Kevin Harvick’s rise up the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship standings has been noteworthy inside and outside the garage. He’s won three of the last nine races and dominated the regular season finale – leading 118 of the 160 laps from pole position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway three weeks ago.
He’s scored top 10s in the opening two Playoff races – runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. at the Las Vegas opener and seventh last week at Richmond. He trails Truex – whose won both Playoff races – by 21 points heading into Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL race this Sunday, but he has already clinched a spot in the Round of 12 based on points.
A victory at the Roval – where he started 19th and finished ninth in last year’s inaugural – would be his 49th Cup win and put him in a tie with his team owner and good friend Tony Stewart at 14th place on the all-time Monster Energy Series wins list.
Harvick has won at both of the current, traditional NASCAR road course venues. He won at Sonoma in 2017 and finished runner-up in 2018. Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was sixth there this summer and he’s led 65 percent (62 of 95 laps) of his total laps led at Sonoma in just the last four races.
Harvick also has a win (2006) at the historic Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course and has finished among the top 10 in the last two races there.
Because the series only races three times on a road course, drivers prepare differently than for the ovals they see more frequently. And for Harvick and his Ford teammates, the simulator is a key component in getting them up to speed.
“For me, it is just because I’m a big kind of visual person,’’ Harvick said this week. “So that repetition for me is good, just to get a visual and have the memory of curbs and direction of the track and all of the things you remember from last time stored in your memory bank as you use those simulators. So we’ve actually started to use it more this year than we have in the past.