NASCAR: Kevin Harvick talks Mobil 1, prepares for playoffs

Kevin Harvick spoke to us about his relationship with Mobil 1, the challenges of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, and the upcoming playoffs.

Following a fourth place finish in his #4 Busch Light Apple Ford at Kansas Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick was back in Mobil 1 colors this past weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he had hoped to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series race dating back to 2018.

Unfortunately, that did not pan out for the 2014 champion, as he finished in fifth place in Sunday’s 301-lap race around the four-turn, 1.058-mile (1.703-kilometer) oval in Loudon, New Hampshire.

It could have been worse, however, as he had to overcome a strategy mishap that knocked him off of the lead lap.

He has now reeled off seven consecutive top five finishes going back to his win at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, June 27, and he leads the point standings by 81 points over Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski in second place, a gap which seems insurmountable with just six races remaining in the 26-race regular season.

Harvick seems like a lock to secure the 15-playoff point bonus ahead of the playoffs as the regular season champion. He currently has 22 playoff points and trails only Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in that category, although they would be tied with 37 if the playoffs were to begin today, as Hamlin, who has secured 29 thus far, would secure eight more due to the fact that he sits in third place in the point standings. Harvick has won four races this season, which ranks second only to Hamlin’s five.

Before the final six races of the regular season, we spoke to Harvick about his relationship with Mobil 1 as well as the 2020 season as a whole and the upcoming playoffs.

Beyond the Flag, Asher Fair (BTF): You’ve had a long relationship with Mobil 1 and why do you prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

Kevin Harvick: I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.

BTF: After Hamlin won at Kansas, Chris Gabehart jokingly yet seriously said he wanted to take all 49 remaining playoff points (seven wins, 14 stage wins). You already have such a huge gap in points for the extra 15-point bonus at the end of the year, so what are your goals win-wise and playoff pointwise to conclude the rest of the regular season?

Harvick: I honestly didn’t go into the season with a goal of playoff points. Our goal is to be competitive on a weekly basis and usually the rest will take care of itself. Everything’s going well and we’ve got momentum, so you want to go win as many races as you can while you’ve got that momentum on your side.

BTF: August is the first month in nearly five decades (August of 1971) with seven races. How do you prepare for such a grueling stretch?

Harvick: For a run like that, I know experience will be an advantage for our team. I know we have to be prepared and I know every guy on my team will be prepared ahead of all seven August races. While this stretch will be the most races we’ve ran in a single month, experience will play a big role in making it through August’s races.

BTF: After August — really starting August 23 — NASCAR will finally be back to the original weekly schedule to close the season on time. Did you ever think that was possible knowing you missed 10 weeks this spring?

Harvick: It’s been a wild couple of months to get us back. Starting races early on with no practice, with limited interaction and communication, you have to look at a condensed season like this a little differently. For this all to be possible and for us to close the season on time, I approached the double headers and midweek races with an open mind, knowing things were going to be different than the way it all was before. But it will feel good getting back to a normal schedule in August.

BTF: Do you think what NASCAR has done has assisted other sports?

Harvick: It’s hard to say exactly, but I know in our first race back in Darlington for our 50th win, I got texts and calls from guys from other sports league telling me how great NASCAR’s return was and how it gave them hope. I totally underestimated the impact that NASCAR returning had on the wider sports world and I’m proud of our sport for coming back safely and doing things the way we did.

BTF: When you have off-nights like you have at Kansas, do you still end up gaining at least some confidence because you still managed to lead late and almost win?

Harvick: You always want to win, but it is what it is. After a race like that, you wipe that slate clean, you analyze the things that you think were good, the things you think were bad, the things you need to do to your car, in order to make it handle better and make those adjustments for next time.

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BTF: Finally, what kind of boost did Cole Custer’s win at Kentucky give to Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole given that it was the first win by another driver (not you) in two years?

Harvick: To get to victory lane in your rookie year is a big deal. I’m really happy for Cole, Gene and everyone on the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang. Hopefully we can keep more wins in the company.