Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is looking to break into the win column for the first time in 2017 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Dover (Del.) International Speedway Sunday afternoon. Luckily, Harvick likes to emulate his sponsor, Jimmy John’s, who is known for being “Freaky Fast.”
In terms of pure speed, Harvick has been one of the fastest at Dover since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, scoring one win, one pole and two top-five finishes. What is more impressive is that he has led 810 of 2,405 laps in six races there – nearly 33.7 percent of the total laps raced since the beginning of 2014. Jimmie Johnson ranks second during that span with 389 laps led – 421 laps fewer than Harvick.
Harvick’s most impressive Monster Mile performance came in October 2015, when the No. 4 team arrived at Dover ranked 15th in the playoff standings and trailing Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 23 points for the final transfer position into the Round of 12. A solid finish wouldn’t do – Harvick needed a win to advance. With everything on the line, he delivered the most dominant race of his NASCAR Cup Series career. He started 15th after rain cancelled qualifying Friday afternoon, but he quickly raced his way to the front and led 355 of 400 laps to beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the finish line by 2.639 seconds.
According to NASCAR Stats and Information, he registered a 149.7 driver rating out of a possible 150.0, narrowly missing his fourth perfect driver rating in a NASCAR Cup Series race. He previously registered perfect 150.0 driver ratings at Phoenix International Raceway on three occasions – November 2006 and 2014, and March 2015.
However, luck has not always been on the side of the No. 4 team at Dover.
In June 2014, Harvick started eighth, led 24 laps, but finished 17th as the first car one lap down after he had a valve stem issue during a pit stop that caused a tire to go down on the following restart.
He won the pole at Dover in September 2014, when he turned a lap of 22.095 seconds at 162.933 mph in the second round of qualifying. On race day, he stayed at the front of the field for 223 laps but had to settle for a 13th-place finish after another valve stem issue led to a flat tire following a pit stop and caused him to fall a lap down to the leaders.
Harvick started from the pole after qualifying was rained out in May 2016. He led 117 laps early in the race before he was caught in an 18-car accident and finished one lap down in 15th.
The 2014 Cup Series champion has been the class of the field when it comes to Cup Series qualifying in 2017, scoring three poles through the first 12 races. No other driver has scored multiple poles this season.
While Harvick has raced up front and scored 388 points to rank fourth in the Cup Series standings with three stage wins to his credit, he is still in search of his first Cup Series race win of the season. He would like to add his second career Dover win to go with his October 2015 victory. If he succeeds, he will secure his spot in the 2017 NASCAR playoffs.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Why is Dover one of the more challenging racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule?
“I think as you look at Dover, if you look at our history, when I was at RCR (Richard Childress Racing), it was probably one of our worst racetracks. It’s been one of our best since I came to SHR in 2014. For me, the thing I love about Dover is just the fact it’s hammer down and you’re up on top of the wheel for 400 laps there. It’s violent. Everything about Dover is violent. It’s fast. You can just be aggressive with the car and you have to get in there and wrestle that thing all day because it’s bumpy, slings you up out of the corners, dumps you down in the corners, and there’s just a lot going on. The car is bouncing around a lot and, with as rough as the cars have been just as the ride goes, we are in for a rough ride when we get to Dover this weekend. It’s one of my favorite racetracks to go and race on.”
Describe what it’s like to take a lap around Dover.
“Dover is the racetrack where you feel the sensation of speed more than anything. It’s a place where you drop off into the corner and slam into a lot of banking and then, as you come out of the corner, it’s kind of like jumping out of a hole and up onto the straightaway. It’s a really fun place to race. You feel that sensation of speed and you can be really aggressive.”