KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick grew up racing go-karts in Bakersfield, California, dreaming of his turn to one day emulate his childhood hero Rick Mears, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and three-time IndyCar Series champion who also hails from Bakersfield. His dream was to win the historic Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) saw his career take a different path that led him to NASCAR instead of IndyCar.
The path that led to NASCAR meant that Harvick would have to slightly amend his dreams of winning at Indianapolis. Instead of winning the 500, he would instead try to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400.
In 2003, in just his third attempt at the Brickyard 400, Harvick made his dream of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a reality, and he did so in grand fashion. Harvick won the pole with a speed of 184.343 mph, led 33 laps and beat runner-up Matt Kenseth to the finish line by 2.758 seconds.
Since 2003, the 15-year Sprint Cup veteran has come close to scoring additional wins at Indianapolis. In 2006, Harvick started 10th, led 18 laps and finished third. In 2010, he started ninth, led five laps and finished runner-up to Jamie McMurray by less than two seconds.
In 2014, Harvick set the Sprint Cup track qualifying record with a time of 47.647 seconds at 188.889 mph in the opening qualifying round. He went on to win the pole with a time of 47.753 seconds at 188.470 mph in the final round, then went on to lead 12 laps in the race, but he finished eighth.
The defending Sprint Cup champion would like nothing more than to score his second Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. A win Sunday would be Harvick’s third of the 2015 season. He scored his first of the year in the season’s third race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and his second the very next week at Phoenix International Raceway.
Only Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have more wins in 2015. Harvick, SHR teammate Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the only other driver to win two races. Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards each have one win. In total, the 2015 season has produced 11 different winners through the first 19 Sprint Cup races.
Harvick clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff field with his eighth-place finish July 11 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. Harvick is now guaranteed to finish in the top-30 in driver points after race No. 26 Sept. 12 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining seven regular-season Sprint Cup events to secure his spot in the Chase.
Nineteen races into 2015, Harvick has a series-best 13 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s and sits atop the driver standings with 734 points. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,284 laps with an average finish of 6.8. The 1,284 laps led are 576 more than the next-closest competitor – 708 by his SHR teammate Busch.
Harvick has led at least one lap in 15 of 19 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. The staggering number of laps led and the 14 consecutive races with laps led is among numerous other impressive numbers Harvick has compiled this season.
He leads several other statistical categories: 122.4 driver rating, 27 bonus points, 824 fastest laps run, 21.4 percent of fastest laps run, 23.5 percent of laps led, 1,506.3 miles led, 5,024 laps in the top-15, 92.0 percent of laps in the top-15, and average running position of 6.284 in addition to his average finish of 6.8.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are locked into the Chase field by points and wins, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority through the next seven races starting this weekend at Indianapolis.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS:
What makes Indianapolis unique or special to you?
“Indianapolis is a very unique track. For me, it’s kind of a cool place to go to as I grew up always wanting to race Indy cars. With Rick Mears being from Bakersfield (California), he was a hometown, childhood hero as we were all racing go-karts. So, to win there back in 2003, and be able to kind of achieve your childhood dream in a sense, but in a stock car, was a great moment. Going back to Indy is just a very historic racetrack where it’s a lot of fun to be a part of the event. It’s always a place where you want to win, but it’s fun to just go there and race to be a part of the next era of its history.”
What is your favorite Brickyard moment?
“My favorite Brickyard moment is definitely the win. I always tell people that the best part of the win is not kissing the bricks or taking the checkered flag, but the best part of the win is driving around in the Corvette after the race. You can tell who the fans are who have been at Indy for a long time and know about the victory lap. So just driving around and reminiscing about what you just achieved with the team owner and DeLana (Harvick, wife) is just a cool 15 minutes.”
What does it take to be successful at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is a very hard racetrack to pass on. Obviously, with how narrow the racetrack is and how fast the cars are going, you have to try and maintain your track position all day. It takes really everything – you have to have great motors, good handling and all the things you hear about at a lot of racetracks. You can’t overcome a lack of horsepower or a lack of downforce and I feel like we’ve done a good job with both of those things all year. Hopefully, we can find the right handling package to go with the great pieces and parts that we have to go on the cars.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine