After 38 starts, will Kevin Harvick finally earn first Pocono win?
Kevin Harvick has his pencil ready, all set to check off two more boxes on what has evolved over the years into a very short to-do list.
While Harvick has 51 wins in his Cup career, he has three racetracks on the current NASCAR schedule that he has failed to win at.
He gets two chances to win for the first time in the first-ever Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway this weekend, and then he hopes to check off another first win two weeks later at Kentucky Speedway.
The only other track where he has come up short of a Cup win is the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which has only held two races to date.
Harvick has had this weekend’s unique schedule – which includes a 325-mile and a 350-mile race around the 2.5-mile triangular layout – circled on his calendar ever since it was first announced.
“It’s very intriguing, I think, as you look at the weekend and you look at the shorter races, which means shorter stages, and you have the inversion,” Harvick said in a media release. “The car itself having to be raced twice and the things that you’ll need to try to do to the car.
“And there are a lot of things to digest in order to keep yourself competitive from one day to the next. So it will be interesting to see how we all manage that.”
Harvick has made 38 career Cup starts at Pocono. While he’s winless there, he has earned 12 top fives – including four runner-up showings – and 18 top-10 finishes there. He also won the pole there for the first time last July.
But up until this year, and since Harvick first competed there in 2001, the two annual races at Pocono have historically been separated usually by between six and eight weeks.
Now, the scheduled 85th and 86th Cup races since the track opened in 1968 will be separated by roughly 24 hours.
And while most of the races at the Tricky Triangle during Harvick’s career have been either 200 or 160 laps (not including those shortened by rain), Saturday’s race will be 130 laps, while Sunday’s event will be 140 laps.
That will lead to some unique and very different strategy that Harvick, his team, and fellow drivers and teams will all have to adjust to.
That includes Saturday’s finishing order of the top 20 cars will be inverted for the start of Sunday’s race, while the actual finishing order of the remaining cars Saturday will start from the same positions on Sunday.
“You kind of just have to adapt to where you are and how you feel and the things that are going on from your body from that standpoint,” the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang said. “Mentally, it’s pretty easy because you break it in half.
“When one race is over, you wipe that slate clean, you analyze the things that you think were good, the things you think were bad, the things you need to do to your car, in order to make it handle better and make those adjustments and start fresh the next day.
“I like to have a routine, but my routine will basically be the same from one day to the next and it will just be a much shorter window of how you digest things and when you let them go.”