KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick grew up racing go-karts in Bakersfield, California, dreaming of his turn to one day emulate his childhood hero Rick Mears, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and three-time IndyCar Series champion who also hails from Bakersfield. His dream was to win the historic Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) saw his career take a different path that led him to NASCAR instead of IndyCar.
The path that led to NASCAR meant that Harvick would have to slightly amend his dreams of winning at Indianapolis. Instead of winning the 500, he would instead try to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400.
In 2003, in just his third attempt at the Brickyard, Harvick made his dream of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a reality, and he did so in grand fashion. Harvick won the pole with a speed of 184.343 mph, led 33 laps and beat runner-up Matt Kenseth to the finish line by 2.758 seconds.
Since 2003, the 16-year Sprint Cup veteran has come close to scoring additional wins at Indianapolis. In 2006, Harvick started 10th, led 18 laps and finished third. In 2010, he started ninth, led five laps and finished runner-up to Jamie McMurray by less than two seconds.
In 2014, Harvick set the Sprint Cup track qualifying record with a time of 47.647 seconds at 188.889 mph in the opening qualifying round. He went on to win the pole with a time of 47.753 seconds at 188.470 mph in the final round, then led 12 laps in the race, but he finished eighth.
Harvick started sixth and led a race-high 75 laps in 2015, but his bid for a second Brickyard win was foiled by a late-race restart when runner-up driver Joey Logano pushed race-winner Kyle Busch past Harvick to the lead. Harvick would go on to finish third.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion would like nothing more than to score his second Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. A win Sunday would be Harvick’s second of the 2016 season and would secure his position in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. He scored a thrilling win in just the fourth race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway by .01 of a second over runner-up Carl Edwards. In total, the 2016 season has produced 11 different winners through the first 19 Sprint Cup races.
Harvick clinched a top-30 points position with his ninth-place finish July 9 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He needs an additional win to clinch his spot in the 2016 Chase field after race No. 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are virtually a lock to make the Chase field, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority through the next seven races starting this weekend at Indianapolis.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS:
What makes Indianapolis unique or special to you?
“Indianapolis is a very unique track. For me, it’s kind of a cool place to go to as I grew up always wanting to race Indy cars. With Rick Mears being from Bakersfield (California), he was a hometown, childhood hero as we were all racing go-karts. So, to win there back in 2003, and be able to kind of achieve your childhood dream in a sense, but in a stock car, was a great moment. Going back to Indy is just knowing it’s a very historic racetrack where it’s a lot of fun to be a part of the event. It’s always a place where you want to win, but it’s fun to just go there and race to be a part of the next era of its history.”
What is your favorite Brickyard moment?
“My favorite Brickyard moment is definitely the win. I always tell people that the best part of the win is not kissing the bricks or taking the checkered flag, but the best part of the win is driving around in the Corvette after the race. You can tell who the fans are who have been at Indy for a long time and know about the victory lap. So just driving around and reminiscing about what you just achieved with the team owner and DeLana (Harvick, wife) is just a cool 15 minutes.”
What does it take to be successful at Indianapolis?
“Indianapolis is a very hard racetrack to pass on. Obviously, with how narrow the racetrack is and how fast the cars are going, you have to try and maintain your track position all day. It takes really everything – you have to have great motors, good handling and all the things you hear about at a lot of racetracks. You can’t overcome a lack of horsepower or a lack of downforce and I feel like we’ve done a good job with both of those things all year. Hopefully, we can find the right handling package to go with the great pieces and parts that we have to go on the cars.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine