Seeking a Second Sprint Cup Win at the Site of His First
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 23, 2016) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will attempt to add a second Sprint Cup win to his impressive resume at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday in the Folds of Honor 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
He won his first Sprint Cup race there in only his third career start on March 11, 2001. The circumstances surrounding the month leading up to Harvick’s first career Sprint Cup win in 2001 make it all the more remarkable.
Following Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Harvick was named the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and made his Sprint Cup debut Feb. 26 at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, where he finished 14th. The following Wednesday, Feb. 28, as the series headed west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Harvick married his wife DeLana. The following Sunday, March 4, Harvick scored his first career Sprint Cup top-10. Then, onMarch 11, less than one month since his debut in NASCAR’s top series, Harvick won his first Sprint Cup race at Atlanta.
Harvick’s first win also didn’t come easily. He was in third place with five laps remaining and chased down NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett for second, then overtook Jerry Nadeau for the lead. Once in front, Harvick had to hold off another future Hall of Fame driver in Jeff Gordon to secure the win. As he and Gordon raced door-to-door to the finish line, Harvick prevailed to secure his first win by 0.006 of a second.
Since that maiden Sprint Cup win, Harvick has reached victory lane at Atlanta on five other occasions, four times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – including his last three Xfinity starts in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – and once in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick came close to adding a second Sprint Cup win at Atlanta in each of his last two starts at the 1.54-mile oval. In September 2014, he won the pole and led 195 of 335 laps before late-race tire strategy by several drivers led to a multicar accident involving his No. 4 Chevrolet. He started from the outside front row in 2015, led 116 laps and finished runner-up to race-winner Jimmie Johnson by 1.802 seconds in his most recent Atlanta start.
If the 2014 Sprint Cup champ plans to achieve success Sunday at Atlanta, he is going to have to do it with NASCAR’s first race with the 2016 lower-downforce aerodynamic package. The new lower-downforce package was raced last season at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and received overwhelming support from the competitors.
This weekend, Harvick will attempt to add that elusive second Sprint Cup win at the 1.54-mile oval in Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500. He will also race the No. 88 Bad Boy Off Road Chevrolet Camaro Saturday for JR Motorsports in search of his fourth consecutive Atlanta Xfinity Series win.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What’s it like to be back at the site of your first Sprint Cup win?
“You can’t ever win the first one twice. To come back here and know everything that was attached to that first win is something you look back on and realize the magnitude of the situation. I guess the second thing is I can’t believe we haven’t won here since. This is definitely one of my favorite racetracks and we’ve led a ton of laps here. For whatever reason, on Sundays, we haven’t been able to put the finishing touches on it. Fridays and Saturdays in the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series, we’ve won a ton of races but, hopefully, we can end that Sprint Cup streak this weekend. I’m looking forward to having Folds of Honor there this weekend. They’re a big part of all the sponsors on our car and I would call Major Dan a good friend. He participates a lot in the activities we do. Usually, for whatever reason, when we’re around Major Dan, we’ve had a lot of success over the next weekend’s race so, hopefully, we can go to victory lane and have someone from the Folds of Honor hand us that trophy.”
What are you expecting to see from the new lower-downforce package this weekend at Atlanta?
“I’ve driven it at the two races. We tested at Homestead after the season ended. I think, from a setup standpoint, to get the balance back to where it needs to be is different than what it was in the past. So those target numbers for the engineers and crew chief are definitely different than what they were. But, the good news is we have a lot of baselines of things that I like, and I think Homestead answered a lot of questions for us. I think that, as you go through the year, there’s definitely going to be an evolution of the car from an aero standpoint and balance standpoint. So there’s definitely a lot of things to work through, still. But I feel like Homestead went really well for us. We had a chance to win the Darlington race, so we have to go out and race and see what happens.”
What do you like about the Atlanta Motor Speedway layout?
“I just love the abrasiveness of the racetrack. It still has a lot of speed for the first three or four laps, but then it has a lot of fall-off and a lot of bumps that give it character. As a driver, you just love the challenge that comes with racing at Atlanta. This is always one that I circle on my calendar as a favorite and I look forward to racing here in Atlanta this weekend.”
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