AVONDALE, Ariz. – When a driver wins four straight races at a single track, there has to be a reason. Right?
In the case of Kevin Harvick, who has been to Victory Lane after the last four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events at Phoenix International Raceway — not to mention five of the last six — there are several.
First and foremost (and not surprisingly), he likes the place.
“It’s just a fun place and I feel like, for me, for whatever reason throughout the years, the flat-track stuff has always kind of fit my driving style, whether it be here or Loudon or any of those flatter types of places,” said Harvick, who grew up watching races and competing at PIR.
There’s more to it, though, than a simple affinity for the race track. According to Kurt Busch, Harvick’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, the defending Sprint Cup champion has developed a knack for finding the fastest way around the one-mile speedway.
“He has a keen sense to find more speed than anybody else, whether it’s moving up, (when) the groove moves up in (Turns) 1 and 2, or if he’s able to carry more speed through (Turns) 3 and 4,” Busch said on Friday morning before opening Cup practice at PIR.
“You’ve got to watch him, though, because it changes. He will find different speed on the track all throughout a tire run. It might be corner entry at the beginning of the run. It might be corner exit at the later part of the run. He’s able to find the last little bit out of this track that nobody else has been able to find over the years.”
Whatever the reason, Harvick is a prohibitive favorite in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), the race he won last year when he had to take the checkered flag to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick will roll off eighth Sunday.