KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), knows track position will be key to winning when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 Sprint Cup Series race.
Winning Sunday at “The Magic Mile” is the only outcome that will help move Harvick toward his goal of a second consecutive Sprint Cup championship.
The Bakersfield, California native, who has wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway this season, clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field with his eighth-place finish Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. By finishing the race 410 points ahead of the 31st-place driver in the standings, Harvick is now guaranteed to finish in the top-30 in driver points after race No. 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining eight Sprint Cup events to secure his spot in the Chase.
With his Chase berth secured, Harvick is now racing for wins and bonus points for when the NASCAR playoffs kick off at Chicagoland Speedway in September.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion knows how to win at New Hampshire, but he also knows that it is easier said than done.
Harvick scored his lone Sprint Cup win there from the pole position in September 2006, when he led 196 of 300 laps en route to victory lane. In his most recent visit to the Granite State in September 2014, he started third and led the most laps, but was unable to make up ground on race-winner Joey Logano during several late-race restarts and finished in third.
Eighteen races into 2015, Harvick has a series-best 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s and sits atop the driver standings with 692 points. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,225 laps with an average finish of 7.0. The 1,225 laps led are 517 more than the next-closest competitor – 708 by his SHR teammate Kurt Busch.
Harvick has led at least one lap in 14 of 18 Sprint Cup races in 2015, including a streak of 14 in a row from March 1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway through June 14 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. However, he has not led a lap in the past three Sprint Cup races at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Kentucky, marking the first time he has not led a lap in three straight races since July 13, 2014 at New Hampshire.
The staggering number of laps led and the 14 consecutive races with laps led are impressive, and the same can be said for numerous other statistics Harvick has compiled this season.
The Bakersfield, California native leads several other statistical categories: 122.4 driver rating, 26 bonus points, 768 fastest laps run, 20.0 percent of fastest laps run, 23.8 percent of laps led, 1,443.88 miles led, 4,726 laps in the top-15, 91.6 percent of laps in the top-15, and average running position of 6.4 in addition to his average finish of 7.0.
Harvick’s plan of attack for the weekend at New Hampshire is to attempt to qualify up front Friday to secure the track position needed to win on Sunday, for the three bonus points for winning are the only points worth counting for Harvick this weekend.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS:
What does it take to be successful at Loudon?
“I’d say the most important thing at Loudon is track position just because it’s hard to pass. You want to be up front and on the right strategy no matter what you do. If the caution flag falls in the wrong spot and you lose track position, it usually becomes a longer day than it could have been.”
What is the first thing you think of when you know you’re going to Loudon?
“Usually the first thing I think of when heading to Loudon is that it’s going to be cool weather. Usually at that particular point in the year, in July, we haven’t gone to too many places that are very pleasant as far as the weather goes. I love going to Loudon in the middle of the summer and usually we are able to enjoy a cooler day than what we’ve been around, and they have good race fans and a good race weekend.”
What makes the fans in Loudon so intense and so loyal?
“I’ve had a little bit of a different experience and I’ll go outside of Loudon a little bit. I was fortunate to go up and experience the Oxford 250 in Oxford, Maine and that’s really where you see those grassroots fans. I went up there in 2007 and, to this day, I still see a lot of the competitors and people who come by and say hello. It’s just fun to be able to have met those people. We were fortunate. Looking back on it now, it was fortunate, but we might not have thought it was fortunate at the time, but to sit around in the rain for two days and talk to the folks – see where they were from and find out what they’re about – was a pretty cool experience. It’s a great region for us in terms of fans and competitors, and really a big racing community.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine