KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will make his 30th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in Sunday’s Windows 10 400. The defending Sprint Cup champion has won on short tracks, intermediate tracks, road courses and superspeedways, but it’s Pocono’s unique three-turn circuit that continues to leave Harvick puzzled.
For Harvick, it’s something akin to picking up the triangle solitaire puzzle game, where the goal is to jump golf tees over each other until just one remains. Each attempt starts with optimism but ends in frustration when more than one peg remains. Pocono is the racetrack equivalent to the triangle solitaire puzzle game for Harvick.
The “Tricky Triangle” is one of only five Sprint Cup racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a Sprint Cup win. Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the other four.
The Bakersfield, California native has run well at Pocono, scoring seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in his 29 career Sprint Cup starts, but has yet to reach victory lane in NASCAR’s top series. He seems to be getting close, however, as he’s scored runner-up finishes in his last two Sprint Cup starts at Pocono.
In August 2014, Harvick started sixth, led five laps and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 0.228 of a second. This past June, he started fifth, led 39 laps and was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. by 1.346 seconds.
Harvick does have a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Pocono, scoring the win from the pole position while driving for his own team on Aug. 7, 2011. He led 44 of 53 laps to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds.
The Sprint Cup points leader would like nothing more than to score his first Sprint Cup win Sunday at Pocono. A win 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 Earnhardt are the only other drivers to win two races. Truex, 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 20 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. 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 six regular-season Sprint Cup events to secure his spot in the Chase.
Twenty races into 2015, Harvick has a series-best 14 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s and sits atop the driver standings with 777 points. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,359 laps with an average finish of 6.6. The 1,359 laps led are 651 more than the next-closest competitor – 708 by his SHR teammate Busch.
Harvick has led at least one lap in 16 of 20 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: 123.1 driver rating, 29 bonus points, 848 fastest laps run, 22.1 percent of fastest laps run, 24.2 percent of laps led, 1,693.8 miles led, 5,187 laps in the top-15, 92.3 percent of laps in the top-15, and average running position of 6.119 in addition to his average finish of 6.6.
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 six races starting this weekend at Pocono.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS:
What’s it like taking a lap around Pocono?
“I think when you look at Pocono, you know that you’re going to have a challenge of getting your car to handle in all three corners. That’s the biggest challenge when it comes to Pocono. You have to make sure you can get all you can coming to turn three because that straightaway is really, really long. You can kind of give up the tunnel, but you still need to be very good in all three corners and it’s just a different style of racetrack than what we go to on a week-to-week basis.”
Explain what makes the tunnel turn at Pocono so difficult?
“The tunnel turn is difficult just because you try to carry so much speed through there. It’s not an extremely hard corner, but it’s an extremely hard corner to carry speed through there without having the front end push or the back slide out, or whatever the case may be. It’s not an extremely hard corner until you try to go through there as fast as you can lap after lap. It’s an easy corner to make a mistake and you can give up a lot of time there, but you can also make a lot of time.”
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