By NASCAR Wire Service
Mother Nature might be the only person who can stop Kevin Harvick from winning at Phoenix International Raceway.
Last fall, the No. 4 Chevrolet driver appeared to be on his way to his fourth consecutive victory at the one-mile track, leading 143 of the 219 laps when rain brought out a caution as he was leaving pit road. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was slightly ahead of second-place Harvick on the track, earned the win when NASCAR called the race due to the precipitation.
Harvick will try to continue his success at PIR by starting a new win streak in Sunday’s Good Sam 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX). The overwhelming favorite, Harvick boasts a track-record seven victories, including wins in five of his last seven starts in the Arizona desert.
“I feel like that can be gone at any point,” Harvick said about his perceived Phoenix edge. “That’s the hardest thing about having success. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep moving forward. If you don’t have an open mind or are not willing to try a fresh approach, then it will get stagnant. You’re going to become stale and get left behind.”
The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion hasn’t looked close to losing his advantage at the one-mile flat oval since it was repaved for the fall 2011 event. Since then, Harvick leads all drivers at Phoenix with five wins, 1,208 laps led (114.2 per race) and a 130.1 driver rating. He also enters the Good Sam 500 as one of three drivers with a top-10 finish in every race this season.
“As we go to Phoenix, we have to look at the things that we’ve done well. Obviously, we’ve done a lot of good things,” Harvick said. “We look at the race tape and pay attention to the lines and braking, steering, throttle and all the things that you have access to and you try to mimic that immediately when you get on the racetrack. The hard part about our sport is the conditions are never the same.
“There are a lot of good race car drivers and lots of circumstances that could play out to have things go wrong. You go there with a fresh start like you’ve never won there before and try to get the car dialed in.”
A fixture in Victory Lane with 12 wins over the last three seasons, Harvick hasn’t taken a checkered flag since 10 races ago at Dover. In fact, he’s been snake-bitten by second-place finishes lately. Last season, the Bakersfield, California native produced 13 runner-up showings, the most since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison produced 15 in 1970.
Harvick doesn’t believe “there’s anything missing” causing him to not win races.
“Those things go in cycles,” he said. “You’re going to have things work out. You’re going to have things not work out. You’re going to win races that you shouldn’t win. If you can capitalize, they’re almost harder when you’re in position to win them all day, which is something I hadn’t really learned a lot about till the last couple years because they’re hard to manage.”
Image: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images