AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick will moonlight in a NASCAR regional series race on Thursday night in his hometown of Bakersfield, California, as part of his goal to infuse grass-roots racing.
To see a track such as ISM (formerly Phoenix) Raceway not have one of those events rubbed Harvick and fellow former Cup champion Tony Stewart the wrong way.
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A frustrated, confused and critical Kevin Harvick calmly dissected the penalty issued to him and his team — and the impact of social media — for violations NASCAR found after his victory Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
From 1988 to 2015, the track promoted at least one annual race on its 1-mile oval in what is currently known as the NASCAR K&N West Series. After winning the NASCAR Cup race Sunday at the track, Harvick insinuated that NASCAR’s sanction fee is so big in Xfinity and trucks for support races during its NASCAR Cup weekends that the track opted to save money by not having the regional race.
“This was their Daytona,” said Harvick, who won the 1998 West Series title. “On the West Coast, this is what we thought our Daytona 500 was. This is where everybody wanted to race.
“It’s kicking those guys low on the K&N West Series that they don’t get to come and race at this particular race track because of the fact there’s a little bit of a pissing contest between a budget, what is right, what is wrong from a sanctioning fee side on trucks and Xfinity. So they cut the K&N guys out.”
Stewart questioned the track’s spending $178 million to build new grandstands and renovate the infield, a project that will result in moving the start-finish line.
“We can afford to spend $170 million to move the frontstretch from there over to there,” Stewart said. “I still have no idea what the reason for that is. I guess we probably can’t afford to run any support races here that cost the track some money.”
Track officials did not immediately respond to the comments by Harvick and Stewart.
Harvick won the regional race last year at Sonoma Raceway and has worked to help the driver who finished second (Will Rodgers) find sponsorship. He will race Thursday at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, California.
“In the end, without those grass-roots fans, those grassroots people, coming and being able to race here, whether it fits your budget or not, 10 years from now, you better hope you have your ass [covered and] some people that will sit in the stands up here and wanting to watch these races at your short tracks because those are your hard-core fans, those are your grassroots fans,” Harvick said.
Up until 15 years ago, NASCAR’s regional racing series and weekly tracks used to get funding from Winston, which funded the NASCAR Cup Series until 2003. Winston provided those tracks with paint for their walls and uniforms for their officials.
“When I look at our hard-core fans, they’re all sitting at those short tracks, and they’re mad,” Harvick said. “They’re mad because you don’t have a Winston who is supporting these short tracks like they used to.
“Winston used to infuse so much money into these short tracks around the country. That’s what kept it going.”