Madness At Martinsville
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 26, 2016) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is going to have to earn it if he wants to reach victory lane Sunday afternoon in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The .526-mile paperclip-shaped racetrack is the shortest on the Sprint Cup circuit while its low banking and tight corners provide some of the closest and toughest competition on the schedule.
Due to the tight quarters, a racecar rarely finishes a race at Martinsville without a tire mark on the door or a few dents in the sheet metal.
What makes it even more maddening for competitors is that they can race to the front of the field and stay there throughout the majority of the event, only to get shuffled back on a late-race restart if they wind up in the outside lane.
Harvick and the No. 4 team suffered that very fate at Martinsville in April, when he started 19th, raced to the front and led 72 laps before being stuck in the outside lane on consecutive late-race restarts, ultimately finishing 17th.
But the madness of Martinsville can work to a driver’s benefit, as well. Harvick found that out in April 2011, when he started ninth, led just six of 500 laps and beat runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by .727 of a second.
Martinsville is one of only three Sprint Cup venues where Harvick has yet to score a top-five finish since joining SHR in 2014 – Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other two. He may be looking for his first top-five at Martinsville since joining SHR, but he has shown speed and consistency at the Virginia short track with three top-10 finishes and 265 laps led in his five Martinsville starts since the start of 2014.
The No. 4 team has used a winning strategy to advance to this point in the Chase. The team advanced to the Round of 12 with a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon before locking into the Round of 8 with a win at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
The Round of 8 should prove to be a challenge for Harvick and the No. 4 team. It features Martinsville this weekend, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth next weekend – one of four tracks on the circuit where he has yet to record a Sprint Cup win – and perhaps the saving grace of the round for the No. 4 team at Phoenix International Raceway, where Harvick has won six of his last eight Sprint Cup starts and has finished no worse than second in his last six starts at the mile oval.
The Bakersfield, California native continues his streak as the only driver since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014 to avoid an early exit in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
He’ll look to keep that streak alive and well with a fresh start to this year’s Round of 8 on Sunday at Martinsville.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think about the next three races coming up?
“These next three races line up really well for us. We’ve been fortunate to have won at Martinsville before and we ran really well there the first race (this year). The 1.5-mile tracks have been our bread and butter and Phoenix has been really good pretty much every single time we’ve been there. First, it was just trying to get to Martinsville and we’ve accomplished that. Now we have to focus on getting the best finish we can out of each racetrack. I guess if I’d have to pick one that we’ve been most successful at it would be Phoenix, hands down. But our 1.5-mile stuff has been our bread and butter this year as we’ve gone through the season, so that should be good. And Martinsville has been good to us in the past.”
What do you expect to see in the transition from Talladega to Martinsville?
“Well, I think everybody is unhappy at this particular stage of the year because the intensity level is so high. You know that, whether that moment was good or bad, it could have been the moment you could win or lose the championship from. You see that intensity with a lot of guys. I think right now you just have to approach it as whatever you have to do to get the best finish for your team is what you have to do at this particular point. The goal is to get to Homestead and we have three races to do that.”
Chassis Information - Chassis No. 4-864: Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Busch Light Chevrolet SS built on Chassis No. 4-864 in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-864 made its debut at Martinsville in March 2014, when it started 18th, led one lap and finished seventh. It made its second appearance at Martinsville in October 2014, when it started 33rd and finished 33rd after being collected in an accident with Matt Kenseth. Its first appearance in 2015 also came at Martinsville, where it started 17th, led 154 laps and finished eighth after getting shuffled back on several late-race restarts. In November 2015, Harvick started 12th, led 38 laps and finished eighth. In its most recent appearance at Martinsville in April 2016, chassis No. 864 started 19th, led 72 laps and finished 17th after Harvick was shuffled back in the outside line on consecutive late-race restarts.
Martinsville Speedway Notes of Interest: