Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Driver Surpasses 8,000 Career Laps Led Milestone
Date: Sept. 6, 2015
Event: Southern 500 (Round 25 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile egg-shaped oval)
Start/Finish: 3rd/5th (Running, completed 367 of 367 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (948 points, 42 ahead of second)
Winner: Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), kept himself in contention for his second-consecutive Southern 500 victory Sunday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, but he was shuffled back from second on the evening’s final round of pit stops and had to settle for fifth place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ penultimate regular-season race.
While earning his fifth top-five in 19 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, Harvick led four times for 44 laps to become only the 24th driver to surpass the 8,000 laps led mark in his career. He entered the race 31 laps shy of the 8,000 laps led mark.
It was Harvick’s 18th top-five finish of the season, extending his new single-season career high, eclipsing his 16 top-fives earned in 2010.
Harvick’s 44 laps led upped his season total to 1,450. He has led more laps than that in a single season just once – in 2014 when he led 2,137 laps en route to the Sprint Cup championship. He has led a lap in 20 of the 25 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015.
Last year’s Southern 500 winner started third and maintained his position in the top-three for most of Sunday night’s grueling four-hour, 28-minute race.
He fell back as far as eighth after a lap-211 pit stop behind several competitors who stayed out on track, but within 20 laps he was back in second place. A short time later, Harvick pitted from the lead on lap 246 and restarted 11th behind a larger group of competitors who stayed out, but within 10 laps he again raced his way up to second.
Harvick found himself behind leader Brad Keselowski on a lap-312 restart, with Carl Edwards close behind in third. The three drivers raced nose-to-tail for several laps before Keselowski began to pull away. Edwards got by Harvick to take the second position on lap 333, but Harvick was able to return the favor 13 laps later and then began to reel in leader Keselowski before the caution flag flew for a track-record 18th time on lap 355.
Harvick pitted with the rest of the leaders and, when the dust had settled, he found himself in the fifth position when the race restarted a final time with eight laps remaining. He could not improve his position over those final eight laps and took the checkered flag fifth.
“We had a great Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet all night long,” Harvick said. “I’m definitely happy with that part. All in all, the car performed really well when we needed it to. We were in the race and we just got a little too far behind with eight laps to go and never made that up. We’ve got to brush up on that but, all in all, the car performed well. We just got bit there at the end.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished sixth. It was Busch’s 14th top-10 this season and his sixth top-10 in 19 starts at Darlington.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th for his 11th top-20 of the year.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 42nd after an accident that required extensive repairs halfway through the 367-lap race. It was Patrick’s third career start at Darlington.
Edwards won the Southern 500 to score his 25th career Sprint Cup victory, his second this season and his first at Darlington.
Keselowski finished .902 of a second behind Edwards while Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Busch, his brother Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There was a track-record 18 caution periods for 89 laps with four drivers failing to finish the 367-lap race.
With round 25 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 948 points, 42 ahead of second-place Logano. Kurt Busch is ninth with 752 points, 196 out of first. With two wins apiece, Harvick and Busch are locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Patrick is 23rd with 527 points, 126 out of 16th, the cutoff position to make the 16-driver Chase field on points. Stewart is 24th with 496 points, 157 out of 16th
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 12. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC Sports Network.