KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), looks to make it back-to-back NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins as the series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500k.
Harvick, the series points leader, scored his first Sprint Cup win of the season last Sunday in the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Bakersfield, California native has finished second or better in all three of the Sprint Cup points-paying events in 2015 and has led a series-high 258 laps with an average finish of 1.7.
Dating back to last season, Harvick has finished second or better in the last six points-paying events – three wins and three second-place finishes – while leading a series-high 578 laps. Harvick finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth before going on to win the final two Sprint Cup races of 2014 at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick and the No. 4 team started 2015 with a second-place finish in the 57th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and a runner-up finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway before winning last Sunday at Las Vegas. The last time a Sprint Cup driver finished first or second for six consecutive events was 19 years ago, when Jeff Gordon accomplished the feat in 1996.
Three races into 2015, Harvick is atop the driver standings with 134 points, and he leads several other statistical categories – 129.7 driver rating, 1.7 average finish, plus71 pass differential, 143 fastest laps run, 258 laps led, 32.5 percentage of laps led, and 391.64 miles led. He ranks second in average running position at 5.384, and laps run in the top-15 with 771, or 97 percent. He ranks third in quality passes with 467, as well as average positions gained in the last 10 percent of a race at 6.3.
While the 2015 numbers are staggering, that is only part of the story for Harvick as the Sprint Cup Series heads to his best racetrack.
Harvick’s numbers at Phoenix, alone, are equally as impressive. He has a series-high six Sprint Cup wins there, including three in the last four races. Only Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have won three consecutive Sprint Cup races at Phoenix. Harvick won the November 2013 race and swept the 2014 races while Johnson won the November 2007 race and swept the 2008 races. Only five drivers have won consecutive Sprint Cup races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice. Harvick swept both races in 2006 and again in 2014.
According to NASCAR loop data, he is the only driver to score a perfect 150.0 driver rating on two different occasions at Phoenix. Harvick scored his first perfect rating at Phoenix in November 2006, when he started second, led 252 of 312 laps and reached victory lane. He most recently scored a perfect rating at Phoenix in November 2014 when he started third, led 264 of 312 laps and also reached victory lane.
In addition to his series-best six wins at Phoenix, Harvick also ranks second in average running position at 9.8, driver rating at 106.2, and fastest laps run with 523. He ranks third in average green-flag speed at 216.232 mph, and fourth with 4,958 laps in the top-15, or 78.5 percent. He also ranks eighth in quality passes with 452.
The lone shortcoming for Harvick appears to be Friday afternoons at Phoenix as he is still in search of his first Sprint Cup pole there.
Outside of the Sprint Cup Series, Harvick has five NASCAR touring series wins, including four in the Camping World Truck Series and one in the Xfinity Series. The defending Sprint Cup champion won the Truck Series events at Phoenix in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009. He scored his lone Xfinity win at Phoenix in 2006.
Saturday, Harvick will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series race before trying to make history by recording a fourth consecutive Sprint Cup win at the track in the CampingWorld.com 500k Sprint Cup Series event Sunday.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you remember your first win at Phoenix?
“I remember the last race I lost there that we were winning, but I don’t know that I remember the first win. Actually, I do remember the first win. The first win was actually our first win for Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) ever in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series, anything. At that particular time, we hadn’t had a lot of success in the Cup car because I had only run there a couple of times. Everything I had run from a Late Model standpoint, Southwest Tour, we had never really made it to the end of the races. Something always broke or I crashed. To win the first race for the company at KHI at that particular time was big for us because I hadn’t really won a Truck race anywhere. So, at that particular point, we were just looking for win number one. That evolved over the years. To get that first win at Phoenix was pretty special because it was kind of like our Daytona 500 every year for the Southwest Tour cars, Winston West cars and all the things that we raced on the West Coast. You had the Copper Classic – for me, that is kind of like the biggest race that we would go to growing up. I always went there with my dad and my grandpa to watch the open comp races back in the late ’80s. It was definitely a place that has been really good to us in both configurations and somewhere that you would circle on the calendar every year as a race you think you should have a chance at winning.”
Do you ever envision yourself being the winningest all-time driver at that racetrack?
“Not really because I still envision that driver as Ken Schrader. He has won so many races in the Late Model-type cars there. But, all-in-all, I think it’s a racetrack that I get pretty amped up to go to. Just for the fact that you know you have so many memories there and so many family members and friends, really, at all the West-Coast races. But Phoenix has just become that place where the fans have kind of migrated to you because you are from a place near there that you grew up racing at that particular racetrack. I think they understand how much I respect and enjoy coming there.”
What do you remember about the last race you didn’t win at Phoenix?
“The last race I didn’t win there, I think it was like 20 or 30 laps to go and we were leading the race and broke a rear end. We had the lightest rear end, but we didn’t have the most durable rear end.”
What do you think has led to all of your success at Phoenix? Has the track reconfiguration worked out even better than you expected
“Honestly, the reconfiguration has definitely worked out better for us than I thought it would because, when they first did it, I thought we had really figured out what we needed to do on the old surface and then they changed the surface. We kind of picked right up and almost went better than it did on the old surface with the new surface. It’s just kind of one of those things where you figured out a couple of little things that help you and I know the feeling that I want my car. I know what I want it to feel like in practice and in the race. If we can achieve that, then usually we are competitive. It’s just interesting how you find those places where you know what you want to feel and it just works.”
How big was the first win last year for you and the No. 4 guys coming to a new team and scoring a win in just the second race of the season with a new crew chief and crew?
“I think that was big for us, for sure. I think as you look back at that particular moment, it was one of those things where getting that first win out of the way was a big deal. It’s exciting to be able to know that we knocked the first one out and then knocked several out in the championship after that, so that is pretty cool stuff.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine