Jimmy John’s Driver Extends His Sprint Cup Series Points Lead to 24
Date: July 24, 2016
Event: 23rd Annual Brickyard 400 (Round 20 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 7th/6th (Running, completed 170 of 170 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (671 points, 24 points ahead of second)
Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), bounced back from an unscheduled pit stop early in Sunday’s 23rd Annual Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to finish sixth, marking his series-best 16th top-10 finish of 2016 and his 10th top-10 finish in 16 career starts at Indianapolis
Harvick started seventh and raced his way to third by lap 16. He continued in the third position until the first green-flag pit stop of the race on lap 26. The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS came to pit road for a four-tire stop and several small adjustments, but as Harvick returned to the racetrack he reported a possible right-front tire issue. The team called the No. 4 Chevrolet back to pit road to remedy the potential issue with a two-tire pit stop on lap 31. The move dropped Harvick from third to 29th, one lap down to the leaders.
The Bakersfield, California, native responded by racing his way back onto the lead lap by lap 41. He returned to the top-10 by lap 78 and the top-five by lap 115. Harvick raced his way to the fourth position by the fifth caution of the day on lap 151.
With only nine laps remaining before the scheduled 160-lap distance, crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick, “We didn’t come here to finish fourth,” and he called the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for a four-tire stop while the top-four cars stayed out on older tires.
Harvick restarted seventh on lap 153, but a flurry of cautions prevented the longer run he needed to overcome the leaders, resulting in a sixth-place finish.
“I am kind of disappointed there at the end. I was in a pretty good spot, and on the restart the pace car was consistently going way too slow,” said Harvick, who won the Brickyard 400 from the pole position in August 2003. “It’s unfortunate they can’t correct small problems like that. I just couldn’t get going and got the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) in front of us and wound up on the outside, and then we were just treading water from there. But all in all everybody did a good job; we are definitely off a little bit.”
The Sprint Cup Series points leader extended his points margin over Brad Keselowski to 24 points, and his sixth-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Indianapolis.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Chevy Summer Sell Down Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 11th. Stewart was headed toward a top-10 finish until a pit-road speeding penalty with 38 laps remaining put him a lap down at the tail end of the field. Stewart restarted in 30th on lap 135 and rallied to regain his lap and pick up 19 positions before the checkered flag waved.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 16th. Last-lap contact with the No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon while vying for 10th place forced Busch out of the groove, allowing others to pass him for position.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 22nd after getting collected in a multicar accident with only seven laps remaining.
Kyle Busch won the Brickyard 400 in dominating fashion by leading three times for a race-high 149 laps. Busch survived four late-race restarts that pushed the event into overtime to collect his 38th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his second straight at Indianapolis. Busch’s margin of victory over second-place Matt Kenseth was 2.126 seconds. Finishing third was Jimmie Johnson, while Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Dillon and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 34 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 170-lap race around the 2.5-mile oval, which went 10 laps past its scheduled 160-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 20 of 36 complete, Harvick continues to lead SHR and the series in the championship standings. He remained first with 671 points, 24 ahead of second-place Brad Keselowski. Kurt Busch is third with 627 points, 44 behind Harvick. Patrick is 24th with 373 points, 136 ahead of 31st-place Chris Buescher. Stewart is 27th with 317 points, 80 ahead of 31st.
Harvick, Busch and Stewart are all eligible to compete in the 16-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins after the Sept. 10 race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. All have won a race this season and are among the top-30 in points, the two requirements necessary to secure a spot in the Chase. Patrick can also earn a Chase berth by winning a race and staying inside the top-30. Six races remain before the Chase begins Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Pennsylvania 400 on Sunday, July 31 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.
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