Kevin Harvick Kickin’ It into High Gear at Bristol’s High Banks

For the first time since the July race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Kevin Harvick will get behind the wheel of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for “America’s Night Race” this weekend.

 

Harvick heads to Bristol with his head held high as he leads the series with seven points-paying wins and 40 playoff points. The Bakersfield, California native remains second in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings with 924 points, trailing leader Kyle Busch by 62 points with three races remaining in the 26-race regular season.

 

At the conclusion of regular-season-ending Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the points leader collects 15 playoff points while the driver who finishes second collects 10. That five-point differential between first and second in the regular-season championship could play a vital role in whether a driver makes the winner-take-all Championship 4 playoff finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

In addition, with his 44th career Cup Series win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Harvick became the first driver since Busch in 2008 to win seven of the first 23 races in a season. It also moved him into a tie with Bill Elliott for 17th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series win list.

 

With the end of the regular season in sight, each race is an opportunity to kick it up a notch. Harvick and the No. 4 Jimmy John’s team have been the freaks of the Cup Series field in 2018. They are putting up freaky numbers with a series-best 1,190 laps led, 17 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s.

 

Harvick has some impressive statistics on Bristol’s high banks, having led 876 laps at the short track while earning two wins, 12 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 35 starts. In his nine starts at Bristol for SHR, he has accumulated six top-10 finishes, including one victory.

 

While the No. 4 team’s stats are impressive, it’s only looking for one thing this weekend – to get its Freaky Fast Ford back to victory lane at Bristol.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s  Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
How is the intensity at Bristol different in the fall with only a three races remaining in the regular season?

 

“There are a lot of different agendas as we go back to Bristol this weekend because there are only three races left before we get to the playoffs. Obviously Bristol, being a short track, has that atmosphere where you can be aggressive and make more happen than you can at Indy or Darlington. But, Darlington is one of those places where you aren’t likely to see someone win who is too far outside of the box because of how the tires wear and you have extreme falloff. The good-handling cars are going to migrate toward the front and be up front, competing for the win. At Bristol, you tend to see Ricky Stenhouse Jr. running in the top-five and you saw Bubba Wallace leading laps there in the spring race. You’ll have a guy like (Ryan) Blaney, who thought he had the best car and had a chance to win that race and wound up not winning. In the end, you’re going to have to beat Kyle Busch. He’s had the car to beat there for the last several years. If the high line gets going, a guy like Kyle Larson is going to be tough to beat and is looking for his first trip to victory lane. There are a lot of variables in terms of how the bottom groove holds and if the groove widens out. If you see Ricky Stenhouse up there with a few laps to go, he is probably going to take some risks because that is his way into the playoffs. This is the place where all those agendas collide and people take chances they wouldn’t normally take.”

 

What makes Bristol a place that people love for the drama and the racing under the lights?

 

“Before they reconfigured the racetrack, the only way to pass was to hit the guy in front of you. You knew that if he wasn’t giving you some room, or wasn’t coming down on the straightaway, that that person was there to defend his position and was basically giving you the middle finger, saying, ‘Alright, if you’ve got the balls to knock me out of the way, go ahead and knock me out of the way.’ Sure enough, every time it happened, the person who got knocked out of the way was mad and it built rivalries. That is what it was and the fans loved it. Now that they’ve brought the bottom groove back at Bristol – and it moves around throughout the night, but for the first half of that race you are on the bottom of the racetrack and it’s kind of like Bristol used to be – when you’re losing so much time to the guys who are just out of sight, you have to move someone out of the way. That’s what that bottom lane at Bristol promotes.”

Chassis No. 4-899:
Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-899 Saturday night in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-899 made its debut that September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, where it started sixth, led 79 laps and finished fifth. Since its debut, Chassis No. 4-899 has started on the front row three times, including twice from the pole position, and recorded six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and led 697 laps through 13 NASCAR Cup Series starts. It was slated to be the backup at Bristol in April but was forced into action due to an accident in practice. The team was unable to prepare the car in time for qualifying, which forced it to start at the rear of the field. The team rallied to a seventh-place finish. In its most recent appearance, Harvick started fourth, led 36 laps and scored the $1 million payday in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Bristol Notes of Interest:
Dynamic Duo – While this isHarvick’s 18th year in the NASCAR Cup Series, it’s only his fifth with crew chief Rodney Childers. Since joining forces at SHR in 2014, Harvick and Childers have combined to produce 21 points-paying victories, the non-points-paying 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, 17 poles, 85 top-five finishes and 117 top-10s while leading 7,855 laps. They won the 2014 championship, finished runner-up in the 2015 title chase to champion Kyle Busch, finished eighth in 2016 and third in 2017. The team has qualified for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway three of the last four seasons.

