Kevin Harvick Freaky Fresh Start at Martinsville

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is heading to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville 500 looking to start a fresh winning streak at a notoriously challenging venue.

 

Harvick has won three of the first five NASCAR Cup Series events of 2018, scoring consecutive wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix. His streak ended Sunday with a 35th-place result at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Now, the 42-year-old driver is looking to regain his form and start a new streak with a trip to victory lane this weekend at Martinsville.

 

The .526-mile paperclip-shaped racetrack is the shortest NASCAR Cup Series circuit while its low banking and tight corners provide some of the closest and toughest competition of the year.

 

Due to its tight quarters, a racecar rarely finishes a race at Martinsville without a tire mark on the door or a few dents in the sheet metal.

 

What makes it maddening for competitors is that they can race to the front of the field and stay there throughout the majority of the event, only to get shuffled back on a late-race restart if they wind up in the outside lane.

 

Harvick and the No. 4 team suffered that very fate at Martinsville in April 2016, when he started 19th, raced to the front and led 72 laps before being stuck in the outside lane on consecutive late-race restarts, ultimately finishing 17th.

 

But the madness of Martinsville can work to a driver’s benefit, as well. Harvick found that out in April 2011, when he started ninth, led just six of 500 laps and beat runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by .727 of a second.

 

The Bakersfield, California, native scored his first top-five at Martinsville since joining SHR in his most recent visit to the venue in October 2017, but it didn’t come easily. The No. 4 Ford was collected in a last-lap accident and crossed the finish line backwards with the tires smoking. The racecar finally made contact with the outside SAFER Barrier and suffered so much damage that the crew could not load it into the team hauler.

 

One of the most important things to watch for this weekend at Martinsville will be stage points and stage wins, which can be scored early in the race. Harvick has scored 53 stage points through the first five races in 2018, which accounts for more than 31 percent of his total of 170 points in the driver standings.

 

Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing claimed the points lead following his win last week at Fontana, while Harvick dropped from first to eighth place in the standings with his 35th-place finish Sunday.

 

While Harvick leads the Cup Series with three wins and 11 playoff points through the first five races, he still would love nothing more than to start another winning streak this weekend in Martinsville.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
 
Where do you want to be at Martinsville to help you avoid trouble on the racetrack?

“I think the best position to be in at any racetrack is in the lead. You want to be in control of the race and try to get yourself in a position to where you can have a good, clean restart and have as much clear track – especially at Martinsville – just for the fact that there is so much pushing and shoving on the restarts to get to the bottom lane that you want to try to be as far forward as possible.”

 

When you think of Martinsville, what comes to mind?

“Some guys just have a knack for Martinsville. There are some weekends when I show up and I feel good about where I’m at and some weekends I just feel like I’ve never been there before. You look at this little bitty racetrack and you think it would be so simple, and you go out there and it becomes so hard. We had a decent finish there last time. We finished fifth and ended up on a flatbed – we couldn’t get it on the truck. We were backwards crossing the start-finish line with the tires smoking. There’s nothing better than that, though. At least you finish the race.”

Chassis No. 4-843:
Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-843 in the Martinsville 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-843 won two races, two pole positions and led 748 laps in its first season. Harvick won the pole and led 238 laps en route to winning the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. At Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Harvick won the pole, led 223 laps and finished 13th. The final race of 2014 for Chassis No. 4-843 was perhaps the most impressive as it started third and led 264 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix in November. In its three starts of 2015, Harvick started and finished second and led 116 of 325 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and started eighth, led 26 laps and finished ninth in the Coca-Cola 600. At Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Harvick started second, led three laps and finished 42nd after an engine failure. Its most recent appearance came at Richmond in September 2015, where Harvick finished 14th. Since 2015, chassis 4-843 has served as a backup 18 times, but has not seen race action.​

 

Martinsville Speedway Notes of Interest:
Freaky Fast on Sunday with Three Wins: Kevin Harvick scored consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix the second, third and fourth weekends of the season.

 

Freaky Fast Qualifier: Harvick has reached the final round of qualifying at every race in 2018. He qualified sixth at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, third at Atlanta, second at Las Vegas and 10th at both Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick also set the Fontana track record with a lap of 38.147 seconds at 188.744 mph in the first round of qualifying.

 

Earning It Since 2014: Harvick is in his 18th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fifth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. Since joining forces, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 17 victories, 15 poles, 71 top-five finishes and 101 top-10s; led 7,098 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch, eighth in 2016 and third in 2017. The team qualified for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway three of the last four seasons.

 

Points Position: Harvick arrives at Martinsville ranked eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 170 points after his 35th-place finish last week at Fontana.

 

Playoff Qualifier: Harvick qualified for the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. He will enter the playoffs with a minimum of 11 playoff points. He gained five playoff points each for race wins at Atlanta and Phoenix and an additional point for his stage win at Atlanta.

 

101 and Counting: Harvick scored his 100th career win in NASCAR’s top three series when he won the Cup Series race at Las Vegas and his 101st at Phoenix the following week. He has 40 Cup Series wins, 47 in the Xfinity Series and 14 in the Camping World Truck Series. Harvick and Childers also have 101 top-10s since they joined forces in 2014. Only four drivers in NASCAR history have passed 100 wins in NASCAR’s top three series: Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Busch and Harvick.

 

Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville: The Martinsville 500 will mark Harvick’s 34th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville. Harvick has one win, four top-five finishes and 15 top-10s at the half-mile oval. The 42-year-old driver has led 628 laps, has an average starting position of 14.5, an average finish of 15.8, and has completed 97.9 percent (16,196 of 16,539) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

Harvick in the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville: Harvick has made 17 Truck Series starts at Martinsville. He has two poles, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has led 595 laps, has an average starting position of 8.1, an average finish of 11.6, and has completed 97.1 percent (3,846 of 3,960) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

All-Time Wins List: Harvick’s win at Phoenix moved him into a tie with Mark Martin for 18th on the all-time list with 40 career Cup Series wins. Among active drivers, Harvick ranks third behind leader Jimmie Johnson’s 83 career wins and Busch’s 43.

 

SHR at Martinsville: In 54 overall starts at Martinsville, SHR-prepared cars have earned three wins (Tony Stewart in October 2011, Ryan Newman in April 2012, and Kurt Busch in April 2014), eight top-five finishes and 20 top-10s, one pole (Newman in October 2009), have been atop the leaderboard for 504 laps, and have completed 97.4 percent of the laps contested (26,354 of 27,068).

 

Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 40 wins, 171 top-five finishes, 310 top-10s and 21 poles in 615 career NASCAR Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Martinsville 500.

 

New Addition: Kevin and DeLana Harvick welcomed their second child, Piper Grace Harvick, on Dec. 28, 2017.

 

Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: Harvick is in his second year as the co-host ofHappy Hours on SiriusXM Radio channel 90. The show debuted March 28, 2017 and airs on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. ET, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on the 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.

 

Harvick the Broadcaster: Harvick will once again appear in the television booth for FOX at select Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series races in 2018. He is set to make his broadcast debut in the Xfinity race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on April 20 and will join the all-driver broadcast on April 28 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He is also slated to broadcast NASCAR Truck Series races at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on July 12, Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on July 18 and Talladega on Oct. 13.

 

Homecoming Race: Harvick finished fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West opener at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, California. Harvick, a Bakersfield native, raced the No. 4 Ford for Jefferson Pitts Racing with sponsorship from FIELDS. It was Harvick’s first-ever appearance at the racetrack in his hometown. He grew up racing at the now-closed Mesa Marin Raceway. He won the pole and led 132 laps before late-race contact with race-winner Derek Kraus dropped the No. 4 Ford back to the ninth position. He recovered five positions after the late race restart to cross the finish line in fourth-place.

TSC PR/Photo Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

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