Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Driver Ties Single-Season Career Best with 16th Top-Five
Date: Aug. 16, 2015
Event: Pure Michigan 400 (Round 23 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (2-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 7th/2nd (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (866 points, 48 ahead of second)
Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), overcame adversity to score a runner-up finish in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. It was Harvick’s 11th top-two finish of the season.
The defending Sprint Cup champion started seventh and raced his way to the lead by lap 99 of 200 around the 2-mile oval. He led a total of 15 laps before reporting the No. 4 Chevrolet was out of fuel on the backstretch, but he managed to bring the car to pit road for fuel and remain on the lead lap. The fuel miscue dropped Harvick to the 17th position by lap 117.
A quick caution on lap 122 allowed Harvick to bring the No. 4 Chevrolet back down pit road for a splash of fuel and return to the racetrack in seventh. By lap 142, Harvick had raced his way back up to the third position. He remained in the third spot until crew chief Rodney Childers called the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for the final time on lap 162 as the first car to make its final pit stop of the race. The strategic move allowed Harvick to gain an additional position, and by lap 176 he was back up to second.
When the final caution flag of the race flew on lap 184, Childers instructed Harvick to stay out and maintain his position at the front of the field. On the final restart, fellow Chevrolet driver Martin Truex Jr. lined up behind Harvick in the third spot and briefly pushed him to the lead in turn one before pole-sitter Matt Kenseth regained momentum on the outside and pulled away to the victory.
“We just fought a lot of things today,” Harvick said, who scored his fifth second-place finish in the last six Sprint Cup races at Michigan. “I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet for fighting back today. We had some handling issues at the beginning of the race, and then they were able to really make the car handle a lot better; and then we overcame the running out of gas there, and we were able to put ourselves back in position up in the front. The No. 20 (Kenseth) was the class of the field today, but everybody on our Jimmy John’s team did a great job.”
Harvick’s 15 laps at the front bring his season total to 1,406 laps led. Harvick has only led more laps than that in a single season once – in 2014 when he led 2,137 laps en route to the Sprint Cup championship. He has led a lap in 19 of the 23 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015. Harvick also recorded his 16th top-five finish of 2015 on Sunday at Michigan, which ties his career high for a single season, set in 2010.
Harvick’s second-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday. It was Harvick’s eighth top-five and 13th top-10 in 30 career starts at Michigan.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished 20th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 21st.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, led two laps before finishing 25th.
Kenseth won the Pure Michigan 400 to score his 34th career Sprint Cup victory, his third this season and his third at Michigan.
Harvick finished 1.77 seconds behind Kenseth, while Truex, Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 31 laps.
With round 23 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 866 points, 48 ahead of second-place Logano. Busch is eighth with 683 points, 183 out of first. With two wins apiece, Harvick and Busch are locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Patrick is 21st with 508 points, 85 out of 16th, the cutoff position to make the 16-driver Chase field on points. Stewart is 26th with 441 points, 152 out of 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 22. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC Sports Network.