August 20, 2022

● Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), arrives at the Atlanta Speedway after a three-race top-10 streak. It started with a fourth-place finish on June 12 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and continued with straight 10th-place finishes on June 26 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway and last Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Harvick is currently 11th in the championship standings, but when it comes to playoff eligibility, he’s 17th, one spot out of the 16-driver playoff. There are eight races left before the NASCAR playoffs are set, and at the remaining sites before the start of the 10-race playoffs, Harvick has totaled 19 wins, including three in Atlanta.

Atlanta, however, is a new animal. The 1.54 mile oval was reconfigured over the winter. The incline was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees and the track was narrowed from 55 feet wide to 40 feet wide, and everything was covered in fresh asphalt. The goal of the rebuild was to recreate the kind of pack-style racing seen on the giant, 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and even taller 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway . NASCAR Cup Series drivers first competed at the new layout in March, where Harvick finished 21st.

Sunday’s Atlanta 400 will mark Harvick’s 34th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta — the most of any active driver — but only his second on the new setup. In his 32 starts at the old layout, Harvick led the way with nine top-fives, 16 top-10s (tied with Kurt Busch), 1,348 laps led and 10,127 laps completed. Who is Atlanta’s all-time leader? It’s none other than Richard Petty. They call him “The King” for a reason: 65 career Cup Series starts at Atlanta with six wins, 22 top-5s, 33 top-10s and 1,827 laps led with 17,513 laps completed.

Harvick’s first NASCAR Cup Series victory in Atlanta was the first of his career, and it came just over 20 years ago on March 11, 2001. The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 was only the third Harvick racing in a Cup Series car. He started fifth in the 325-lap contest and led twice for 18 laps, including the last six. But Harvick had to take the win on the final lap and hold off then-three-time champion Jeff Gordon. Harvick pulled it off, beating the eventual 2001 Series champion to take the win by a narrow 0.006 margin of victory – the closest seventh-place finish in NASCAR history.

Of course, the backstory of this first victory is important. Harvick wasn’t just driving a race car when he won in Atlanta. He was driving the race car that less than a month earlier had been raced by sports titan Dale Earnhardt. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Team owner Richard Childress named Harvick, who raced for him in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, to double duty and take over the Earnhardt Cup race. No. 3, made iconic by Earnhardt, was replaced by No. 29 and Harvick made his Cup Series debut on Feb. 25 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Harvick started 36th this Sunday at Rockingham, but the rain hit the 1.017-mile oval just 51 laps into the 393-lap race. Racing resumed at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, after which Harvick drove to a strong 14th place finish. He then traveled to Las Vegas on Tuesday, married his wife, DeLana, on Wednesday, and was back in a race car on Friday, competing in the Xfinity Series and Cup Series events in Las Vegas. After finishing eighth on Sunday to score his first career Cup Series top-10 finish, Harvick traveled to Atlanta where the first of his 58 career Cup Series victories came.

Harvick’s other two NASCAR Cup Series victories in Atlanta came with SHR. In February 2018, Harvick won the Folds of Honor 500. He led eight times for a record 181 laps en route to beating runner-up Brad Keselowski by an impressive 2.690 seconds. Harvick’s most recent victory in Atlanta came in February 2020 in the Folds of Honor 500. Harvick again led the most laps, pacing the field four times for 151 laps en route to an even bigger margin of victory – 3.527 seconds on Kyle Busch.

Harvick is also incredibly good in Atlanta outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. He has five Xfinity Series victories on the track, including four in his last six starts on the 1.54 mile oval, the most recent of which ended in a win – February 2018 when he won the field in his Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang, leading four times for a record 141 laps and cruising to victory by a 4.183 margin over second-placed Joey Logano. In 17 career Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta, Harvick has 11 top-fives and 13 top-10s with 973 laps led. And in his two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in Atlanta, Harvick picked up a win and a second-place finish. He finished second on his Truck Series debut at Atlanta in March 2009, where he led four times for a record 68 laps before finishing 0.122 seconds behind beating Kyle Busch for the win. But when Harvick’s Truck Series returned to Atlanta in March 2010, he dominated by leading twice for a record 100 laps and this time beating runner-up Kyle Busch by 1.308 seconds.

The 2022 season marks the 13th year of partnership between Harvick and Hunt Brothers Pizza. The nation’s largest made-to-order pizza brand in the convenience store industry has sponsored Harvick for years in the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Hunt Brothers Pizza joined Harvick full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 and has been a mainstay in NASCAR’s Premier Division ever since. With over 8,000 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original, thin-crust pizzas available as Hunk A Pizza to go.®perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that’s exceptional value with all the toppings at no extra cost.®. Hunt Brothers Pizza is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a family business. For more information, visit www.HuntBrothersPizza.com or download the app.

Said Harvick of his decade-plus partnership with Hunt Brothers Pizza: “Our fans are quite loyal to the brands that are on our cars. A lot of my photos come from the displays in the store. People take selfies next to them. There are a number of reasons why you have sponsorships – you want that brand recognition, brand integration Hunt Brothers Pizza is a very family business and we are a very family group The relationships you build over the years with brands that recognize and reflect what you believe are rare. We grew up with the Hunt Brothers Pizza brand. They grew up with us and have been very loyal to us, and I think our fans are very loyal to Hunt Brothers Pizza. It’s fun to see this recognition of the brand and that understanding of loyalty and partnership.You realize the number of Hunt Brothers Pizza stores as you drive to the racetracks.