 

Harvick has career totals of 44 wins, 23 poles, 185 top-fives, 326 top-10s and 12,281 laps led in633 starts. His most recent Cup Series win came at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (Aug. 12, 2018). His last Busch Pole came at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (May 11, 2018).

 

On Point – Harvick arrives at Bristol second in in the championship with 924 points after his win Sunday at Michigan. Harvick trails series leader Busch by 62 points.

 

Bristol Numerology – Harvick has two wins, one pole, 12 top-five finishes, 18 top-10s and has led a total of 876 laps in his 35 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol. His average start is 17.4, his average finish is 13.3 and he has a lap-completion rate of 97.9 percent, completing 17,157 of the 17,527 laps available.

 

Harvick at Bristol since 2014 – The combination of Harvick competing at Bristol in SHR equipment is impressive. In his last nine NASCAR Cup Series starts at Michigan – all of which have come with SHR – Harvick ranks fourth in total points with 280. He also has a runner-up finish, three top-fives, six top-10s and only two finishes worse than 11th (39th in March 2014 and 38th in April 2015). And of the 876 total laps Harvick has led at Bristol dating back to his rookie year in 2001, a total of 442 (more than 50 percent) have come with SHR despite only nine (25.7 percent) of his 35 Bristol starts being with SHR.

 

Uncharted Territory With Seven Points-Paying Wins for No. 4 – Harvick’s seven points-paying wins in 2018 is a new single-season best for the 18-year Cup Series veteran. His previous high-water mark was five races, accomplished first in 2006 and again in 2014. This is the sixth time Harvick has scored at least four wins in a season. Harvick also scored a non-points-paying win in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race May 19 at Charlotte for the second time in his career. Harvick’s series-best seven wins in 2018 is one more than points-leader Busch, who scored his sixth win of the season at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in July.

 

Freaky Fast Qualifier – Harvick has started on the front row six times this season. The most recent came June 3 at Pocono, where he started second to polesitter Ryan Blaney. He hasqualified in the top-10 in 16 of the 22 NASCAR Cup Series race this season. Harvick scored his first Busch Pole of the year at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where he recorded a lap of 49.247 seconds at 194.448 mph. He scored his second pole of the season at Kansas, where he recorded a lap of 28.600 seconds at 188.811 mph.

 

Three-Peat Notes – Harvick’s consecutive wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix marked only the 24th time in NASCAR’s modern era (1972 to present) that a driver won three consecutive races. Nine of the 23 previous times a driver won three consecutive races in a season, that driver has gone on to win the championship. Prior to Harvick’s three-peat, Busch was the most recent driver to win three in a row – in 2015, when he went on to score his first and, so far, only championship. Ironically, Busch has also won three straight races this season – April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, April 16 at Bristol, and April 21 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

 

Lap Leader –Harvick led his 12,000th lap in NASCAR Cup Series competition June 3 at Pocono. He is one of only 15 drivers to lead 12,000 laps in his Cup Series career. He joins Jimmie Johnson, Busch and Matt Kenseth as the only active drivers to accomplish that feat. Harvick’s laps-led total since 2014 is 7,855, which is 3,429 laps more than the total from his 13 previous seasons before joining SHR (2001 to 2013). Harvick has already led a series-best 1,190 laps in 2018 and has now surpassed 1,000 laps led in a season for the fourth time in his career. He’s done it three previous times, all with SHR.

 

Already Playoff Bound – Harvick qualified for the 2018 NASCAR playoffs with his wins at Atlanta, Phoenix, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Kansas, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and Michigan. He leads the Cup series in playoff points with 40. He gained five playoff points for each race win at Atlanta, Phoenix, Dover, Kansas, New Hampshire and Michigan, and an additional point for each of his stage wins at Atlanta, Texas, two at Dover in May, Pocono in June, Michigan in June, Chicagoland, Pocono in August and two at Michigan in August (total of 10). The No. 4 team’s race win at Las Vegas does not count toward its playoff qualification due to a post-race penalty.

 

Make Your Mark – With his win Aug. 12 at Michigan, Harvick is now tied with Bill Elliott at 17th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series win list. Harvick’s next win would move him into sole possession of 17th on the All-Time list and he now sits just two wins behind Buck Baker’s 46 for 16th on the all-time wins list. Among active drivers, Harvick’s 44 career wins rank third behind only series leader Johnson’s 83 and Busch’s 49 wins.

 

105 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 now has 105 total victories after his most recent Cup Series win at Michigan – 44 in the Cup Series, 47 in the Xfinity Series and 14 in the Camping World Truck Series. Only three other drivers in NASCAR history have passed 100 wins in NASCAR’s top-three series: Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Busch.

TSC PR/Photo Credit Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Sharing is caring!