Sprint Cup Points Leader Heading to Martinsville
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, is in a familiar place heading to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s Martinsville 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
One year ago, Harvick arrived at Martinsville after a successful West Coast swing that included wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, and a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. He was heading to the .526-mile paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval as the Sprint Cup leader with eight consecutive top-two finishes in points races and chasing a record of top-two finishes that hadn’t been seen in nearly 40 years since the days of “The King” Richard Petty.
Not much has changed in a year.
Harvick is again returning to Martinsville after a successful West Coast swing as the Sprint Cup points leader after a win at Phoenix and a runner-up finish in Fontana.
Dating back to 2015, Harvick has scored a top-10 finish in the last nine points-paying events with one win, three second-place finishes, a third-place finish, fourth-place finish, sixth-place finish, seventh-place finish, an eighth-place finish, and he’s led 651 laps in the process. Harvick finished eighth at Martinsville in October 2015 and third at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth before going on to finish second in the final two races of 2015 at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. He then started 2016 with a fourth-place finish in the 58th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and seventh at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before his Phoenix win and runner-up finish at Fontana.
The statistics show that Harvick is picking up in 2016 where he left off in 2015.
He leads the Sprint Cup Series with 195 points and is the only driver to score a top-10 finish in each of the season’s first five races. He has led a series-high 413 laps – 31.4 percent of the total laps run this season – with an average finish of 4.0.
He leads several other statistical categories – 124.4 driver rating, 4.0 average finish, 5.777 average running position, 470 quality passes, 193 fastest laps run, 41.2 percentage of fastest laps run, 626.24 miles led, 1,225 laps in the top-15, 93.2 percentage of laps in the top-15, 99.77 percentage of laps run on the lead lap, and average running position at 4.0. He also ranks second with 10 bonus points and third with an 8.2 average starting position.
If Harvick is to continue the streak of top-10 finishes, he will have to do it this Sunday in the Martinsville 500, where he has finished eighth in his last two Sprint Cup starts.
What makes Martinsville Speedway unique? And what makes it challenging?
“I think a lot of us grew up on short tracks and Martinsville is a place where I’ve raced a lot, whether it’s been with the Trucks, or even the Xfinity Series, in which we were fortunate to win the one race we got to run there. It’s a track where I feel like we could have won more races than we probably have in the record books. It’s a place where you enjoy racing and it’s very similar to Talladega by the fact that you just never know when something’s going to happen. You just never know when it can turn and that’s really what short-track racing is all about. And it’s something that happens a lot at Martinsville.”
Where do you want to be at Martinsville to help you avoid trouble on the racetrack?
“I think the best position to be in at any racetrack is in the lead. You want to be in control of the race and try to get yourself in a position to where you can have a good clean restart and have as much clear track, especially at Martinsville just for the fact that there is so much pushing and shoving on the restarts to get to the bottom lane that you want to try to be as far forward as possible.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine