Since the mid-1990s when he started racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to his time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and 21 years of NASCAR Cup Series competition, Kevin Harvick has never raced at Road America.
The 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin has been absent on Harvick‘s schedule despite 1,208 total starts across the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.
So when Road America was added to the Cup Series schedule in 2021, Harvick quickly conferred with his Cup Series crew chief Rodney Childers and put a plan together to get valuable seat time at the track. That plan has resulted in Harvick driving the No. 99 Henry Repeating Arms Ford Mustang for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the Henry 180 Xfinity Series race Saturday at Road America in preparation for Sunday‘s Cup race.
“When Rodney and I began talking about the best way to get some real-world experience at Road America, we settled in on putting together an Xfinity program,” Harvick said. “We needed a strong partner in Henry Repeating Arms to allow B.J. McLeod Motorsports to put a good car together. We wanted to get far out in front of this race weekend so that we could be properly prepared.”
Harvick isn‘t the only driver new to Road America. With the track being on the Cup Series schedule for the first time, simulator work and film study have been on every driver‘s to-do list. While helpful, neither takes the place of real-world experience.
“I‘ve spent a lot of time on iRacing and we‘ve had a couple of simulator dates to get prepared for this weekend,” Harvick said. “But the main reason we decided to run the Xfinity race at Road America and a couple of the other new road courses is that being on-track in real-time is the best experience you can get. There‘s just nothing that can replace reality and being on the racetrack.”
That dedication to his craft has made Harvick one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of his era. He won the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship and is 10th on the all-time win list with 58 career Cup Series victories, he is a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2001 and 2006) with 47 career wins, and he is a 14-race winner in the Truck Series.
Harvick has been leading the field for more than two decades, so partnering with Henry Repeating Arms at Road America was a natural fit. The American manufacturer of classic rifles and shotguns is a world leader in the lever-action category. It has two manufacturing facilities — one in Bayonne, New Jersey, and the other in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, located approximately 290 miles northwest of Road America.
“Road America is a home race for us and we partnered with Kevin because of his history of success,” said Anthony Imperato, President and Owner, Henry Repeating Arms. “For the fans of our firearms or motorsports fans in general, this is going to be an exciting weekend for all of us.”
In Harvick‘s last Xfinity Series race back in May at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, he finished a solid fourth in his first start for B.J. McLeod Motorsports.
“I‘m a huge visual person,” Harvick said. “The experience I have in going to these racetracks for a long time — I can tell you every crack, every curve and every marker on the wall, and those are the things I want to have embedded in my mind before we get to Sunday. I want to make sure we‘ve hit most of the curbs and know where you can take a risk making a pass and where to make time and how to get on and off pit road in a live situation, because the practices are short. The Xfinity car is going to be the best tool, and just being able to make laps is the most important thing.”
Of Harvick‘s 347 career Xfinity Series starts, 12 have come on road courses. He has finished in the top-10 every time. In fact, his worst finish is merely a seventh-place drive at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 12, 2006, and in that race, Harvick still managed to lead 19 laps. He has 10 top-five finishes highlighted by two wins — Aug. 4, 2007 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and Aug. 11, 2007 at Watkins Glen.
“We‘ve always run well on the road courses in the Xfinity Series, and this race at Road America is part of a bigger picture,” said Harvick. “Running the Henry Repeating Arms Ford Mustang on Saturday will get us up to speed for Sunday.”
The No. 99 Henry Repeating Arms Ford Mustang will turn its wheels for the first time on Friday at Road America during a 50-minute practice session from 4:05 p.m. to 4:55 p.m. EDT. It returns to the track on Saturday for qualifying and the race. Qualifying takes place at 11:35.
— Stewart-Haas Racing —