Kevin Harvick’s raced at Phoenix for 20 years; looks to extend hot streak this weekend

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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.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.