Kevin Harvick is heading to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City for the Hollywood Casino 400, the third and final race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, with a 22-point cushion over the ninth-place driver.
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) scored two stage wins and a third-place finish to open the Round of 12 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and a 20th-place finish last weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to open up his points advantage.
Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing won two weeks ago at Charlotte and Brad Keselowski of Team Penske followed suit last weekend at Talladega to secure their spots in the Round of 8. Now, 10 drivers are in contention for the final six positions with the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway as the stage for the final showdown. Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing holds a 29-point advantage over ninth place as the only non-secured driver ahead of Harvick. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Rickey Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray all sit below the cutoff line heading into the weekend.
Harvick has reason for optimism heading into Kansas.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion won at Kansas Speedway in October 2016, when he started 11th, led 74 laps and beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 1.183 seconds and it came in a must-win situation during that year’s NASCAR playoffs. After Harvick suffered a mechanical failure the week before in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte that resulted in a 38th-place finish, he was 12th in the standings. He trailed Denny Hamlin by eight points for the final transfer position into the Round of 8 with Talladega looming the following week.
It was the second Cup Series win for Harvick. He also won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas in October 2013, when he started from the pole position, led 138 of 267 laps and beat current SHR teammate Kurt Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds to score his first Cup Series victory at the 1.5-mile oval.
The Bakersfield, California native also owns the Cup Series qualifying record at Kansas, which he set May 9, 2014 with a lap of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 in the second round of qualifying. It was Harvick’s second of three consecutive Cup Series poles at Kansas from October 2013 through October 2014.
He also has three runner-up finishes in six Cup Series starts at Kansas since joining SHR in February 2014.
Harvick knows that the best way to finish up front is to start up front, which he has done four times so far in 2017. He has scored four Cup Series pole awards – three coming on 1.5-mile racetracks. He scored his first of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph. His second of the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when he made a lap at 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. His third came at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. The most recent came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he posted a lap of 27.669 seconds at 177.730 mph.
Harvick also has four poles at Kansas, which are tied with Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne for most all-time at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick and Johnson are the only two drivers to win consecutive poles at Kansas Speedway. Johnson completed the task in 2007 and 2008, while Harvick scored three in a row starting in the fall of 2013 followed by a sweep of 2014.
While Harvick has raced up front and scored five stage wins this year, he is still in search of his first Cup Series race win at a 1.5-mile track this season. However, he has scored the second-most points of any driver over the last 10 races on a 1.5-mile track by knocking down five top-five finishes, nine top-10s and four poles.
This weekend, Harvick and the No. 4 Jimmy John’s team hope to repeat their performance from last October and return to victory lane in pursuit of a second NASCAR Cup Series championship.
You’ve performed much stronger at Kansas the last couple of years. Is that because of the repave, or did you find something you were missing previously?
“The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas. Really, I liked the racetrack the way it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over. But, once the repave happened, we were able to really hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style and we have gotten some good results out of it. It has been a really good-performing racetrack for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of it because it’s been so good for us in the past.”
Take us on a lap around Kansas.
“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”
Kansas Speedway Notes of Interest:
Earning It Since 2014: Harvick is in his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. Since joining forces in 2014, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 13 victories, 14 poles, 64 top-five finishes and 93 top-10s; led 6,590 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016.
· Points Position: Harvick arrives at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 ranked fourth in the driver standings with 3,089 points after his 20th-place finish Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He maintains a 22-point advantage ahead of ninth in the standings heading into the final of three Round of 12 races this weekend.
· Playoff Qualifier: Harvick clinched his position in the 2017 playoffs as he scored his first Cup Series win of the season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June. He started 12th, led 24 laps and had more than a five-second cushion when the final yellow flag waved to end the race under caution.Harvick and the No. 4 team scored one race win and three stage wins to account for eight playoff points. They finished fourth in regular-season points to pick up an additional seven points to earn the sixth seed for the 2017 playoffs. The No. 4 team scored two additional stage wins at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October for two playoff points.
