Jimmy John’s Driver Unable To Avoid Midrace Accident, Finishes 38th
Date: April 19, 2015
Event: Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 4th/38th (Running, completed 468 of 511 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (314 points, 30 ahead of second place)
Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) in a green-white-checkered finish
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 38th in the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Harvick once again looked to be the driver to beat, leading a race-high 184 laps. A midrace accident, however, spoiled his chances for victory and ended his streak of 11 top-10 finishes dating back to last November at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Harvick started the race in fourth place and wasted no time making his bid for the lead, taking over the top spot on lap six. He led a total of 16 laps before the racing action came to a halt for rain. After a red-flag period that lasted nearly four hours, racing resumed with Harvick picking up right where he left off, surrendering the lead only a couple of times during the next several circuits around the .533-mile oval.
The only issue to bother the reigning Sprint Cup champ during the first half of the race was a tight condition that seemed to be most irritating while he would navigate through the center of the turns. In an effort to help with grip getting into the corners, crew chief Rodney Childers called for a handful of changes over the course of two pit stops, including wedge and air pressure adjustments.
The race was halted for the second time on lap 266 for a pop-up shower that quickly dissipated. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 277. Less than two laps later, disaster struck for Harvick. Drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeb Burton got together not long after the restart, causing a bit of a chain reaction that sent David Ragan’s racecar spinning through turn one. In an effort to avoid Ragan’s spinning car Harvick was hard on the brakes, making his car wheel-hop through the corner and spin into Ragan. Damage to the body and undercarriage of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet required a trip behind the pit wall for the team to make repairs.
“I’m sorry guys,” Harvick said on the radio. “I just couldn’t stop.”
Harvick returned to the race on lap 353, 43 laps down to the leaders and running in 39th place. But the team’s work to get the car race-ready proved to be successful as at times Harvick’s lap times were as quick, and quicker, than the leaders.
Despite the tough night, Harvick was credited with leading six times for a total of 184 laps to bring his laps-led total at Bristol to 721. Harvick has now led 950 total laps through the first eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races of 2015. He has only led more laps than that in a single season once – his championship season one year ago with 2,137 laps led.
While Harvick had his toughest race of the season, Tony Stewart enjoyed his best outing of the year. The driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday night with a sixth-place finish. It was his first top-10 of 2015 and his 10th top-10 finish in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th after leading six times for 98 laps, bringing his laps-led total at Bristol to 1,021.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished ninth. It was her first top-10 finish in six career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol and her second top-10 of 2015. She has now surpassed Janet Guthrie for the most top-10 Sprint Cup finishes by a female driver.
Matt Kenseth won the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer to score his 72nd career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his fifth at Texas.
Johnson finished .287 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Patrick and Austin Dillon comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 117 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race, which was extended 11 laps from its scheduled 500-lap distance by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round eight of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 314 points, 30 ahead of second-place Joey Logano. Patrick is 13th with 211 points, 103 out of first. Busch is 22nd with 174 points, 140 out of first. Stewart is 28th with 145 points, 169 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Richmond 400 on Saturday, April 25 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 7 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 6 p.m.