FLORENCE, S.C. — Kevin Harvick is tuning up for his next Sprint Cup race at Talladega in a different sort of vehicle.
Harvick jumped out the passenger side of a Budweiser delivery truck and rolled a dolly full of beer into a Wal-Mart here Wednesday as customers and store workers gawked at the Sprint Cup star.
It was part of an orchestrated promotion for Harvick and his new sponsor. He toured facilities of an area wholeseller, had a lunchtime question-and-answer session with fans and ended by stocking shelves.
“I had a great time today,” Harvick said.
It is the first year that Harvick’s Richard Childress Racing team has carried the brand of Anheuser-Busch’s signature brew. And so far, it’s been a winning association that Harvick hopes to continue at Talladega Superspeedway in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.
Harvick’s won at California and Martinsville and, with NASCAR’s new points system, has just about locked up a spot in the series end-of-season championship chase. This season, NASCAR will give two wildcard spots to racers with the most wins who aren’t already in the top 10 qualifiers.
Harvick told the 100-or-so invited guests that the early success lets him try things at tracks that may help during the 10 chase races. Piling up the points now doesn’t always help, he said.
“We proved that last year when we had a 300-point lead and didn’t win the chase,” he said.
Harvick is prepared for the same old Talladega-type racing, despite the two-car pods seen at the season’s first restrictor-plate race in Daytona two months back.
“You have to play the game,” Harvick said. “It’s just one, big 200 mph moving chess match.”
After the talk, Harvick got a tour of Crown Beverages Inc., a wholesale operation that ships out 2.4 million cases of beer a year. He posed in front of stacks of shrink-wrapped Budweiser, pictures he planned to put out on Twitter.
“We think Kevin is just another one of our salesmen,” said Schipp Johnston, Crown Beverages’ CEO. “When Kevin wins, we move product.”
Harvick visited the area Johnston called the facility’s “war room” that tracked sales and production on several flat-screen TVs. There were several promotional Budweiser posters of Harvick and a hood of his No. 29 Chevrolet on the wall.
One poster read, “Congratulations Budweiser on your day at Martinsville” and showed Harvick and his team celebrating the victory earlier this month.
“This is fun for me,” Harvick said.
Then the 35-year-old racer rode in the big rig adorned with Budweiser through town to the Wal-Mart. He pushed the dolly full of beer into Wal-Mart’s storage area.
“Hi, Diane” Harvick said to the camera-shy woman receiving the order. “Here you go.”
Customers stopped and stared as the Sprint Cup star pushed the dolly out of the back room and down the aisle. “Get wide, Kevin,” someone shouted as he turned into the beer case.
Harvick began unloading cases and swapping out older beer for the just-delivered brew. Wal-Mart workers, other beverage retail representatives and others filled the aisle to watch the NASCAR standout fill the display. Harvick continued stacking until every open space was filled.
“Remember, everything on this side is contaminated,” Harvick joked, pointing to the Coors Light and Miller beer displays.
Harvick said Budweiser has allowed him to be himself and that gives him one less thing to worry about when he’s racing. “The transition has been great,” he said.
Harvick plans to return to the area next month for the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The track “Too Tough To Tame” has bitten Harvick the past 10 years. He said his team has done well this season at raceways they hadn’t in the past.
“So perhaps we’ll continue the theme at Darlington,” he said.