USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Hembree previews the upcoming race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
USA TODAY Sports
With only one career victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway — in his very first start there — you might think the track was not on Kevin Harvick’s list of favorite places to race.
You would be wrong.
Considering his past record at AMS, the 42-year-old Harvick might be among the drivers to beat Sunday on the 1½-mile oval in suburban Hampton, Ga. He has led more than 100 laps in five of his last six races at the track, and last season Harvick led for 292 of 325 laps before coughing up the lead late in the race due to a pit road speeding penalty. He finished ninth.
In 27 career starts at Atlanta, Harvick has one win, six top fives and 12 tops 10 finishes. He has produced 10 of those top 10s in his last 13 appearances. His 97.0 rating at the track ranks third among active drivers.
His win there came in his third career NASCAR Cup Series start in 2001, when Harvick drove the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to victory lane after replacing Dale Earnhardt, who had passed away three weeks earlier during an accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
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Harvick has reached victory lane at Atlanta on five other occasions — four times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including three of his last five starts, and once in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Drivers love the track, he believes, because of it’s patched-up, abrasive asphalt surface.
“I led 292 laps last year at Atlanta and screwed it up with a speeding penalty at the end of the race,” Harvick said. “But I think if you would talk to the garage in general, this is one of the drivers’ favorite tracks. I think the reason is that the tires wear out so fast, cars slide around and you just have to do so much behind the wheel to be able to make your car go around the corner all day.
“It’s a very fun place to race but, for me, it’s been frustrating because we’ve run so well through the years there and only been to victory lane one time. It’s a place we want to go to and run well and hopefully they keep putting a lot of patches down.”
On Sunday, Harvick will be driving his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing. The 500-mile race telecast begins at 2 p.m. ET on Fox.