Aug 6 , 2022: during at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn  ,  MI, .  ,  .  .   .  (HHP/Andrew Coppley
Kevin Harvick (HHP/Andrew Coppley)

Harvick Embracing ‘Constant Evolution’ Of Next Gen Car

With three races left in the NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season, Kevin Harvick is “really happy.”

He has plenty of reasons to be.

Harvick’s coming off his win in Sunday’s (Aug. 7) race at Michigan International Speedway, which snapped a 65-race winless streak and extended Ford’s win streak at the track to eight races.

Also, he’s now qualified for the playoffs after entering Michigan below the cutline.

Another reason Harvick is happy?

This weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway marks the start of a 13-race stretch to end the season that will feature return trips to nine different tracks.

Visits to Watkins Glen International (Aug. 21), Bristol Motor Speedway (concrete) (Sept. 17), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23) are the only one-off visits remaining in the first season of the Next Gen car.

“I’m really happy that we’re going back to a lot of these racetracks that I can actually open up a notebook and not fire off out of the pits and say, ‘well, I wonder how far I should drive it in today? I wonder if it’s going to hit the limit or be tight or loose?'” Harvick said after his Michigan win.

“At least going back, the thought processes will be way different for us as far as setups and things like that,” Harvick continued. “I think we’ve learned a lot. I think those setups will be different, but I’m really looking forward to being able to open the notebook and have something there.”

Harvick should be eager to get back to Richmond.

When the Cup Series first went to the short track in April, Harvick benefitted from pit strategy during a 137 lap green flag-run to end the race, charging through the field to finish second to Denny Hamlin by 2.9 seconds.

It was the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s first top five of the season and his only runner-up finish among five top fives entering Michigan.

August 7, 2022:  at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI  (HHP/Jim Fluharty)
Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team celebrate their Michigan win. (HHP/Jim Fluharty)

“You’d like to be close enough to at least give yourself a chance,” Harvick said in a media release. “There at the end, we just kind of got jumbled up in traffic and never really got a chance to be close enough to make something happen. The team did a good job making a good pit call and our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was pretty decent all weekend.”

Richmond is only the second track the Cup Series will visit with the Next Gen for the second time this season, following last month’s trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

Harvick, 46, has three career Cup wins at Richmond entering Sunday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (3 p.m. ET on USA Network).

“There were definitely some differences with the car just the way that it drove and it felt and the things that you did,” Harvick said of how the new car handled the .750-mile track. “But it was still the same basic line of driving, and the things that happened during the race with the tire falloff were pretty standard.”

Harvick said that after the first organizational test with the Next Gen car last year on the Charlotte Roval, he “knew not to have any expectations” for the 2022 season.

“We were either going to be on the front side of this thing or we were going to be behind,” Harvick said. “There wasn’t going to really be any middle road. “

It turned out that the Fords in general were behind the curve.

Through 23 races so far, Harvick’s win was just the fifth victory for Ford this season.

Harvick said “it’s been challenging trying to get the cars up to speed, but there’s also been a factor of it being kind of fun.”

Part of that fun has been in embracing the need for “change” when it comes to the new car.

“I think as you look at this particular car, everything about it is different,” Harvick said. “You’ve got an electronic mirror, which I love, because it’s just so easy to use, right in your line of sight, you don’t have to move your eyes as far. But when you talk about stuff like that, you have to be very open-minded to change. For me, I was prepared for change. I was prepared for work. We had a pretty extensive plan this year of using the simulator and trying to make it better, to make it fit with what we do at the racetrack with the short practices.”

Harvick noted that he wasn’t comfortable with the gas and brake pedals in the new car until about a month before the Michigan race.

“I hated the gas pedal. I hated the brake pedal,” Harvick said. “It all feels different and, honestly, I put red grease on the bottom of my shoe every week, and it’s like the greatest thing ever because my foot will now slide on this clunky gas pedal and work like it used to. It’s just working through stuff like that.

“The steering is different, the mirrors are different, the pedals are different, the things that you talk about to make the car work are different. … Everything is just different, and you have this constant evolution of things that are happening.”