Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick on why Danica Patrick didn’t go from superstar to ‘megastar’

7 Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas – Winning is still everything to Kevin Harvick.

Not just on the track for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver but also in terms of building a star athlete into a transcendent brand whose boundless popularity can carry a sport.

After qualifying second Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick was asked who could be the next driver to “move the needle” like a Tiger Woods in golf.

He said there was one active driver who could, and one former driver who had the chance but didn’t.

“The guy that has the most potential is Chase Elliott with the traditional NASCAR fans,” Harvick said. “There’s a difference between a superstar and an megastar. In the past, a superstar wasn’t a megastar because of the fact that he didn’t win enough. Chase Elliott is the next guy that can be a megastar, but you have to win.

“When you have a guy like Tiger Woods, he’s won and won and won and won and won and won. Danica (Patrick) had a personality. She didn’t perform well. She could have been a megastar as well. Danica didn’t perform well. In the end, performance trumped superstar to megastar. And if you want to be a megastar you have to perform and win. That’s the effect that a guy like Tiger Woods has.”

Patrick was Harvick’s SHR teammate for the past four seasons before retiring after this year’s Daytona 500.

It isn’t the first time Harvick has spoken out about the need for popularity to be linked to winning. Last year, he said Dale Earnhardt Jr. had “stunted” NASCAR’s growth because he lacked a championship (Earnhardt recently said the comment still stung).

Harvick clarified some of his position Friday, explaining that neither he nor seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson could become megastars because they lacked the necessary pedigree.

“It’s something that when you look at a guy like Jimmie Johnson — and Jimmie and I have had this conversation — we don’t have that capability from that traditional, roots family standpoint that you can be that guy,” he said. “There’s only a few people that come through the sport that can be that guy. Jeff Gordon came through, but he won a lot in the beginning. He was that young guy that kept winning and won championships and had that immediate impact as far as catching everyone’s attention.

“After you get in here for a few years and don’t catch everyone’s attention you just kind of wind up being one of the guys unless you end up winning a lot.”

Harvick said it would help if there were a few more natural rivalries among the younger set.

“I think when you look at the dynamic between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, that’s the dynamic that we have the potential to have right now with the group of young racers that have come in,” he said. “But somebody has to step up and be that winner. Who’s the young winner? Who’s going to be the guy that’s going to go against (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and challenge him for the championship that he’s defending and win races?

“I’m happy with where I’m at. We’re winning races and gaining momentum and doing all the things we need to do. If we keep winning you’ll keep gaining that same momentum with the fans and hopefully we can keep doing that. … I love to talk about it because it’s very interesting.”

He also can be very honest in his self-analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that I’m never going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Chase Elliott,” Harvick said. “You’re not going to have that connection the hardcore roots with the fans. Tony (Stewart) was popular but he was never going to be an Earnhardt. As you look at it right now, Chase has that potential. I’m fortunate to have a solid fan base. It seems like we keep gaining momentum from a fan side of things and hopefully that continues.”

NASCAR Open starting lineup at Bristol

Leave a comment

Michael McDowell will start on the pole for the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw. Aric Almirola joins him on the front row.

Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

The winners of each segment advance to the All-Star Race, along with the fan vote winner. Last year, Kyle Larson won a segment in the Open to advance to the All-Star Race and then won that event. Other segment winners last year were William Byron and Bubba Wallace. Alex Bowman advanced through the fan vote a year ago. Bowman has already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race.

 

NASCAR Open at Bristol 

Race Time: 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 85 laps over three segments, 45.3 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 35 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 15 laps.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole for All-Star Race at Bristol

Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first All-Star Race win, will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Alex Bowman.

Rookie Cole Custer, who earned a spot in the All-Star Race with his win Sunday at Kentucky, will start eighth.

Click here for All-Star Lineup

  • Positions 17-19 will go to segment winners from the NASCAR Open. The 20th starting spot goes to the fan vote winner, which will be announced after the NASCAR Open

Among the special rules for the race:

# The Chose Rule will be used. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart.

# The car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give sponsors more exposure.

# Cars that have automatically qualified for the All-Star Race will have underglow lights on their cars.

 

NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol 

Race Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 140 laps over four segments, 74.6 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 55 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 35 laps. Segment 4 is 15 laps (only green flag laps count in this segment).

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Xfinity playoff grid after Kentucky doubleheader

Leave a comment

The Xfinity Series went to Kentucky Speedway for a doubleheader and Austin Cindric left the track with two wins and a spot in the playoffs.

Cindric, who claimed the first oval track NASCAR wins of his career, is now third on the playoff grid among the six drivers locked into the postseason. He has 15 playoff points.

Noah Gragson, who is second on the grid, won three of four stages in Kentucky and has 18 playoff points.

Six spots remain to be filled on the playoff grid. The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Ryan Sieg (+57 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+14).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-14 points from cutline), Jeremy Clements (-30), Alex Labbe (-42) and Jesse Little (-47).

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

Leave a comment

Cole Custer delivered the first curveball to the NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff chase Sunday when he won at Kentucky Speedway.

Custer entered the race 25th in the points, nine spots back from the cutoff line for 16-driver field.

Now, Custer is one of nine drivers locked into the playoffs, meaning the cutoff for the postseason is 15th in points.

Among those currently in the playoff grid who are not locked in, the last two are William Byron (+30 points) and Jimmie Johnson (+24).

The first four drivers sitting outside a playoff spot are Austin Dillon (-24 points from cutoff), Tyler Reddick (-41), Erik Jones (-42) and Bubba Wallace (-84).