KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 25, 2014) – If there are racetracks that Kevin Harvick expects to be the class of the field, there’s no doubt one of those is Phoenix International Raceway for the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
It’s entirely fitting that the black-and-white paint scheme of Jimmy John’s adorns Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix. While the “Freaky Fast” livery is in place to promote the company’s dedication to high-speed execution and fast delivery of the freshest ingredients possible, when one considers Harvick’s record at the track, there couldn’t be a more fitting description for the driver of the No. 4 Chevy, nor a more appropriate racetrack to have that messaging displayed on the quarterpanels of his racecar.
After all, Phoenix has been the site of four of Harvick’s 23 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins – a season sweep of the events in 2006, and the November races in 2012 and 2013. In his last seven starts at Phoenix, Harvick has four top-five finishes and has finished outside the top-10 just twice during that span of races.
Harvick’s success at Phoenix hasn’t been limited to the Sprint Cup Series. In fact, in April 2006, on the same weekend that Harvick claimed his first Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, he also won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. And on November 8, 2002, Harvick scored his first-ever Camping World Truck Series victory to become the fifth driver to win at least one race in each of NASCAR’s three national series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck.
The Bakersfield, Calif., native would like nothing more than to score another win in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500k to record his fifth Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, which would break a tie with Jimmie Johnson and make Harvick the winningest driver at the mile oval. It also would lock Harvick into the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. With the new 16-driver Sprint Cup championship format, scoring a win will guarantee a driver and his team a berth into the Chase.
Under the new format, the top-15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the Chase. The 16th position will go to the points leader following the Sept. 6 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway if that driver does not have a victory.
While Harvick and his No. 4 team aim to be leading the points at that time, they’d like to go ahead and score an early win in the regular season, and punch their ticket into the postseason.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Your track record at Phoenix International Raceway really speaks for itself. Talk about racing at Phoenix.
“I’ve always liked racing on the flat tracks like Phoenix. It’s similar to the tracks that most of us grew up racing on. Phoenix is a very challenging racetrack. It has a very unique layout that is different at both ends. I feel like I’ve been racing at Phoenix my entire career, and I feel that what I’ve learned there has helped me be successful on the other flat tracks we race at. The racetrack continues to change as it ages, so you’re always tweaking to keep up with the changes every time we head out there.”
You’ve had a lot of success at Phoenix International Raceway. In your opinion, what’s the challenge related to the ‘new version’ of the track since the repave?
“You really have to have an understanding of the track. Every time we go back, I feel like we learn something different. The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy. Like I said, the track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago. The weather really helps wear the track. It’s incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt. It’s been an interesting track to race on under both configurations, but I think it’s even more exciting now, and most of that comes from having the design right.”
Now that the first race with SHR is behind you, talk a little bit about how Budweiser Speedweeks went. How was the communication between yourself and your new crew chief Rodney Childers?
“I felt good about the communication and performance of the No. 4 team during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona. We were in position to win both the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500, and that is all you can ask for at the end of the day. We’re starting the rest of the season this weekend at Phoenix, in a way. Rodney has always built fast short-track racecars and I’m really looking forward to building off what we’ve accomplished thus far.”