Kevin Harvick begins Stewart-Haas’ Ford era at Phoenix test

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Nearly a year after announcing it would move from Chevrolet to Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing is “not guessing anymore.”

As part of a two-day organization test at Phoenix Raceway, Kevin Harvick became the first SHR driver to pilot their new Ford-powered car on a track (Kurt Busch drove his No. 41 Ford on a highway).

“The main thing is we have a starting point now,” Harvick said Tuesday in a press conference. “We’re not guessing anymore with what’s going on or where you’re at. We had to get on the track so we knew where we had to work from here. It’s been an interesting morning, going through the basic stuff and we’ll go from there.”

The test will be SHR’s only chance to collect on-track data before all four of its teams arrive at Daytona International Speedway – a completely different track from the 1-mile Phoenix – for Speedweeks. The No. 4 team spent the morning of the first test day “running down some checklists of some really basic things” of where the team was and what it needs to work on.

For Harvick there was “really no surprise” as to how his No. 4 Ford felt, saying the current aero package “is similar to a lot of the things that we had at the two races last year (Michigan, Kentucky) that we were running. Now we can dive into problems and start trying to solve those issues, but they’re very similar to the things that we’ve had in the past.”

Harvick, who has earned all 35 of his Cup wins with Chevrolet, said the “biggest difference” in his Ford is “the way that it sounds.”

“The drivability of it isn’t that big of a difference,” Harvick said. “But the balance of the car is a bit different than we’ve had in the past. Just not one reason for that though. I think that’s a little bit where we’re at right now – the balance of the car with the balance of the new aero package.”

With a new manufacturer and new race and points formats, Harvick said he feels as confident as ever about the uncharted landscape entering a season. After SHR was “labeled as the lame duck teams” in its final season with Chevrolet, simply getting the car on track for the first time is “an accomplishment for the whole company.”

“The thing that keeps me motivated about my sport are the things that you can reach out and grab and motivate yourself with,” Harvick said. “Having a new manufacturer is probably the thing for me that is the most exciting because there’s going to be a lot of problems to solve and working through those things and working through with the team and organization is something that I thrive on.”

And Harvick notes, when he fired up his No. 4 car for the first time in 2017, “you flip the same switches you flipped last year to start the motor.”

“It is rocket science nowadays,” adds Harvick. “But it’s the same rocket science.”

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