NO JOKE – HARVICK COLLECTS HIS FIRST CUP WIN AT TEXAS IN AAA TEXAS 500
FORT WORTH, Texas (November 6, 2017) – Every year that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick would arrive at Texas Motor Speedway, track president Eddie Gossage would joke with him that Victory Lane was open on Sundays.
Harvick was familiar with the speedway’s Victory Lane on Fridays and Saturdays, having won five XFINITY Series races and one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race since he made his first visit in 2001. But in those 29 NASCAR Cup Series career starts entering Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, Texas Motor Speedway was one of only three tracks on the schedule that Harvick had not won at in his career.
After Sunday, Harvick’s list has been reduced to two – Pocono and Kentucky – and the timing could not have been any more perfect to collect that first career win at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 was not only a breakthrough at Texas Motor Speedway, but it provided him an automatic berth in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 19.
“Every time I come to Texas, it’s an ongoing joke,” Harvick said in the post-race press conference. “Eddie and I have a good relationship, but it’s an ongoing joke. You pull in the motorhome lot. You see the bag sitting outside the door, handwritten note, surely there’s some wisecrack in there that refers to not being in Victory Lane. He’s always been very supportive. But he definitely has held that over my head for about 17 years, since I started. It’s nice to get that monkey off our back.”
With Kyle Busch already in the Championship 4 following his Round of 8 win at Martinsville and Martin Truex Jr. advancing on points following his runner-up finish in the AAA Texas 500, the win was critical to Harvick’s run at another championship.
“I think the timing of it is probably the best thing,” said Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion. “I think not having to go to Phoenix and count points, try to win the race, do all the things that you might have to do, especially in this scenario, because if it wasn’t me, it could have been the 11 car (Hamlin) very easily. That puts everybody in a bad spot going to Phoenix. So I think with three cars locked in, you have to go there with the mindset, if you’re not already in, of winning the race. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to say that, I don’t have any other option other than win the race.”
The AAA Texas 500 also placed Harvick in elusive company in Texas Motor Speedway history. He joins Busch as the only drivers to have a victory in all three NASCAR national series – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series – in the speedway’s history.
- TEXAS DROUGHT
Kevin Harvick snapped a 29-race winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway with his victory in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. The longest winless streak now belongs to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray, who remains winless in 28 appearances at Texas Motor Speedway. Behind McMurray is Martin Truex Jr. (25 starts) and Clint Bowyer (24).
- BLAZING SADDLES
Speeds proved to be fast during Friday’s Texas Lottery Salute to Veterans Qualifying Days for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The previous qualifying record was held by three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who clocked in with a lap of 200.111 mph / 26.985 seconds. Five drivers surpassed the record during the final round of qualifying, with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch establishing a new mark with a speed of 200.915 mph / 26.877 seconds.
Others shattering Stewart’s previous mark included Denny Hamlin (200.617 mph / 26.917 sec.), Stewart-Haas’ Kevin Harvick (200.378 mph / 26.949 sec.), Erik Jones (200.326 mph / 26.956 sec.) and Kyle Busch (200.252 mph / 26.966 sec.).
“I said, ‘Yeah, there’s a driver and crew chief going to get fired Monday morning,” Stewart said jokingly in the post-race press conference. “Then I realized I couldn’t fire the other guys that broke the record, too. I got to let them off the hook.
“If anybody had to break it, I’m glad it’s in our organization, Kurt. They did an awesome job. Kurt knows how to lay a lap down like that. It’s cool to see him be able to pull something like that off. It’s sad, because I hate to lose that record. If you’re going to lose it, you want to lose it to somebody in‑house. Those are two guys that I don’t mind losing it to.”
- NO LAP OF LUXURY
Leading the most Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series laps at Texas Motor Speedway has not translated into a trip to Victory Lane. In the previous five races, the driver leading the most laps has failed to win. Martin Truex Jr. led a race-high 107 laps in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, but failed to close the race with a victory. In the spring, Ryan Blaney led a race-high 148 laps only to finish 12th. Brad Keselowski started the trend when he set the record for most laps led by a non-race winner – leading 312 laps during the 2015 AAA Texas 500 but finishing second to Jimmie Johnson.
- WIN SWEPT
Erik Jones became just the second driver to sweep both NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Texas Motor Speedway in the same season. Jones, who was victorious in April’s My Bariatric Solutions 300, dominated once again by leading 142 of 200 laps for his third career XFINITY Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway. He joins Kyle Busch, who accomplished the feat in 2008 and again in ’09.
Saturday’s win came from the pole and it was the second time Jones has achieved that at Texas Motor Speedway with April of 2015 being the other. Only two other drivers in Texas Motor Speedway history have won an XFINITY Series race from the pole, Busch in April of 2009 and ’16, and Carl Edwards in April of 2011.
Jones has finished in the top five in all six NASCAR XFINITY Series appearances at Texas and has led 368 laps during that span.
- JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Johnny Sauter won Friday night’s JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Relief, moving him into a tie for second for most NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory was his fourth at the 1.5-mile speedway, moving him in a tie with Brendan Gaughan. The all-time career NCWTS wins leader is Todd Bodine with six. Sauter also became the fifth driver to win the same race in consecutive years at Texas, joining Gaughan (2002-‘03 spring, ’02-’03 fall), Bodine (’04-’05 fall, ’06-’07 spring, ’09-’10 spring), Kyle Busch (’09-’10 fall) and Matt Crafton (’14-’15 spring).
- PIT BULL
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth made their 30th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. The group joins retired four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon for the all-time speedway record for career Cup starts.… Jimmie Johnson, a five-time winner of the AAA Texas 500, finished 27th in Sunday’s race, his worst performance at Texas since finishing 38th in November of 2009. It also marked just the fourth time in 29 career starts that he did not finish among the top 14 drivers. … Kenseth moved into sole possession of second place for all-time top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway following his fourth-place effort in the AAA Texas 500. He now has 19, which trails only Johnson (21). It also was his 14th career top-five finish at Texas, which also ranks second to Johnson (15). … Earnhardt Jr. led three laps in the AAA Texas 500, his first Cup laps led at Texas Motor Speedway since leading two in April of 2011. … Kyle Larson, who finished 37th in the AAA Texas 500, led his first career Cup laps at Texas Motor Speedway. He led 74 laps Sunday after being shut out in his previous eight starts. … Martin Truex Jr.’s runner-up finish in the AAA Texas 500 was his sixth consecutive top-10 finish at Texas Motor Speedway. In his last four starts, he has led 463 laps, including a race-high 107 on Sunday. … Denny Hamlin’s third-place finish in the AAA Texas 500 was his best performance at Texas Motor Speedway since he won both Cup races in 2011. His previous best during that span of 12 races was seventh in November of 2013. He also led 65 laps, which were 10 more than he had in his previous 13 starts combined.