Kevin Harvick has three prior Sprint Unlimited wins, all in the last five years (2009, 2010, 2013), and has a chance for his fourth in six seasons in his Stewart-Haas Racing debut.
There’s nothing to be gained points-wise from the race, but the learning process of how the year’s Daytona 500 will work and in Harvick’s case, his official first race with his new team will provide ample motivation to succeed this Saturday night.
“The transition has gone really well,” Harvick said in the team’s advance release. “You know, I think we were fortunate to recruit (crew chief) Rodney Childers very early in the process – not early, but halfway through the year, and his previous team decided to let him go, and he was able to start early. He was able to spend a lot of time recruiting team members. But the transition has gone very well.”
All four of the Stewart-Haas Chevrolets will be in action this Saturday, and all have story lines associated with them. Harvick and Kurt Busch make their team debuts, team co-owner Tony Stewart returns to the track for the first time since his accident last fall, and Danica Patrick… is Danica Patrick. Of course her name’s been back in the headlines with Richard Petty’s comments made over the weekend in Toronto.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.