Jimmy John’s Driver Leads Three Times for Race-High 79 Laps
Date: Sept. 14, 2014
Event: MyAFibStory.com 400 (Round 27 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 12th/5th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)
Point Standing: 4th (2,047 points, 12 out of first)
Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)
Kevin Harvick looked to be in championship form for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener on Sunday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started the MyAFibStory.com 400 in 12th and was on his way to the front of the field in the early going. He climbed as high as fourth by the first caution on lap 68 but had to overcome a loose wheel on the early pit stop before racing his way back to the lead. Harvick was forced to make a second pit stop under caution to fix the issue and restarted 22nd on lap 72.
Harvick and the No. 4 Jimmy John’s team remained calm and methodically went to work to regain the lost positions. The Bakersfield, California, native raced the No. 4 Chevrolet back up to 13th by the next caution on lap 100. He came to pit road under caution for a four-tire stop, and the quick work of the pit crew helped Harvick gain two positions to restart 11th on lap 104.
Following that restart the No. 4 Chevrolet came to life and began turning the fastest lap times on the track. By lap 151 Harvick and the Jimmy John’s team captured the lead, where they would stay for the next 77 laps. The No. 4 gave up the lead to the No. 42 driven by Kyle Larson shortly before pitting under green-flag conditions on lap 230.
Just two laps after the green-flag pit stop the caution flag flew, but Harvick and the leaders stayed out to maintain their track position. Harvick restarted second and battled Larson for the lead following the restart. Harvick briefly regained the lead on lap 249 and again on lap 251 before the final caution came on lap 259.
The final restart on lap 261 led to an exciting six-lap sprint to the finish that saw Harvick take the checkered flag in the fifth position.
“Well, the No. 42 (Larson) was better than us,” said Harvick, who has two career Sprint Cup wins at Chicagoland. “He passed us the run before and was able to get track position and restart on the bottom. On the restarts, for whatever reason, I was tight those last several restarts up on exit, so I had to kind of go into defensive mode. Obviously Kyle wants to win a race and that’s how you’re supposed to race, and everybody was going after it pretty hard. It was a fun day. I’m proud of all my guys on my Jimmy John’s Chevrolet for the job that they did, and it’s a solid start to the Chase.”
Harvick led three times for a race-high 79 laps en route to his ninth top-five of 2014 and his eighth top-five in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for SHR, finished eighth to score his eighth top-10 of 2014 and his eighth top-10 in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 18th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 19th. It was Patrick’s 73rd career Sprint Cup start and her third at Chicagoland.
Brad Keselowski won the MyAFibStory.com 400 to score his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading fifth of the season and his second at Chicagoland.
Jeff Gordon finished 1.759 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 28 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
Harvick and Busch are representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and they entered the first race of the 10-race Chase seeded sixth and 10th, respectively, among the 16 Chase drivers. Harvick leaves Chicagoland in fourth, 12 points behind Chase leader Keselowski. Busch leaves Chicagoland in ninth, 20 points out of first.
With nine races remaining before a champion is crowned after the season finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-16 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Brad Keselowski (2,059 points) +/-0 positions
2. Jeff Gordon (2,052 points, -7) +/-0
3. Joey Logano (2,049 points, -10) +2
4. Kevin Harvick (2,047 points, -12) +2
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,042 points, -17) -2
6. Denny Hamlin (2,041 points, -18) +1
7. Kyle Busch (2,041 points, -18) +1
8. Jimmie Johnson (2,041 points, -18) -2
9. Kurt Busch (2,039 points, -20) +1
10. Matt Kenseth (2,034 points, -25) +3
11. Kasey Kahne (2,034 points, -25) +1
12. Carl Edwards (2,030 points, -29) -5
13. Ryan Newman (2,029 points, -30) +3
14. AJ Allmendinger (2,025 points, -34) -1
15. Greg Biffle (2,021 points, -38) +/-0
16. Aric Almirola (2,007 points, -52) -4
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the second race of the 10-race Chase – is the Sylvania 300 on Sept. 21 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a prerace show at 1 p.m.