Kevin Harvick owes both an apology and a big debt of gratitude to Phoenix International Raceway president Bryan Sperber.
Sperber announced the 1-mile flat track would be repaved after the Feb. 27, 2011 Sprint Cup race, the first repaving of the track since 1990. Harvick was initially not a fan, having won consecutive races there in 2006.
But once accustomed to the new pavement, Harvick has had spectacular results. He comes into Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 having won the last three and four of the last five Sprint Cup races at PIR.
“I was so mad at Bryan (Sperber) when he told me they were going to repave the race track,” Harvick said Friday. “In hindsight I guess you could look back on it and say it’s probably been better for us than the old style Phoenix International Raceway. It’s just a place that I really enjoy.”
A native of Bakersfield, Calif., Harvick has been racing at PIR for more than two decades. It’s where he cut much of his racing teeth.
“I look forward to coming to this racetrack every year,” he said. “Like I said last week in Las Vegas, these are places for me that I have raced at since the mid-’90s. To come and race in front of these race fans and be able to hear stories about people that watched you race in the Southwest Tour, Winston West or the Truck Series through the years it’s a lot of fun for me.
“To grow up racing and come here was our Daytona 500 every year and to be able to come back and do that now as part of your job is something that for me is a lot of fun.”
Harvick, who won last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is the hottest driver on the Sprint Cup circuit and trying to make it four wins in a row at PIR.
Dating back to the last three races of his 2014 championship season, Harvick has six straight top twos, with three wins and three runner-up finishes.
“I think that just comes down to the guys on my race team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for just bringing really good cars to the race track,” Harvick said. “Particularly the No. 4 team and being able to capitalize and manage the weekends, races and keep the cars together, as well as doing all the things that it takes to just make laps and keep yourself in contention.”
Harvick is all but guaranteed a spot in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in his quest to defend last year’s title.
“It’s not like you’re going to do a lot different,” Harvick said. “But I think you’re willing to step out of the box and try some things during practice.
“But as far as the race goes, you still want to win as many races as you can to try to keep other people from winning and to gain bonus points in case something happens in the first round.
“And it’s just good for the morale of your team to continue that momentum and try to keep winning.”