Editor’s note: Eighteen drivers are guaranteed to start in the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will be televised live on SPEED, starting at 7 p.m. Following is the first of the 18 profiles of those drivers locked into the field.
Kevin Harvick is no fan of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In fact, the Richard Childress Racing driver calls the 1.5-mile tri-oval “our worst track.”
Well, worst hasn’t been all that bad for Harvick in the event now known as the Sprint All-Star Race.
While Harvick hasn’t fared well in Charlotte's two annual point races, posting just one top-five and three top-10s and leading two laps in 18 starts, the Bakersfield, Calif., native has been considerably better in the speedway’s prestigious exhibition event.
Harvick won the All-Star race – then known as the Nextel All-Star Challenge – in 2007 and came home second the year before. He led a combined 43 laps between the two races and won the second of three segments en route to his runnerup finish in 2006.
In nine All-Star appearances, Harvick has one win, two top-five and four top-10 finishes. He’s made the race – which is only comprised of select drivers – in each season since replacing Dale Earnhardt following the seven-time champion’s death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
While Harvick has continued to struggle in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, and the fall Cup race at Charlotte, the All-Star race has been a different story. And despite his woeful overall record at CMS, he’s come to enjoy the All-Star race that this year features 100 laps broken into four segments.
“I think these races are very important,” said Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet. “It’s our All-Star event. ... It’s the best of the best competing against each other. That makes it a lot of fun for us and the fans.”
Harvick had the most fun three years ago, when he grabbed the lead as the final then-20-lap segment commenced and held off Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson by .141 seconds. It seems that Harvick has a penchant for exhibition races in general, having also captured the 2009 and 2010 edition of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
His All-Star win and Bud Shootout triumphs were bright spots in the midst of a 115-race winless drought in points-paying races. Harvick recently ended that skid with a victory on April 25 at Talladega and has experienced marked improvement this season over 2009 when he finished 19th in the standings.
Based on the way he’s been performing, another All-Star win seems attainable on May 22 – even if he doesn’t like Charlotte.
“I look at Charlotte as probably the biggest challenge for me,” said Harvick, a winner of 12 points-paying Cup races. “It’s the race track I dislike going to the most, and for us to win the All-Star race was a huge accomplishment. It was a good weekend for us as far as speed and putting ourselves in position to win that race.
“The race is fun; the format is fun just because you have the pit stop for qualifying and you make a couple laps. There aren’t any points involved, so it makes it kind of a free-for-all as far as pushing every lap to the limit. It’s a fun race and it’s great for us because we get some extra track time at what I feel is our worst race track.”
Harvick, who is in a contract year with RCR, hasn’t said whether he’ll return to the organization or go elsewhere next season. So this year’s All-Star race might be the 34-year-old’s last chance to earn another win with the team he’s competed for his entire Cup career.
Even if Harvick never wins another All-Star race, he’ll always have that 2007 triumph, though.
“To win at Charlotte was pretty big event for us and to win the All-Star race is one of those races where we all want to win and we all want to have that on our resume,” he said. “To win there is something that we’re all pretty proud of.”