Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), survived the first round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and advanced to the Round of 12 starting with Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion got off to a fast start in the Round of 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, by finishing second in the opening two stages and third in the race, but did not finish the second race of the Round of 16 due to a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He then finished 17th at Dover (Del.) International Speedway after suffering a loose wheel that trapped the No. 4 Ford a lap down at the checkered flag.
The Bakersfield, California native is hoping he can get off to the same fast start in the Round of 12 with a strong showing at Charlotte.
Harvick has shown speed at Charlotte – especially on Fridays. He has won the pole in the last two points-paying races there.
In October 2016, Harvick won the pole for the Bank of America 500 with a lap of 27.547 seconds at 196.029 mph around the 1.5-mile oval. Unfortunately, Harvick and the No. 4 team fell victim to a mechanical issue in the race and finished 38th.
They rebounded in May 2017 by capturing Harvick’s second consecutive pole award with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. He went on to lead 45 laps and capture an eighth-place finish in the 600-mile race.
Harvick has reason to believe he can turn his speed Friday into a win Sunday based on past performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, he has three NASCAR Cup Series points-paying wins at Charlotte, with one coming in the 2014 Bank of America 500.
In that October 2014 race, Harvick started seventh, led 162 of 334 laps and beat runner-up Jeff Gordon to the finish line by .571 of a second to secure his position in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Playoffs on his way to winning his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The goal is to lock up a win early in each of the first three playoff rounds, but Harvick has also shown that he can win at each of the next three racetracks that make up the Round of 12. He owns three NASCAR Cup Series wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and two at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Charlotte represents the first race of the Round of 12 in this year’s playoffs and Harvick would love nothing more than to race his way to his second win of the 2017 season and lock up his position in the Round of 8 early as he pursues NASCAR’s ultimate prize – the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You have won at each of the three tracks in the Round of 12. What does that do for your confidence?
“It’s nice to know that you can go to any of these racetracks and win because we have. They’re all hard to win at. I think as you look at going to Charlotte, really trying to put the car back in victory lane is the first goal. If you can’t, then really try to get the best finish you can. That comes with no mistakes and really trying, if you do have a mistake, to overcome it and capitalize on the moment if you have it to actually get to victory lane.”
Between Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega, which track are you looking forward to most?
“I think Charlotte, just for the fact that we’ve had so much success there. We’ve run well there, really, every time we’ve been there with our Stewart-Haas Racing cars. Going there this weekend is definitely something that I’m looking forward to. Any racetracks that you’ve had some success at, you definitely want to go back. Charlotte is probably the one I’m looking forward to the most, and then obviously Kansas and Talladega will come after that. Hopefully, we can get off to a good start.”
What are the challenges Charlotte presents?
“Charlotte is a really finicky racetrack and temperature is a huge factor in how the racetrack changes, how the pace changes, so you have to try to guess a little bit on that. If the weather is an issue as we creep into the weekend, you have to try to plan and balance all those things, but you have to be ready to abort that plan and come up with a new one at any given point.”