Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Driver Scores 21st Top-Five of Season
Date: Nov. 8, 2015
Event: AAA Texas 500 (Round 34 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 2nd/3rd (Running, completed 334 of 334 laps)
Point Standing: 4,079 points, a 10-point cushion over the cutoff position for the Championship Round
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished third after an up-and-down afternoon on Sunday in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The third-place finish was his 21st top-five this season and his sixth top-five in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.
Harvick also scored his 26th top-10 of the season, tying his single-season career-best set in 2010.
The No. 4 team started second, raced to the lead on lap 18 and remained there until Harvick came to pit road under the competition caution on lap 26.
The Bakersfield, California, native restarted third on lap 29 and worked his way up to second before running over a piece of debris that cut the left-rear tire on lap 36. NASCAR officials called a caution for debris immediately following the cut tire, and Harvick brought the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for four tires before returning to the racetrack in the 41st position for the lap-42 restart.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion quickly regained his form and raced his way back into the top-five by lap 101. By lap 221, Harvick had reclaimed the second position and was closing in on race leader Brad Keselowski. Then, on lap 240, Harvick reported that his shifter had popped out of gear. He was forced to hold the shifter with his right hand as he steered with his left hand. Despite the issue, Harvick was able to maintain his spot in second, but then he hit a piece of debris and cut the left-rear tire on lap 280. This time the race remained under green-flag conditions as he brought the No. 4 Chevrolet down pit road for a four-tire pit stop on lap 282.
The unscheduled stop forced the No. 4 Chevrolet to go a lap down to the leaders and fall to the 21st position. Fortunately, the race remained under green-flag conditions while the leaders came to pit road for regularly scheduled service on lap 297. Remaining on the track, the No. 4 was back on the lead lap and then in the lead by lap 298 for two laps.
As the leaders returned to the racetrack with fresh tires, Harvick fell back to the fifth position by lap 309 and stayed there until the final caution of the day on lap 311. The timing of the caution allowed Harvick to bring the Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet back down pit road for a four-tire stop and return to the track in the sixth position on the same strategy as the leaders. Harvick raced his way from sixth to third by the time the checkered flag waved on lap 334.
“We’ve had really good race cars, and that allows us to overcome things like today with two flat tires,” said Harvick, who had finished second in his last two Sprint Cup starts at Texas. “Even with the shifter problem we were able to maintain what we had. But all in all, we just kept gouging away and everything worked out in the end.”
Harvick led twice for 11 laps to bring his season total to 2,105 with two races still remaining in the 2015 season. He is on track to set a new career high, eclipsing his previous laps-led mark of 2,137 set last year en route to the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick’s third-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished seventh. It was his 19th top-10 this season and his 14th top-10 in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 16th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 42nd when an accident ended his race after only 52 laps.
Jimmie Johnson won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 75th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his sixth at Texas.
After leading 312 laps, Brad Keselowski finished 1.082 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot. Harvick, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 47 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval.
As the eighth race in the 10-race Chase, Texas served as the second race in the Eliminator Round. The original, 16-driver Chase field was whittled down to 12 following the Oct. 4 race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway for the Contender Round. The next cutoff race came Oct. 25 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, whereupon the Chase field shrank to eight for the Eliminator Round. The next cutoff race comes Nov. 15 at Phoenix International Raceway, where only four drivers will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch and Harvick continue to represent SHR in the Chase. Harvick leaves Texas third in points with a 10-point cushion over the cutoff spot. Busch leaves Texas in seventh, 28 points outside of the top-four.
With only one race remaining before the Chase field shrinks down to four drivers for the final, winner-take-all Championship Round Nov. 22 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-eight drivers still competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Jeff Gordon (4,082 points … will advance to the Championship Round via his Eliminator Round win at Martinsville)
2. Kyle Busch (4,080 points … has an 11-point cushion over the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
3. Kevin Harvick (4,079 points … has a 10-point cushion over the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
4. Martin Truex Jr. (4,076 points … has a 7-point cushion over the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
5. Carl Edwards (4,069 points … is 7 points outside the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
6. Brad Keselowski (4,057 points … is 19 points outside the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
7. Kurt Busch (4,048 points … is 28 points outside the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
8. Joey Logano (4,013 points … is 63 points outside the cutoff position for the Championship Round)
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Nov. 15 Phoenix 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. The penultimate race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC.