Going for the West-Coast Sweep
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (March 18, 2015) – Dominant.
That’s the best way to describe Kevin Harvick and his recent performances behind the wheel of his No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
When NASCAR announced its three-race West-Coast swing, there probably were not a lot of people who believed one driver would be able to win all three races and complete a West-Coast sweep. After all, the three races have taken place on three quite different racetracks – the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway and the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
But, get the broom ready because a West-Coast sweep is just what Harvick and his team have in mind after scoring dominating victories in the first two races of the three-race swing.
Harvick, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader, scored his second consecutive win last Sunday in the CampingWorld.com 500k at Phoenix.
Scoring back-to-back wins is quite an accomplishment. But perhaps even more impressive is that the Bakersfield, California native has finished second or better in all four of the Sprint Cup points-paying events in 2015 and has led a series-high 482 laps with an average finish of 1.5.
Dating back to last season, Harvick has finished second or better in the last seven points-paying events – four wins and three second-place finishes – while leading a series-high 802 laps. Harvick finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth before going on to win the final two Sprint Cup races of 2014 at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick and the No. 4 team started 2015 with a second-place finish in the 57th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and a runner-up finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway before winning the back-to-back events at Las Vegas and Phoenix. The last time a Sprint Cup driver finished first or second for seven consecutive events was 40 years ago, when Richard Petty accomplished the feat in 1975.
Four races into 2015, Harvick sits atop the driver standings with 182 points, and he leads several other statistical categories – 134.8 driver rating, 1.5 average finish, 256 fastest laps run, 482 laps led, 43.5 percentage of laps led, 615.64 miles led, 83.1 percentage of quality passes, 1,083 laps in the top-15, 97.8 percentage of laps in the top-15 and average running position at 5.384.
While the 2015 numbers are staggering, that is only part of the story for Harvick as the Sprint Cup Series heads to his home racetrack.
Harvick grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway in Bakersfield. He graduated from Bakersfield’s North High School in 1994 and, when he wasn’t competing on the high school’s wrestling team, he was racing.
Harvick also competed at local racetracks in the Late Model division while attending high school, and won the Late Model track championship in 1993 at his home track, Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield. After high school graduation, Harvick decided to follow his dreams and pursue a professional racing career.
Harvick advanced to the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour full-time in 1995 and made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start late that year. He kept a busy racing schedule, competing full-time in both the Truck Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1998. Harvick’s commitment to his racing career paid off as he won five races en route to the K&N Pro Series West championship.
His hard-charging style and success behind the wheel caught the eye of team owner Richard Childress, who put him behind the wheel of the No. 2 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the 2000 season. Harvick graduated to full-time competition in the Sprint Cup Series in 2001.
After 13 seasons at Richard Childress Racing, Harvick moved to SHR in 2014 and was paired with crew chief Rodney Childers. With a new team built from scratch by Childers, Harvick won five races, tying his season-best effort, and a career-high eight poles en route to the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship.
After Harvick won the championship last season, he planned an additional stop as part of his champion’s tour – a visit to his hometown. Harvick wanted to bring the Sprint Cup trophy to his high school, where he spoke with more than 2,000 kids in the school’s gymnasium and encouraged them to follow their dreams.
Visiting with students from his high school isn’t the only way Harvick pays tribute to his roots. In fact, he regularly gives back to his hometown through donations from the Kevin Harvick Foundation. Donations have included funds to provide wrestling, baseball and golf equipment to the school in order to ensure that anyone who wants to participate can do so without worrying about paying for proper equipment.
This weekend, Harvick hopes he can give his hometown fans something to cheer about. On Saturday, he will pilot the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series race. Then, on Sunday, Harvick’s goal is to take out the broom and sweep the rest of the competition by winning the Auto Club 400.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
If you win, especially back-to-back, how quickly do you forget about it and get focused on what’s next?
“I think for confidence, winning is something that ultimately makes the confidence level in myself and Rodney and everybody on this team know that you can make things happen in many different types of situations. I think as we go to California, it’s nothing like what we’ve done at Phoenix, nothing really like what we did at Las Vegas. You just have to forget about what you did. These guys are really good at just, you know, being happy about what we did last week, not talking about anything other than what we’re going to do at California, how we prepare for that, not taking your eye off the prize, staying focused on what we need to do for California, the past history, the things that have happened there over time. The California notebook opened this week, and all of a sudden that is all we talk about.”
When you left for the West-Coast swing did you guys as a team think you could sweep the West Coast?
“We never talk about stuff like that. We just talk about what we think the air pressure and speeds. We don’t talk about things we’ve done. We always talk about the things we do wrong and we talk about the things we need to do differently. It’s never really anything about last week. It’s always about next week and the things we have to do to try to be prepared when we come to the racetrack.”
What has been the secret to success over the last seven races?
“I think that just comes down to the guys on my race team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for just bringing really good cars to the racetrack. Particularly the No. 4 team and being able to capitalize and manage the weekends, races, and keeping the cars together, as well as doing all the things it takes to just make laps and keep yourself in contention. Just really proud of everybody on my team for everything they have done. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We will try to ride the wave as long as we can.”
RODNEY CHILDERS, Crew chief of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you feel pressure to win this weekend at Fontana?
“I think at this point everybody just expects you to keep winning. That’s what makes it hard on all of us. Yeah, I feel like we’ve got a team that can do that. We have a driver who can do that. We have the resources to do that. The more you win, the more you expect out of yourself and the more pressure you put on yourself. When we left Vegas, he made a point to say, ‘I want to win all three of these West-Coast races.’ I think anybody who knows Kevin Harvick, if he puts his head to something, he’s going to try to make it happen. These races mean a lot to him. He grew up in California and has a lot of family around there. That’s our goal, for sure.”
Chassis Information: Chassis No. 4-846: Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS built on Chassis No. 4-846 in the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-846 made its debut at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in March, when it started 27th and led 28 laps before being collected in a late-race accident and finishing 39th. It made its second appearance at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in June, when it started eighth, led 24 laps and finished 17th. At Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in August, No. 4-846 started sixth, led five laps and finished second. In its most recent appearance, Harvick started fourth, led 17 laps and finished fifth at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September.
Auto Club 400 Notes of Interest: