Martinsville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick will try to extend his streak of finishing either first or second to nine races this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
The last time Harvick finished outside the top-two was on Oct. 26, 2014 when he placed 33rd at Martinsville, a 0.526-mile track in Southern Virginia. He was involved in an accident with Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart during the mid- stages of the race, which put him in the garage for repairs for more than 40 laps.
After last fall's race at Martinsville, Harvick finished second at Texas and then won the last two events of the '14 season -- Phoenix and Homestead -- to claim his first championship in NASCAR's premier series. In the first five races this season, he has won at Las Vegas and Phoenix and placed second at Daytona, Atlanta and Fontana, California.
Harvick is three races away from tying Richard Petty's 1975 record of finishing either first or second in 11 consecutive events. Petty's streak ended at Martinsville where he placed 22nd.
Martinsville is the first short-track race in the series this season. In 27 previous Cup starts at this track, Harvick has one win, which occurred in April 2011 when he drove for Richard Childress Racing. He is now in his second season as driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
"I think a lot of us grew up on short tracks, and Martinsville is a place where I've raced a lot, whether it be with the Trucks, or even the Xfinity Series, in which we were fortunate to win the one race we got to run there (2006 Goody's 250)," Harvick said. "It's a track where I feel like we could have won more races than we probably have in the record books. It's a place where you enjoy racing, and it's very similar to Talladega by the fact that you just never know when something's going to happen.
"It's just like last year - we were rolling well and qualified badly. We came up through the field and were in position to start getting into the top-five. The restart went kind of wacky, and we wound up backward into the fence. You just never know when it can turn, and that's really what short-track racing is all about. And it's something that happens a lot at Martinsville."
Harvick placed seventh in the spring race at Martinsville one year ago. His teammate, Kurt Busch, won the event. Busch has not been into victory lane for a Sprint Cup race since then.
This year, NASCAR made significant rule changes for the Sprint Cup cars, including lower horsepower and modifications to the cars' aerodynamic package. So teams are dealing with a lot of unknowns about the car at Martinsville.
"It's definitely going to be different, just for the fact that you're not going to have that acceleration due to the changes in the rules package," Harvick said. "It's going to be more like a Truck Series race, I guess you could say, in the way that you have to carry the momentum through the center of the corner and be able to carry that momentum with the car turning and be back in the throttle. So it will be interesting to see if it's harder to pass or not, but there's a good possibility that it will be."
Harvick is the current leader in the Sprint Cup standings, accumulating 225 points for the season, 28 more than his closest competitor, Joey Logano.
Forty-five teams are on the entry list for the STP 500.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, March 29. Race: STP 500. Site: Martinsville Speedway. Track: 0.526-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps: 500. Miles: 263. 2014 Winner: Kurt Busch. Television: FOX Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.