Kingsport Times-News: Harvick named NMPA Driver of the Year
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Harvick named NMPA Driver of the Year

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 28, 2019 at 6:31 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kevin Harvick set a personal best with eight wins during the past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was honored by the National Motorsports Press Association as the recipient of the Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award on Saturday night during the NMPA’s annual convention. It is Harvick’s third time winning the award, also receiving the honor after his 2014 NASCAR championship season and in his rookie season of 2001.

Harvick, who turned 43 in December, tied Kyle Busch for the series’ most wins in 2018. The California native also won four poles and scored 23 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes in 36 races. He led a season-best 1,990 laps, over 500 laps more than second-best Busch.

He started the season with wins in three of the first four races, at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. At Bristol Motor Speedway, he posted finishes of seventh in the Food City 500 and 10th in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

Harvick swept the Atlanta weekend, leading 141 of 163 laps during the Xfinity Series race. He posted three top-10 finishes in five Xfinity starts.

He joined Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Tony Stewart as three-time winners of the award. Jimmie Johnson has the record with seven NMPA Driver of the Year awards, followed by the late Dale Earnhardt, who was honored five times.

RED FARMER — HALL OF FAMER

Charles “Red” Farmer was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The 86-year-old member of racing’s famed “Alabama Gang” is credited with over 800 short-track wins. He started racing in 1948 and made a first trip to Daytona in 1953 to race a Hudson on the old beach course.

Farmer excelled on the short tracks and won three straight NASCAR Late Model Sportsman championships from 1969-71. He also was the 1956 Modified Series.

He’s still passionate about the sport, racing on dirt tracks in his mid-’80s. He raced 22 times last season and three weeks ago competed in the “Ice Bowl” at Talladega Short Track.

“The ‘Ice Bowl’ three weeks ago, that started my 72nd year in racing,” Farmer said. “I started racing when NASCAR started. It gets in your blood. It’s something you love to do. I still enjoy it and I love to get out there on the cars, work on them and get ready for the next weekend. I can’t wait for the weekends to get out there on the track and play with the youngsters.”

He remembers how dominant the “Alabama Gang” — Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Farmer — was on the short tracks decades ago. In fact, a race at Bristol in 1962 was one of the first that came to mind.

“I knew wherever we went, Bobby and Donnie had the two cars I had to outrun,” Farmer recalled. “We showed up at Bristol and there was Bobby Isaac, Ralph Earnhardt in the 50 cars there. Forty-seven of them were 1932 or ’34 coupes. We qualified 1-2-3 with sedans and they had laughed at us. I won the race and Bobby ran second. If Donnie hadn’t had trouble, we would have run 1-2-3.”

VIRTUALLY POSSIBLE

Fox Sports showed off a video highlighting its new virtual reality studio during a Sunday luncheon at the NMPA convention.

Larry McReynolds, the former crew chief now starting his 19th season with Fox, will be working in a green room with a full-scale virtual race car. He also will have a new segment called Crew Chief’s Corner on the “NASCAR Race Hub” television show.

McReynolds said 2019 will be a pivotal year for NASCAR, adding that the sport made a mistake by promoting all the young drivers at the first of last season only for the veteran drivers to end up dominating.

“It’s a big year for NASCAR, but all the elements are in place,” McReynolds said. “We have the elder statesmen like Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. We have the middle-of-the-road stars like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. We don’t want to get on that bandwagon as hard as we did last year promoting the young guys, the young guys, young guys, and there wasn’t much fruit in the beginning when the older guys prevailed.

“There is a good mix and we’re not making changes with the race format or points. My hopes are there by the time we get to race No. 5 or 6, we aren’t talking about aero packages or anything like that. Hopefully, we’re talking about good racing.”

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