If there’s one track Kevin Harvick has owned the last couple years, it’s Phoenix International Raceway.
The winner of three of the last four races at the now-reconfigured, still treacherous, 1-mile oval outside Phoenix in Avondale is keen to extend that run to four of five this weekend.
He’ll need to win in order to ensure himself a shot at advancing through to Homestead. But he shared a little bit of his insights and knowledge leading into the weekend.
“You really have to have an understanding of the track. Every time we go back, I feel like we learn something different,” he said in the Stewart-Haas Racing pre-race advance. “The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy. The track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago.”
Harvick elaborated on the weather adjustment from racing in the spring to racing in the fall.
“The weather really helps wear the track. It’s incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt. It’s been an interesting track to race on under both configurations, but I think it’s even more exciting now, and most of that comes from having the design right.”
This year is Harvick’s 20th racing at PIR. While the spring race has been a recent addition to the NASCAR calendar over the last few years, the fall race has long been a staple and a part of Harvick’s upbringing in the sport.
“I have raced there a long time. I guess the first time would have been ’95,” he said. “You had (Rick) Carelli and you had Mike Chase and you had (Ron) Hornaday. I know Carelli raced there for a long time, long before there were any of the current grandstands and any of the buildings, and they used to run the open comp cars.
“My dad would come over and work on the race track, and if there was a bad storm you couldn’t get to the track because the bridge was washed out. There are a lot of things that a lot of people don’t remember about Phoenix. It’s very special to me. They used to have the Copper Classic and the 300-lapper at the end of the year for the Southwest Tour cars. It was our Daytona 500. So, to be able to go back and win races there and be successful means a lot to me.”
A win would be crucial and fitting, given his pace and success this season with crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 outfit.