KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The Budweiser crown returns to the hood of Kevin Harvick’s Chevrolet this weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. But, it is the streak of “The King” that has everyone talking.
Harvick will drive the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in Sunday’s Martinsville 500 as he tries to continue a streak not seen since the driving days of Richard Petty, aka “The King.”
Dating back to last season, Harvick has finished second or better in the last eight points-paying events. With four wins and four second-place finishes, he’s led a series-high 836 laps during that time. Harvick finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last fall before going on to win the final two Sprint Cup races of 2014 at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick and the No. 4 team started 2015 with second-place finishes in the 57th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He then went on to win back-to-back events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix before finishing second last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The last time a Sprint Cup driver finished first or second for eight consecutive events was 40 years ago, when Petty built a string of 11 top-two finishes in a row in 1975.
So how does Harvick’s streak, currently at eight in a row, compare to Petty’s accomplishment?
ESPN Stats & Information recently did a comparison, and it revealed that Petty led 33 percent of the laps available during his 1975 streak while Harvick has led more than 37 percent of the laps during his past eight starts.
During Petty’s dominant run, an average of 2.3 cars finished on the lead lap compared to 25.5 cars during Harvick streak. Petty also scored six wins in the 11-race streak while Harvick has four through only eight races.
It’s only fitting that Harvick has to go through Martinsville in order to continue his streak – a track where Petty won 15 Sprint Cup races. Interestingly enough, Martinsville is where the 11-race streak ended for Petty. Petty’s consecutive top-two streak started with a win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and continued with a win from the pole at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway before ending with a 22nd-place finish at Martinsville.
Petty’s record at the half-mile paperclip-shaped racetrack is nothing short of incredible. Along with his 15 wins, he recorded 33 top-five finishes and 42 top-10s with an average start of 10.1 and average finish of 10.0 through 66 Sprint Cup starts. He also led 5,315 laps.
Harvick’s record at Martinsville is also impressive. He has recorded wins in each of NASCAR’s top three series. He earned the Sprint Cup pole at Martinsville in March 2010 and won the April 2011 race. He won in his only start at Martinsville in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2006 when he led 149 of 250 laps. He also has three wins and two poles in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Five races into 2015, Harvick sits atop the driver standings with 225 points. His five straight Sprint Cup finishes of second or better to start the season is a series record. He has led a series-high 516 laps with an average finish of 1.6 through the first five races of 2015.
Harvick leads several other statistical categories – 133.7 driver rating, 1.6 average finish, 301 fastest laps run, 516 laps led, 39.2 percentage of laps led, 683.64 miles led, 1,292 laps in the top-15, 98.2 percentage of laps in the top-15, and average running position at 4.0.
If Harvick is to continue the streak, he will have to do it this Sunday in the Martinsville 500, the last place he finished outside of the top-two – and at the place The King’s streak came to an end.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What makes Martinsville Speedway unique? And what makes it challenging?
“I think a lot of us grew up on short tracks and Martinsville is a place where I’ve raced a lot, whether it be with the Trucks, or even the Xfinity Series, in which we were fortunate to win the one race we got to run there. It’s a track where I feel like we could have won more races than we probably have in the record books. It’s a place where you enjoy racing and it’s very similar to Talladega by the fact that you just never know when something’s going to happen. It’s just like last year – we were rolling well and qualified badly. We came up through the field and were in position to start getting into the top-five. The restart went kind of wacky and we wound up backward into the fence. You just never know when it can turn and that’s really what short-track racing is all about. And it’s something that happens a lot at Martinsville.”
How are you and your team preparing for Martinsville?
“It’s definitely going to be different, just for the fact that you’re not going to have that acceleration due to the changes in the rules package. It’s going to be more like a Truck Series race, I guess you could say, in the way that you have to carry the momentum through the center of the corner and be able to carry that momentum with the car turning and be back in the throttle. So, it will be interesting to see if it’s harder to pass or not, but there’s a good possibility that it will be.”
What has been the secret to success over the last seven races
“Any time you’re compared to anything that Richard Petty has done, that gives me chills. I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart‑Haas for everything they do. I’m really proud of (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and these guys on this team. I feel like we get better as we go through different situations. You see these guys hang out together, how mellow everybody is, how everybody gets along. It’s really, really special to be a part of. I’m really happy to be a small piece of what’s going on. I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart‑Haas and everybody on our No. 4 team.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine