KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Nov. 16, 2016) – Kevin Harvick finds himself in an unfamiliar position as he arrives at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series finale.
Since the inception of the elimination format in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff in 2014, the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has never come to Homestead out of the Championship 4. He advanced to the final race in both 2014 and 2015, winning the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and finishing runner-up to Kyle Busch in 2015.
However, this year’s 10-race Chase did not go as planned for the Bakersfield, California native after he suffered several setbacks in each round, but managed to advance by winning a race in each of the first two rounds and remaining in contention until his fourth-place finish last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway knocked him out of the Round of 8.
Now, Harvick and the No. 4 team have only one priority when it comes to finishing out their season – win. The team has scored four wins through the first 35 points-paying Sprint Cup races of 2016. One additional win in the season finale would equal his single-season best, which he accomplished by winning five races each in 2006 and 2014.
This season, Harvick has managed to win races on the half-mile oval at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, the mile ovals at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Phoenix, and the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
The No. 4 Jimmy John’s team finished first and second at Homestead the past two seasons, capturing the win in 2014 by .500 of a second over runner-up Ryan Newman in 2014, and finishing runner-up to 2015 champion Kyle Busch by 1.552 seconds in 2015.
Harvick has only finished outside the top-10 at Homestead twice in his 15 career Sprint Cup starts. He has one win, three runner-up finishes, two third-place finishes and eight consecutive top-10s with an average finish of 7.2. In the last 10 Sprint Cup races at Homestead, Harvick has the best average finish at 6.1, and his 964 points rank second only to Carl Edwards’ 985.
Harvick and the No. 4 team are motivated to finish on a high note and would love to do that by standing in victory lane one final time to close out the 2016 season.
With one final race left in the 2016 season, how would you define your season?
“That’s a tough question. We’ve done a lot of good things – we’ve won four races, led a lot of laps and put ourselves in contention nearly every week. We also ran into some trouble in the Chase and our season isn’t ending the way we would have liked, holding the big trophy at the end. I think the thing I am most pleased with or proud of is how our Jimmy John’s team went down fighting until the very last second last weekend at Phoenix. Just for the fact that we were off a little bit the whole weekend, but no one gave up and we fought until the very end. That says a lot about this team and the character of the guys on it. We have a lot of things to look forward to as a team and a win this weekend in Homestead would definitely get us headed in the right direction as we head into 2017.”
What will it be like to race with Tony Stewart in his final race?
“Tony and I have been friends for a long time – long before I drove for this race team. He is a first-class person, business owner and one of my best friends. I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony as a teammate. I’ve been fortunate in the last three years to be able to do that. He has been such a big influence in the sport of auto racing – not just NASCAR, but auto racing as a whole. He’s raced in grassroots series, World of Outlaws, IndyCar, NASCAR, you name it. He’s been a track owner, series owner, promoter and helped advance the safety of the sport. His voice in the auto racing world carries a lot of weight and his contributions are so vast that it’s really incredible. I’m lucky to call him my boss, teammate and friend. It’s going to be a fun but emotional weekend for a lot of people, myself included. We want to see him run competitively and have fun racing with all of us in this series one last time. It’s going to be a special night.”