Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick gives Mayor Betsy Price a ride
Gossage would always remind Harvick that, in case he forget, Texas Motor Speedway opened its Victory Lane after NASCAR Cup races too.
Harvick had found his way to Texas’ Victory Lane multiple times in the Xfinity Series with his first of five wins coming in 2001. He added a Camping World Truck Series win in 2011.
But a Cup win? Harvick had put himself in contention multiple times but never cleared the hurdle. It seemed like Texas may be a track that Harvick would never win at, especially after a three-race stretch from the fall of 2014 through the 2015 season in which he finished 2-2-3.
Harvick finally cleared the hurdle last November, though. He earned a coveted Cup win at Texas in his 30th start at the track. It was more relief than excitement in Victory Lane, as Gossage recalled.
“He didn’t seem very happy to be honest,” Gossage said. “I thought he’d get out of the car and want to chest bump with me or something, which would be great television – but he just kind of, you know, I think he’s won too many races.
“But regardless, he just got tired of hearing, ‘Hey, we do open Victory Lane on Sundays, too.’ I was glad to see him win. I was very proud of him and it was the day we did the bobblehead of Kevin Harvick as well.”
Harvick, standing nearby, didn’t refute the idea that maybe the track should’ve done a bobblehead promotion for him 15 years earlier.
“Yeah,” Harvick said, “You know, at least I wouldn’t have looked so old, right?”
All jokes aside, Harvick will look to defend his AAA Texas 500 title next Sunday with a NASCAR triple-header coming to TMS. The race will carry added significance for Harvick, who is looking to win his second series championship for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Harvick won the title in 2014, essentially cementing his place as one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. Along with the series championship, Harvick has a Daytona 500 victory (2007) and Brickyard 400 (2003) victory among his 44 career Cup wins.
At 42, though, Harvick remains just as hungry as ever to win.
“He’s one of those guys that when he gets a taste of success he wants more of it, so it ends up being a feeding frenzy,” said Tony Stewart, Harvick’s team owner. “You know once you win once, you just want to win more and more. Every time you win you just want to win more. That’s why I say he’s just got such a good balance, not only on track, but off track. I mean his life is balanced right now.
“He’s just one of those guys that’s got everything going the right way both on and off the race track and it just makes him that much better when he is on track.”
Harvick is in the midst of his best season to date. He’s already won a career-high seven races this season, and that total may be even higher if his No. 4 Ford team had handled the transition to NASCAR-provided pit guns better.
Harvick blamed the new pit guns as the reason he finished runner up at TMS in the spring, and it’s been an issue in a handful of races since.
Stewart liked NASCAR providing the pit guns because teams were spending millions of dollars developing their own, but acknowledged it’s possibly taken some wins away from his organization.
“I think we could have won half the races this year if we didn’t have to pit,” Stewart said. “I mean, we got a good group of guys, and I think the change in the pit guns this year has really been hard on our guys. It’s much harder than people think. People don’t understand that by slowing the guns down, you would think it would make it easier on these guys because they don’t have to go as fast, but the problem is they’re so used to being in time and being at a certain pace that now you’ve got to slow these guys down and that’s why you see loose wheels because they’re used to moving their hands a lot faster and that pattern being faster.
“Now the guns can’t keep up with what we’re doing so we have to slow our guys down to make sure that we don’t have those mistakes. That’s the hardest part.”
Making sure pit stops don’t ruin a possible championship season is one hurdle for Harvick and his team. The others? Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
Busch is leading the series right now and has matched Harvick’s seven victories so far this season, and Truex is the reigning champion who has four victories and 18 top-five finishes in 32 races.
Busch, Truex and Harvick are known as NASCAR’s “Big Three,” and it’d be a shocker if someone other than those three wins the championship.
“There’s a lot of respect amongst the three teams, but we all want to beat each other,” Harvick said. “Ultimately that’s why we’re here. We want to win and I feel like that same passion lives in those garage stalls next to us and they like you, but they want to beat you. And a lot of times, you do whatever you have to do for your team to go out and do that and that’s what makes it fun.
“But there’s also a lot of respect there. In the end, we all want to beat each other, but it has been a lot of fun racing with those guys.”