Kevin Harvick made one thing clear after testing a Tour-type Modified with fellow NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece on Tuesday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. He wouldn't have made the three-hour drive to participate in the test if he didn't want to race a Modified in the future.
Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing car on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, formed a great relationship with Preece in recent years that ultimately led to him climbing behind the wheel of a Modified for the first time.
"For me, we've had a great relationship that he started with Stafford Speedway. Between Ryan and Stafford Motor Speedway, that's why I drove three hours up here today to come up here and do this," Harvick said. "I wouldn't drive it if I didn't want to race it. Let's just make that clear. We've talked about that. It's something that will definitely be on my bucket list to go do."
During his time behind the wheel of the No. 6 Modified, Harvick leaned on Preece's experience to get adjusted to the 600 horsepower ground-pounding machine. When it was all said and done, Harvick was pleased to answer a few of the questions that he asked himself before the test session.
"Knowing in my mind and not just showing up and racing it takes a lot of pressure off my mind mentally. Can you drive it? What's it like? What's it feel like? There's a lot of those things that we kind of checked that box today," he stated. "I'm lucky because [Preece is] obviously really good at it. He's good at telling me what I need to do and how I need to do it when it comes to this. It's good to have somebody to lean on if you're going to go down that road."
When asked to compare the differences between driving a Modified and a NASCAR Cup Series car, Harvick was quick to point out one of the more obvious differences that a driver notices when sitting behind the wheel.
"The biggest difference is that I can see the front tires," he joked . "In the end, it's really just a race car and he told me that before I got in it. He's like, 'Just remember, it's just a race car. Go drive it.' As I've gone through the years, it's just been a long time since I've gone and driven anything else that's not at the Cup race or at the track. I haven't even driven trucks in a number of years. It's been a long time since I've been in a Late Model Stock Car or done something that's outside of my weekly racing routine. I like that because when you can challenge yourself and think about things that you don't think about on a weekly basis."
Throughout his career, Harvick has driven a variety of short track race cars ranging from NASCAR Cup Series cars, to Late Models, to Dirt Late Models and more. Outside of an appearance in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at his home track of Kern County Raceway Park in 2018, his appearances away from the Cup circuit have been limited since he closed down his own race team, Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI.
Following Tuesday's test, he explained why he hasn't raced as much outside of his NASCAR Cup Series schedule and why he accepted the opportunity to drive Preece's Modified.
"For me, life kind of changed when I didn't have the race team. There's obviously a safety factor, and if it wasn't Ryan's car I probably wouldn't have come up here today and everybody wouldn't have been so agreeable to say, 'Okay, go up there and drive the car.' We all have a good relationship with Ryan and we know he drivers the car, prepares it and does all the things to it will be fine," Harvick began.
"As you look at getting rid of KHI for me, we built our own Late Model cars, we built our own Trucks, everything that I raced on the side was built in my shop. It had my seat in it, it had my guys working on it and there wasn't any concern about what was going to happen if something was going to fall off because it was the guys working on my Trucks and Xfinity cars that were putting everything together. That's when it really changed for me because it didn't have that quality control piece of it. I feel like doing this would Ryan you would have that quality control piece of it covered. That's really what it comes down to."
Tuesday's test at Martinsville Speedway was held in advance of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race that will be held at the track on May 8.
In addition to Preece and Harvick, Gary Putnam also had his car at the track, which NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman will drive during the race at the track in May. Rising star Max McLaughlin was also on hand testing Putnam's Modified.
More coverage from the test, including reaction from other drivers attending the test session, will be available soon on Speed51.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51