· 11,000 Laps Led: Harvick led 149 laps at Charlotte and has now led 11,016 laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, becoming just the 17th driver in Cup Series history to surpass 11,000 laps led for his career. Johnson, Busch and Matt Kenseth are the only active drivers to accomplish the feat.
· Harvick at Kansas since Joining SHR:Harvick has seven Cup Series starts at Kansas since joining SHR at the beginning of the 2014 season and has one win, won the pole for two of the six races, finished runner-up three times and third in his most recent start. He won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas in October 2016, when he started 11th, led 74 laps and beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 1.183 seconds. In May 2014, he won the pole with a speed of 194.252 mph, led 119 laps and finished second to Jeff Gordon by .112 of a second. He won the pole with a speed of 197.621 mph, led 61 laps and finished 12th in October 2014. He started sixth, led 53 laps and finished second to Johnson by .487 of a second in May 2015. In October 2015, Harvick started fourth, led 21 laps and finished 16th. In May 2016, he started 26th and raced his way to a runner-up finish, trailing race-winner Busch by 1.112 seconds at the finish line.
· Harvick in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas: The Hollywood Casino 400 will mark Harvick’s 24th career Cup Series start at Kansas. He has two wins (October 2013 and 2016), three poles (October 2013, May and October 2014), seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval. The 41-year-old driver has led 559 laps, has an average starting position of 15.4, has an average finish of 10.0 and has completed 98.2 percent (5,980 of 6,091) of the laps he’s contested there.
· Track Record: Harvick set the track qualifying record at Kansas Speedway on October 3, 2014 with a lap of 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph in Cup Series qualifying. Harvick’s four poles at Kansas are tied with Johnson, Kenseth and Kasey Kahne for most all-time at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick and Johnson are the only two drivers to win consecutive poles at Kansas Speedway (Johnson in 2007 and 2008, Harvick in the fall of 2013 followed by a sweep of 2014).
· Never Missed a Cup Series Start at Kansas: Harvick is one of four drivers to participate in every Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. The other four drivers to have started all 23 Cup Series events are SHR teammate Kurt Busch, Kenseth and Ryan Newman.
· Three-Time Runner-Up: In addition to Harvick’s two wins at Kansas, he also leads the series in runner-up finishes there with three. Edwards, Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Newman each have two.
· Harvick in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Kansas: Harvick has made 11 starts in the Xfinity Series at Kansas. He has one win (October 2006), one pole (October 2008), six top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He has led 208 laps, has an average starting position of 9.5, an average finish of 9.3 and has completed 94.4 percent (2,080 of 2,204) of the laps he’s contested there.
· On The Pole: Harvick has scored four Cup Series pole awards in 2017 – three coming on 1.5-mile racetracks. He scored his first of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph. His second of the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when he made a lap at 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. His third came at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. The most recent came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he posted a lap of 27.669 seconds at 177.730 mph.
· All-Time Wins List: Harvick scored his 36th career Cup Series win at Sonoma in June, which is ranked 22nd on the all-time wins list. His next Cup Series win will move him into a tie with Bobby Isaac for 21st on the all-time list. Among active drivers, Harvick ranks fourth behind leader Johnson’s 83 career wins, Kyle Busch’s 42 and Kenseth’s 38 wins.
· Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 36 wins, 164 top-fives, 302 top-10s and 21 poles in 605 career Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s race at Kansas.
· Personal Announcement: On Tuesday, July 11, Harvick kicked off his SiriusXM Radio show “Happy Hours” by announcing that he and wife DeLana are expecting to add a daughter to their family around the first of the year.
· Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: On March 14, Harvick announced that he will hostHappy Hours on SiriusXM Radio. The show debuted March 28 and airs on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. ET, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on his sport and life outside the track. Harvick and co-host Matt Yocum take calls from listeners and give NASCAR fans a unique view on the driver’s life and interests when he is away from the racecar.
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