Chasing Perfection at Dover
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (May 10, 2016) – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as the defending race winner at the concrete mile oval, but he’s still chasing perfection.
Harvick arrived at Dover last October ranked 15th in points after issues at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon placed him in a “must-win” situation to advance to the Round of 12 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The odds were long as Harvick had never made a trip to victory lane in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover.
With his back against the wall, he went on to deliver the most dominant performance of his Sprint Cup career. He started 15th after rain cancelled qualifying Friday afternoon, but he quickly raced his way to the front and led 355 of 400 laps to beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the finish line by 2.639 seconds.
According to NASCAR Stats and Information, he registered a 149.7 driver rating out of a possible 150.0, narrowly missing his fourth perfect driver rating in a Sprint Cup race. He previously registered perfect 150.0 driver ratings at Phoenix International Raceway on three occasions – November 2006 and 2014, and March 2015.
Harvick’s Sprint Cup win last October was his first at the Monster Mile, but the Bakersfield, California native has run well at Dover in recent years.
He won the Sprint Cup pole at Dover in September 2014, when he turned a lap of 22.095 seconds at162.933 mph in the second round of qualifying. On race day, he stayed at the front of the field for 223 laps but had to settle for a 13th-place finish after a valve stem issue led to a flat tire following a pit stop and caused him to fall a lap down to the leaders.
In May 2015, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion started sixth and led 91 laps, but finished second after Jimmie Johnson beat him by 0.435 of a second in a green-white-checkered finish.
In the last four Sprint Cup races at Dover, Harvick leads all drivers with 152 points and 693 laps led. The next-closest competitors in those categories are Martin Truex Jr., who has 148 points, and Johnson, who has 295 laps led.
This weekend, Harvick will seek to repeat his successful run at Dover and score his second Sprint Cup win of the 2016 season. He scored his first in only the third race of the season at Phoenix. That win, by a .01-of-a-second margin over Carl Edwards, tied for the 10th-closest finish in Sprint Cup history. A second win this weekend at Dover would virtually secure Harvick’s spot in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup and provide added bonus points to start the first round of the playoffs.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What has it been like the last two-plus seasons – whether you collect wins or championships – getting into a car without having to worry about whether you’re going to be in a position to compete and you know you are in contention every race?
“For me, it’s been about, ‘All right, don’t screw any of this up.’ You know, how can I contribute to make this better? I think a lot of those things were talked about before Rodney ever started at StewartHaas Racing on day one. I think, for me, there’s been a lot of things changing over the last four or five years, personally. We put a lot of effort into how we live and where we live and what we own, what we don’t own, just to try to make being parents better and be better on Sunday. I think as you look at my situation, I have a group of people who believe in each other. I have a group of people who are experienced and, for me, as I’ve been able to get in these racecars, I don’t worry about how they’re going to run when I show up at the racetrack. I know they’re going to run fast. We’ve run fast at virtually every race we’ve ever been to. For me, it’s about, all right, look at your notes, look at the past history, look at the things that you’ve done, and you’d better be ready when you get on the racetrack for the first lap of practice because they are. There’s a sense of, if I’m not prepared, I’m letting them down because I know every one of them is prepared. There’s never a weekend that they show up that they aren’t prepared. So, for me, it’s almost been a good motivator to make sure that you show up prepared so you’re not letting those guys down who did their job during the week.
What does it mean to win at a track as unique as Dover?
“Well, I’m just happy we finally won that one because Keelan (son) kept asking for Miles the trophy. It’s really the only one we don’t put in storage with the rest of them. It’s in his playroom. That’s what he asked to do with it. So I’m just glad that I didn’t let him down and we finally got him one.”
When you took the checkered flag, how much of a relief was it? Was it like a big weight lifted off your shoulders?
“You know, I never really felt any pressure. I would have been more disappointed for my guys and for StewartHaas Racing than I would have been for myself. I would have found a way to kind of cope with everything and move forward and do things going forward. I would have been more disappointed for the guys on my team, for the guys at the shop who put their heart and soul into all these racecars that we put on the track for StewartHaas Racing. I could have dealt with it myself. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my life and career of things that you’ve had to handle. But a lot of those guys hadn’t, and I would have felt like I let them down more than anything and would have felt bad more for that than I would have myself, for sure.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine