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Charlotte Weekend Preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The magic behind Kevin Harvick's "magical" season start may surprise some people.

Of course it takes driving talent, a motivated crew and a smart and innovative crew chief (Rodney Childers), but when asked about the secret to the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford team's success, Harvick conceded it was a less-tech and a whole lot more from-the-ground up, good people, deep roots kind of kumbaya.

Like an artist beginning on a blank canvas with a masterpiece inspiring each stroke, the Harvick team was given free will to create a winning operation and it has already resulted in the 2014 championship and put them in prime position as championship favorites this season. Seven times in the past nine years, Harvick has finished first, second or third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship.

The present day team boasts a series best five wins - only 12 races into the 2018 season, collected the Monster Energy All-Star trophy last week and is looking to earn its third consecutive points-paying victory in Saturday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It would be the second three-win streak already for Harvick this early in the season.

"Our team, our 4 team in general, is a little bit different than probably most teams because Stewart-Haas Racing allowed us to build it," Harvick explained shortly after celebrating his All-Star victory Saturday night.

"We didn't have anything. We hired a crew chief. We courted Rodney [Childers] for, I don't know, seems like a year and a half, whatever it was. It was a long time. We got that piece done first. Then it was, okay, now you need to go hire everybody on your team. He was on gardening duty, so he got to go and interview every person that was on the race team to start with.

"We got a brand new tractor and trailer. Every nut and bolt in it, every car was built to the specs that blended together with what he wanted and what Stewart-Haas had, the Hendrick relationship at the time.

The methodical approach, with a huge nod of trust between Harvick, Childers and the Stewart-Haas Racing team management has been nothing short of remarkable. And judging by the success this season, only getting stronger.

Harvick has three wins at Charlotte including two Coca-Cola 500 wins in 2011 and 2013. He has nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 races here, including two wins and three runner-up finishes. His victories at Dover and Kansas along with his win in last Saturday's All-Star race make him the absolute favorite on the grid Sunday night.

And best of all for this team, they can say they have come by this success by doing it "their way."

"Everything on our team was built around what we wanted," Harvick said. "That's not normal. I think as you look at a lot of situations, you're going to have guys that are going to go into a team. You're going to get a few of these cars a few of these cars, we're going to give you a couple guys from over here.

"That's not the case. When you look at it, young owners, we have a group of racers from top to bottom inside and out that love to race cars. That's all they want to do. They don't care what color your shirt is, how many buttons are on it. Just show up and do everything you can to win the race. That isn't normal in this garage.

"I think as you look at that environment that has been created, it's just about racing. Everybody's input, everybody's involved. It's a special place to work. For me, it's the same scenario. It's the right people, right situation. We all have a lot in common. We all have kids, are similar in age. There's not a generation gap from our ownership group or management or crew chief. If I told Rodney, I'm not going to be at the meeting today, I'm going to watch my son's baseball game, they would say, 'Have fun.' If I'm going to watch my kid play football, baseball, basketball, you have the opportunity to do that, that's rare. That's not something we all get to do.

"That's the type of situation that for me, I just feel like it works. We all respect each other. But we all have a lot in common."

XFINITY SERIES RETURNS

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to competition Saturday with the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after a two-week break in the schedule. Elliott Sadler continues to hold a hefty 38-point lead over rookie Tyler Reddick in the championship standings.

The series is on an amazing string of new winners - a different driver has hoisted the trophy in all 10 of the season opening races and should a new driver win Saturday, it would be only the second time in series history it has seen 11 different winners start the year.

Sadler is hoping he can be the 11th driver to add to the win streak. It's been over a year - since Kentucky in September, 2016 - since he's won. Yet the crafty veteran has put together an amazing mark of 10 top-10 finishes to date.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Coca-Cola 600
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, N.C.)
The Date: Sunday, May 27
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 6 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 600 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 200), Stage 3 (Ends on lap 300) and Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)
What to Watch For: A win for Kevin Harvick would be his third straight giving him six victories through 13 races. He could become only the seventh driver in NASCAR history to win at that rate. ... Roush-Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth will be making his second start of the season. He is a two-time winner at Charlotte and holds the fourth best driver rating - behind Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. ... Kasey Kahne's four wins at Charlotte is second only to Johnson's eight among drivers entered this weekend. ... The top-five starting positions have easily produced the most winners of the 600 - 54 percent of the races have been won those positions on the grid. The outside pole position has produced the most race winners (17). ... Johnson holds the record for winning at Charlotte after starting from the farthest position (37th, in 2003) on the grid. ... Ryan Newman is 0-for-34 at Charlotte, the longest winless streak among those entered. ... The Charlotte season sweep has happened eight times including each year from 2004-07. ... Hendrick driver Alex Bowman won his only NASCAR national series race here at Charlotte in last year's Fall Xfinity Series race.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Alsco 300
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, N.C.)
The Date: Saturday, May 26
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
What to Watch For: There have been 10 different winners in the first 10 races of the 2018 season. A new winner this week would give the series its second longest streak of different winners to start a season. There were 13 in 1988. ... Last year there were 18 winners over the course of the season tying the all-time record mark first set in 1988. ... Elliott Sadler continues to lead the championship. He has scored a top-10 finish through all 10 races and leads his JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick in second by 38 points. ... Sadler is 0-for-22 at Charlotte and looking to score his first win since Sept. 24, 2016 at Kentucky Speedway. ... Reddick leads Christopher Bell by 14 points in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign and the two are also ranked second and third in the championship standings behind Sadler. ... Seven times a driver has swept both Charlotte Xfinity Series races in a season. Austin Dillon is the last to do that (2015) and Kyle Busch has done it twice (2008, 2013). ... There are five Cup drivers entered for Saturday including Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. ... Elliott will be driving the No. 23 Chevrolet for GMS Racing, filling in for Spencer Gallagher, who is going through NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. Elliott is scheduled to make four more race starts in the car.

--- NASCAR Wire Service ---