KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), once again raced his way to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings by winning Sunday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. This Sunday, in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, he is looking to reach victory lane for the second consecutive week and the third time in 2016.
The good news for the Sprint Cup points leader is that the series visits the Irish Hills of Michigan, where he has scored top-five finishes in six of his last seven starts on the 2-mile oval.
Harvick scored four consecutive second-place finishes at Michigan from June 2013 through August 2014. He was runner-up to Greg Biffle by 2.989 seconds in June 2013. In August 2013, Harvick finished 1.018 seconds behind Joey Logano. In 2014, he followed Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon across the finish line in the June and August races, respectively. That’s four races, four second-place finishes to four different drivers.
His lone finish outside the top-five over the last seven Sprint Cup races at Michigan came in June 2015, when he started second and led 63 laps, but rain shortened the scheduled 200-lap event to just 138 laps and he finished 29th. He followed that by posting yet another runner-up effort in August 2015, when he started seventh, led 15 laps and finished 1.722 seconds behind race-winner Matt Kenseth.
In his most recent visit to Michigan in June, the Bakersfield, California native started 29th but raced his way to a fifth-place finish.
For his career, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion has been to victory lane at Michigan in each of NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
He scored an Xfinity Series win at Michigan in August 2003, when he led 10 laps and beat Kasey Kahne to the finish line under caution. His Sprint Cup win came in August 2010, when he led 60 laps and outran Denny Hamlin to the finish line by 1.731 seconds. He scored a Camping World Truck Series win in August 2011, when he led 13 laps and finished ahead of Timothy Peters as the race finished under caution.
Harvick held the lead in the Sprint Cup standings for 13 consecutive weeks before falling to second following a 32nd-place finish three weekends ago at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. However, his win last week at Bristol allowed him to reclaim the points lead and he now holds a 27-point advantage over second-place Brad Keselowski heading into Sunday’s race at Michigan.
Harvick clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff field with his fourth-place finish Aug. 1 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, guaranteeing a top-30 finish in the driver points after race No. 26 Sept. 12 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining three regular-season events to make it official.
If the playoffs started today, Harvick would start the Chase with six bonus points by way of his two wins at Bristol and Phoenix.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are locked into the Chase field by points and wins, gaining additional bonus points for wins is now their top priority through the next three events, starting this weekend at Michigan.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS:
What does it take to have a good finish in Michigan?
“How you finish at Michigan depends on how your day is going. If you’re having a good day, it’s not really hard to tell your guys what you need and everyone is in a good mood. If you’re having a bad day, you can get behind at Michigan really fast. Usually, when you’re hooked up at Michigan, the leaders have clean air and move through traffic pretty well. But, if you’re in the middle of the pack, you find yourself getting behind and going a lap down pretty quickly. You’re going to end up with a green-flag pit stop and a whole bunch of green-flag laps. You just have to be going from the time the green flag drops and keep yourself in position at the end.”
You’ve been so consistent all season, but how does (the win at Bristol) kind of bolster the team and get you in position to have momentum going into the Chase?
“It’s all about confidence and it’s all about momentum. I think we’ve been confident in our cars, just not confident in closing everything out, from myself to, ‘Is it ever really going to happen again,’ and I think that went away (at Bristol). And you get back into that, ‘We know we have fast cars,’ knowing that you can win again. It kind of happened that way for us in 2014 at Charlotte when we won, and it just kind of re-instilled that confidence of everything we know we can do, and it finally all just came together (at Bristol). We’re three weeks from the end of the regular season, and I don’t think it could have come together at a better time. Confidence and momentum go a long way in racing, baseball, football, basketball, whatever it is, and you just want to ride the wave.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine