The Boys of Fall
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Oct. 7, 2015) – Country music recording artist Kenny Chesney released a song titled, “The Boys of Fall” in 2010, and while the song is specifically about high school football, it could just as easily pertain to Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Harvick and the No. 4 team return to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as the most recent race winner after dominating the AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last Sunday. Harvick also is the defending Bank of America 500 winner.
The defending Sprint Cup champions delivered a dominating performance in a “must-win” situation last Sunday at Dover by leading 355 of 400 laps to advance to the Contender Round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In fact, “The Boys of Fall” have been delivering results starting with the Sept. 23 autumnal equinox in each of the past two seasons.
From Sept. 23, 2014, the first official day of fall, through the end of their championship season in mid-November, Harvick and the No. 4 team won three races, scored four top-two finishes, five top-10s and led 778 laps in eight races. In the two races since the official start of fall 2015, the team scored last weekend’s win in Dover and dominated at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon before running out of fuel less than three laps before the finish. In those two events alone, the team led 571 of 700 laps – more than 81.5 percent of the total run.
Since the inception of the No. 4 team in 2014, it has recorded a championship, four wins, five top-two finishes, six top-10s and led 1,349 laps after the autumnal equinox.
The statistics and results for the No. 4 team are unmatched in the Sprint Cup Series over that time, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how the team has performed in 2015 alone.
Twenty-nine races into this season, Harvick still has been a model of consistency, scoring three wins and leading the series with 10 second-place finishes, 19 top-fives and 23 top-10s. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 2,031 laps with an average finish of 9.1.
Harvick is the first driver to lead 2,000 laps in consecutive seasons since Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1996. The last three drivers to lead more than 2,000 laps in a single season have all gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship – Jeff Gordon led 2,320 laps in 2001, Jimmie Johnson led 2,238 laps in 2009 and Harvick led 2,137 in 2014.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion leads several other statistical categories: 119.3 driver rating, 42 bonus points, 1,209 fastest laps run, 31.5 percent of fastest laps run, 24.5 percent of laps led, 2,460 miles led, 7,532 laps in the top-15 and average running position of 7.558.
In 2015, the Bakersfield, California native led the 26-race regular season with 978 points prior to the Chase driver standings reset following the 26th round at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Harvick’s point total through the first 26 races was the most under the current system that came into effect in 2011, surpassing the 914 regular-season points scored by Greg Biffle in 2012 and Jeff Gordon in 2014.
Harvick and the No. 4 team have reason for optimism as the series returns to Charlotte for the first race of the three-race Contender Round of the Chase. In the last 10 races at the 1.5-mile oval, Harvick has three wins, four top-fives and nine top-10s with an average finish of 5.8 and 320 laps led.
These “Boys of Fall” are hoping to continue their dominance in the next three races to score an early Contender Round win at Charlotte and advance automatically to the Eliminator Round.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How would you describe your history at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
“I’m 100 percent good with it, especially the last three or four years at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) when we were able to perform there and win a couple of races. It’s been very good to us since I’ve been at SHR. It just took a long time to figure out. It’s just like Dover. It took 15 years to walk out of victory lane with a trophy that you actually earned yourself and not something that you owned in the Truck Series. It was good to finally check that one off.”
Do you look at these next two races at Charlotte and Kansas a little bit differently?
“Oh, you have to. You want to do all you can do at Charlotte and Kansas just because you don’t want to head into Talladega, as much as you can try, just for the fact that there’s so much out of your hands. You go to Talladega, there’s – I think that’s the one everybody would be all together with and circling and saying this is the one we don’t want to go to just for the fact that it’s Talladega, and there’s just so many things that can go bad really fast.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine