Redemption at Bristol
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 19, 2015) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is looking for redemption Saturday night in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
The defending Sprint Cup champion looked to have the car to beat at Bristol in April. He started fourth and led 184 laps but found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as he was collected in a lap-311 accident when Jimmie Johnson, Jeb Burton and David Ragan spun directly in front of him while Harvick was running third. Harvick finished 38th – one of his only three finishes outside the top-10 through the first 23 races of 2015.
The Bakersfield, California native is no stranger to victory lane at Bristol, however. In fact, he has won there in each of NASCAR’s three touring series.
He scored a Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in April 2005, when he started 13th and led 109 of 500 laps and beat Elliott Sadler to the finish line by 4.652 seconds. He has five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins there with his most recent coming in March 2009, when he started 13th and led 46 laps to beat runner-up Carl Edwards by 0.798 of a second. He also visited victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Bristol in August 2011, when he started sixth, led 103 of 200 laps and beat Johnny Sauter by 0.434 of a second.
The Sprint Cup points leader has consistently run and finished in the top-five throughout the season with a chance to win nearly every weekend. He has two wins and nine second-place finishes, three times he’s finished third, and twice he’s finished fourth. He has also scored top-10s in 20 of 23 Sprint Cup races and, in the three races he finished outside the top-10, he had an unfortunate issue arise while leading the race.
Harvick would like to add his third Sprint Cup win at Bristol Saturday night. 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.
Harvick clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff field with his eighth-place finish July 11 at Kentucky, guaranteeing a top-30 finish in the driver points after race No. 26 Sept. 12 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining three regular-season Sprint Cup events to make it official.
Twenty-three races into 2015, Harvick has a series-best 16 top-five finishes to go with his 20 top-10s, and he sits atop the driver standings with 866 points. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,406 laps with an average finish of 7.8. The 1,406 laps led are 685 more than the next-closest competitor – 721 by his SHR teammate Kurt Busch.
Harvick has led at least one lap in 19 of 23 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. 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: 120.2 driver rating, 33 bonus points, 877 fastest laps run, 22.8 percent of fastest laps run, 23.2 percent of laps led, 1,802.35 miles led, 5,485 laps in the top-15, and average running position of 7.44 in addition to his average finish of 7.8.
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 three races, starting this weekend at Bristol.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS:
What is it that makes the Bristol night race so special?
“The Bristol night race is one that has always been circled on everybody’s list as a race that they want to win. I think when you look at Bristol, it’s probably become harder than it used to be to pass, just for the fact that you run up against the wall. Plus, you add that short-track element. It’s hot and it’s frustrating, as well, just because it’s hard to pass and you know that you have to make time. It usually ends up that you have guys who run into each other and then we all get mad. It can definitely be a place where the tempers flare.”
Do you remember your first time racing under the lights at Bristol, and do you still have that same feeling when you go back?
“Bristol has never been one of those places that you think about that much, to be honest with you. It just seems like all the action and everything happens during the night races there, for whatever reason. It’s a fun place to race. It’s been a place where we’ve had a lot of success. And, sometimes you go there and you have no success because you run into something. It’s kind of feast or famine as you go there and that’s kind of where we are right now at this point in our season. We want to win races and, really, nothing else matters at this point except for wins. Hopefully, when we go back to Bristol, we will be on the right side of having some success.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine