KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – For the second straight season, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, scored more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship driver points in the 26-race regular season than any other driver. However, with the points reset to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs after last weekend’s regular-season finale at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Harvick will start fresh this weekend in Sunday’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
Luckily, the sponsor on the hood of the No. 4 Chevrolet, Jimmy John’s, always starts fresh when making its sandwiches and knows what it takes to deliver in “Freaky Fast” fashion.
Jimmy John’s, founded in 1983 by then-19-year-old Jimmy John Liautaud approximately 163 miles from Chicagoland Speedway in Charleston, Illinois, serves up ridiculously fresh sandwiches quicker than you can say “Turkey Tom,” a customer favorite which, ironically, is No. 4 on the menu. Jimmy John’s is all about the freshest ingredients, the fastest service and “Freaky Fast” delivery. While most people are more than impressed with the quality of Jimmy John’s sandwiches, it’s the speed with which they are prepared and delivered that really puts the Champaign, Illinois-based chain ahead of the rest.
Harvick is hoping to use the same principles to deliver a freaky fast win early in each three-race round of the 10-race Chase to help him advance to the final four and add to his 2014 Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick qualified for the 10-race Chase by virtue of his two wins at Phoenix International Raceway in March and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August. His regular-season victories were each worth three bonus points. Harvick carries his six bonus points into the Chase to slot fourth among the 16 drivers.
The Bakersfield, California native led the 26-race regular season with 876 points prior to the Chase driver standings reset following Richmond.
This is his seventh consecutive playoff appearance and his 10th since the inception of the Chase in 2004. He finished fourth in his Chase debut in 2006, 10th in 2007, fourth in 2008, third in 2010 and 2011, eighth in 2012, third in 2013, won his first Sprint Cup championship in 2014 and finished runner-up to Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch in 2015.
Harvick already has two Sprint Cup wins at Chicagoland and three wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He won the inaugural Sprint Cup race there on July 15, 2001, and made it back-to-back Chicagoland wins as he reached victory lane again on July 14, 2002. His three Xfinity Series wins came in September 2005, July 2007 and September 2014.
The No. 4 Jimmy John’s team is hoping it can continue its approach of winning early and apply it to each round of the Chase. A win in the Round of 16 that features races at Chicago, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway, would automatically advance a team to the Round of 12. A win in the Round of 12, consisting of races at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, guarantees a spot in the Round of Eight. A win in the Round of Eight, consisting of races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway, guarantees a spot in the Championship Four finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick is looking to ride his “Freaky Fast” Jimmy John’s Chevrolet all the way to a second Sprint Cup Series championship.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you change anything in your preparation or in your own life to prepare for those final 10 weeks?
“My attitude. My attitude changes a lot. It’s all offense. Be greedy for your team. Do what you have to do.”
How can Chicago take you by surprise in the Chase?
“I think every track has its way of being able to get the best of you. A lot of those are just circumstances that – whether your car is just not cooperating that weekend or you can’t get a grasp of what you need for your driving style or whatever the case may be – you just have to adjust to. Every team in the garage has a situation or a weak spot that they feel like they need to maximize. Really, the weekends that aren’t going well or the weekends that you have to overcome, those are the weekends that really make the championship within reach when you’re able to turn those weekends around and can make something out of it. The easy weekends are when you have a good car and go out and you win the race – those are the weekends that are the easiest. The hard weekends are when things are bad and you have to turn that around and get a good finish and move on to the next week.”
Is it a given that the top teams will advance through the first round?
“I don’t think there are any givens in really anything you do. I think you have to go out and earn it. You have to be able to overcome situations, capitalize on situations, and you have to be able to perform for 10 weeks in order to put yourself in position to win a championship. You at least have to perform for nine of those 10 to put yourself in position to compete for a championship. It’s just a much different feeling in the atmosphere, in the approach, in the style of the things that you do than it is during the regular season, especially if you’ve won races and you won races early in the year.”
You’ve worked with Jimmy John’s for a few years. What makes Jimmy John’s unique?
“I’ve known Jimmy since 2009 and I’ve personally seen how driven he is and how his work ethic is embraced by Jimmy John’s franchisees. He wants to be the best, period. And he’ll outwork everyone to be the best. That’s the same mindset we have in racing.”
- Mike Zizzo
Director of Media Relations
Texas Motor Speedway