KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), knows track position will be key to winning when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
Winning Sunday at “The Magic Mile” is the only outcome that will help improve Harvick’s position when he pursues his goal of a second Sprint Cup championship.
The Bakersfield, California native earned the first requirement for entry into the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs in thrilling fashion when he scored a win in just the fourth race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway by .01 of a second over runner-up Carl Edwards. By finishing last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta 382 points ahead of the 31st-place driver in the standings, Harvick is now guaranteed to finish in the top-30 in driver points after race No. 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September. A second win and attempting to qualify for the remaining eight regular-season Sprint Cup events would guarantee Harvick a spot in the Chase.
With one win and his top-30 points position secured, Harvick is now racing for wins and the accompanying bonus points for when the NASCAR playoffs kick off at Chicagoland Speedway in September.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion knows how to win at New Hampshire, but he also knows that it is easier said than done.
Harvick scored his lone Sprint Cup win there from the pole position in September 2006, when he led 196 of 300 laps en route to victory lane.
In his most recent visit to the Granite State in September 2015, he started second and led a race-high 216 laps but ran out of fuel in the closing laps and finished 21st. In July 2015, he started 12th and was leading the race when he brought his No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for a four-tire stop late in the race, while several other teams opted for a two-tire stop resulting in a third-place finish. He also had a chance to win in September 2014, when he started third, led a race-high 104 laps and finished third.
Harvick’s plan of attack for the weekend at New Hampshire is to attempt to qualify up front Friday to secure the track position needed to win Sunday as the three bonus points for winning are the only points worth counting for Harvick this weekend.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS:
What makes the fans in Loudon so intense and so loyal?
“I’ve had a little bit different experience and I’ll go outside of Loudon a little bit. I was fortunate to go up and experience the Oxford 250 in Oxford, Maine and that’s really where you see those grassroots fans. I went up there in 2007 and, to this day, I still see a lot of the competitors and people who come by and say hello. It’s just fun to be able to have met those people. We were fortunate – looking back on it now it was fortunate – but we might not have thought it was fortunate at the time, but to sit around in the rain for two days and talk to the folks, see where they were from and find out what they’re about was a pretty cool experience. It’s a great region for us in terms of fans and competitors, and really a big racing community.”
What is the first thing you think of when you know you’re going to Loudon?
“Usually the first thing that I think of when heading to Loudon is knowing that it’s going to be cool weather. Usually at that particular point in the year in July, we haven’t gone to too many places that are very pleasant as far as the weather goes. I love going to Loudon in the middle of the summer and usually we are able to enjoy a cooler day than what we’ve been around and they have good race fans and a good race weekend.”
What does it take to be successful at Loudon?
“I’d say the most important thing at Loudon is track position just because it’s hard to pass. You want to be up front and on the right strategy no matter what you do. If the caution flag falls in the wrong spot and you lose track position, it usually becomes a longer day than it could have been.”
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