The NASCAR Cup Series season continues on Sunday, May 23, with a trip to Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This race is one of several road course events on the schedule, but it poses an entirely new challenge. The track is unfamiliar to the Cup Series drivers, but Kevin Harvick is ready for the “rollercoaster ride.”
The 2014 Cup Series champion sat down with Heavy on Wednesday, May 19, to discuss his career, a unique promotion with Mobil1, and the twists and turns of the 2021 season. During this discussion, Harvick explained that there is a thrill to experiencing new tracks like COTA or the dirt version of Bristol Motor Speedway.
“You know, as a race driver, one of the things that I’ve actually enjoyed the most through the years is, a lot of people will take the pace car around the racetrack and, you know, ride around and make laps and I’ve always been that person that I’ve tried to approach it as roller coaster ride,” Harvick explained. “You never know what’s on the other side. And there’s nothing better than those first few laps that you go out on the racetrack not really knowing where you’re going and trying to go as fast as you can. So the thrill of that is is very unique and very challenging.”
Obviously, the preparation has changed over the years with the increasing use of simulators. Harvick can get in the Ford simulator and take virtual laps around COTA while trying to learn about the challenging corners. There are fewer unknowns as he heads to the Austin track, but the first few laps will still provide some thrills.
Harvick Has Experienced Several Highs During a 21-Year Cup Career
The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, Harvick has enjoyed some big moments. He has reached Victory Lane nearly 60 times, captured eight Crown Jewel races, and won the 2014 Cup Series. Harvick also became the first driver to make 1,200 combined starts across the top three national series — Truck, Xfinity, and Cup.
While several people tracked Harvick’s starts throughout the 2021 season and focused on the important milestone, the driver took a different approach. He remained in his “sheltered little corner” and continued to prepare for each start in the 2021 season. Though Harvick did later take time to think about everything he accomplished in his career.
“They did tell me about the 1,200 starts, and I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment, or the fact that I’m just getting old,” Harvick joked. “I think any anytime that you can look back and reflect and really understand how long that I’ve been able to be a part of the sport and how many different series and wins and all the things that have come with that has been… it seems like it’s been forever.
“It’s fun to kind of stop and look back,” Harvick added. “And when we ran the throwback scheme to my first start a couple of weeks ago at Darlington with Mobil, [it] brought back a lot of crazy memories of just everything that that transpired in those two weeks of my first season.”
Harvick is Embracing the ‘Family Aspect’ of NASCAR
While the veteran driver continues to push for another Cup Series championship, he also focuses on his wife and their two children. His oldest, Keelan, is growing as a young racer and even competed against some of NASCAR’s best during an iRacing event. His daughter, Piper, is still learning about stock car racing while spending time with him at the track.
As Harvick explained, the sport of NASCAR is all about family. He mentioned watching Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney grow up around stock car racing while his dad, Dave Blaney, competed. There are several other examples of the family ties in the sport, a list that includes Richard and Kyle Petty; Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; and Martin Truex and Martin Truex Jr.
“You know, our kids are headed down the same path,” Harvick explained to Heavy. “It’s important for Piper to be at the racetrack, which everybody will be at the racetrack this weekend in Austin. To finally have her get to the point of being old enough to start recognizing what’s going on and be a part of everything that we’re doing is a lot of fun.
“NASCAR, it’s a family sport, it’s a generational sport that those families have competed in for a long time. I think when you look around and understand the community that we have, that we live in, I don’t think a lot of people outside of the racing community understand exactly what that’s like. Because it’s just such a tight-knit group of people that travel with each other every week, and our kids grow up around each other. So it’s very unique.”
Harvick’s family will be on hand to cheer him on during the first-ever race weekend at Circuit of the Americas. He does not know if he will secure the win, but he will have considerable preparation on his side, as well as experience from competing in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.