to be able to hopefully relive some memories, and I’m sure it was exciting for him.”

Stewart recalled too many times when he thought he had a dominant car at Indianapolis, and the race didn’t pan out.

“This place doesn’t ever have any guarantees,” he said. “As soon as the day starts getting toward the end of the day and starts cooling off, this place changes a lot. You’ve still got to have the car balanced. You give these guys enough opportunities to work on ‘em, you’ve got to make sure you stay ahead of it.”

Harvick and crew did. Unlike in his previous victory, Harvick enjoyed celebrating this triumph with his two children, Keelan (7) and Piper (20 months).

Keelan had constantly asked his father in recent years if he could kiss the bricks. Dad’s answer was always the same.

“We have to win the race to kiss the bricks,” Kevin said. “We just can’t go out there and kiss them. Otherwise it kind of loses its luster.”

When that honor was properly earned, Keelan was more than ready and eager. He kissed the bricks and climbed the fence, too.

When asked what bricks taste like, Keelan said, “They don’t taste great, but it was fun kissing the bricks.”

 
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