The Favorite at Phoenix
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (March 7, 2016) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is considered a favorite nearly every time he visits Phoenix International Raceway, and Sunday’s Good Sam 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is no exception.
He has an unmatched and impressive list of accomplishments at Phoenix and would like to add to that list Sunday and, if possible, punch his ticket to the 2016 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Harvick’s numbers at Phoenix include a series-high seven Sprint Cup wins, including four of the last five and five of the last seven. He is the only Sprint Cup driver to win four consecutive races at Phoenix. He won the November 2013 race, swept the 2014 races and won in March 2015 before ending the streak with a second-place finish in November. Only five drivers have won consecutive Sprint Cup races at Phoenix and Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice. He swept both races in 2006 to go with his back-to-back wins in 2014.
According to NASCAR loop data, he is the only driver to score a perfect 150.0 driver rating on three different occasions at Phoenix. Harvick scored his first perfect rating at the mile oval in November 2006, when he started second and led 252 of 312 laps on his way to victory lane. He accomplished the feat a second time in winning the November 2014 race, which he started third and led 264 of 312 laps. His third perfect score came in March 2015, when he won the pole, led 224 of 312 laps and beat Jamie McMurray to the finish line by 1.153 seconds.
Harvick’s Sprint Cup pole in March 2015 was his first at Phoenix. It came with a lap of 25.577 seconds at 140.751 mph.
Outside of the Sprint Cup Series, Harvick has five NASCAR touring series wins, including four in the Camping World Truck Series and one in the Xfinity Series. The 2014 Sprint Cup champion won the Truck Series events at Phoenix in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009. He scored his lone Xfinity win at Phoenix in 2006.
In his most recent Sprint Cup visit to the mile oval, Harvick delivered a dominant performance and looked to be in position to add an eighth Sprint Cup win to his Phoenix resume. He started eighth and led 143 of 219 laps, but the performance was foiled when rain brought out a caution as he was leaving pit road with Dale Earnhardt Jr. just slightly ahead on the racetrack. The race was called short of its schedule distance due to weather with Harvick finishing runner-up.
Harvick and the No. 4 team hope to return to their winning ways at Phoenix this Sunday and secure their position in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
When you go to Phoenix, do you feel like you have an edge there over the rest of the field?
“I feel like that can be gone at any point. That’s the hardest thing about having success. You have to have an open mind to try new things to keep moving forward. If you don’t have an open mind or are not willing to try a fresh approach, then it will get stagnant. You’re going to become stale and get left behind. As we go to Phoenix, we have to look at the things that we’ve done well. Obviously, we’ve done a lot of good things. We look at the race tape and pay attention to the lines and braking, steering, throttle and all the things that you have access to and you try to mimic that immediately when you get on the racetrack. The hard part about our sport is the conditions are never the same. The tire is constantly changing. You never know if it’s going to be 100 degrees or if it’s going to be 50 degrees. That makes a big difference on the balance of the car, how much downforce it makes and how much tape you can run on the front. There are all kinds of things to navigate through once you get there. There are a lot of good racecar drivers and lots of circumstances that could play out to have things go wrong. You go there with a fresh start like you’ve never won there before and try to get the car dialed in.”
What makes racing at Phoenix unique?
“Phoenix is a really flat racetrack where you want to have the freshest tires possible, but track position is really important. A lot of what happens at Phoenix depends on the weather and how hot it is – how much fall-off and how you have to manage track position throughout the day. The cooler the day is, the more you have to manage your track position. The hotter the day, the more you have to manage the fall-off. Better-handling cars will have a little easier time of getting through the field.”
You were there at the end of every race, led the most laps, and had an amazing season last year. How do you convert those second-place finishes to wins?
“I don’t think there’s anything missing. I think all that stuff goes in cycles. I think Phoenix is a great example. The only thing that beat us there was the rain. You can’t control the rain. Knocked two valve stems off of wheels last year leading races, blew up two motors leading races. That’s six or seven races right there. I think circumstances – there are a lot of things you can’t control. We have very short memories. That’s been one thing that we’ve preached for a long time. No matter what happened on Sunday, win or lose, we do not dwell on things at all. We’re very short-term thinkers. I think for us it’s really just continuing to put yourself in position. I use this as an example – Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race in Phoenix because it rained even though we dominated the race all day. He was leading the Coke 600 in 2013 or ’14, ran out of gas coming out of turn four and we won the race. Those things go in cycles. You’re going to have things work out. You’re going to have things not work out. You’re going to win races that you shouldn’t win. If you can capitalize, they’re almost harder when you’re in position to win them all day, which is something I hadn’t really learned a lot about till the last couple years because they’re hard to manage. You have a lot of other cars that are going to gamble to do anything they can to try to win the race. It’s really just narrow-minded, short-term thinking – move yourself ahead and try to keep putting yourself in position.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine