June 5 (UPI) -- The format of NASCAR's resumed season has tired some of the sports best drivers, including Cup Series leader Kevin Harvick.
Harvick finished 11th in the Supermarket Heroes 500 Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. He won the Real Heroes 400 May 17 in Darlington, S.C., the first race after NASCAR's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has two other Top 5 finishes since the sport's return.
NASCAR's typical Cup Series format includes mostly Sunday races. Drivers added a Wednesday between the first two Sunday races of the restart. They raced again the next Thursday before Sunday's event at Bristol. Cup Series stars drove more than 2,500 miles in five races in 15 days. Some drivers also drove in the Xfinity Series and Truck Series during that time.
"For me there has been a change to the process, especially through the first two weeks," Harvick said. "We had difficult race tracks at Darlington, Charlotte and Bristol."
Harvick said he has changed his recovery process for workouts and given himself extra travel time to drive back and forth from the tracks.
"You look at it from the outside and you think 'what a day.' No practice or qualifying and less travel should be easier," Harvick said. "That Wednesday race adds another layer to how you have to take care of yourself. Then the layoff over the eight or nine weeks we were out of the car [season suspension] and then just jumping in the car for those miles. It has been a lot.
"I was much more fatigued last Sunday from Bristol than I have been for a long time because you keep stacking those races on top of each other."
Despite the exhaustion, Harvick said he can't complain because he knows he is fortunate to be part of one of the only active sports leagues in the United States.
Harvick will jump back in his No. 4 Ford for the Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His car will look a bit different as he will be part of a dual paint scheme with teammate Clint Bowyer. The cars will promote a campaign to help farmers in the United States.
Helping farmers and new fans
Harvick's sponsor Busch Light will still be plastered on his hood but his car will also include a blue, yellow and green colorway and large ears of corn. Busch provided funds for Farm Rescue to expand into Kansas. Farm Rescue is a nonprofit that has helped nearly 700 family farms sustain operations in times of crisis.
"There are a lot of people who need help," Harvick said. "When you look at our farmers, they are key to the front line that has been so courageous through this whole pandemic and keeping us all fed. When you look at our farmers in need, it's obviously a key to keep us running as a country."
NASCAR has been a refuge for sports fans while other leagues are still suspended. Harvick said the drivers wish fans were allowed at the track but he enjoys the opportunity to showcase the sport to new viewers.
"Even with three of the five races impacted by rain, there are a lot of new race fans out there," Harvick said. "In the end, a lot of sports fans are out there.
"We are tired of watching 1984 basketball games and reruns. We all want something fresh. Our sport is fortunate to be in a position to put our events on and get on the track."