Kevin Harvick finished sixth last week at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in what could be considered his home race as Sonoma is located in the same state in which Harvick grew up.
This week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. And the speedway is located just 164 miles from Charleston, Illinois, where Jimmy John’s was founded in 1983 by Jimmy John Liautaud.
So, for Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang, this is an important weekend. Harvick and Jimmy John’s won the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland, but a Chicago Cup Series victory for Jimmy John’s would make for a happy sponsor and driver.
Harvick and his crew chief Rodney Childers have been successful in 2019 as they are third in the standings despite being without a victory thus far.
But Harvick has been victorious at Chicagoland several times before. He has two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and has led a total of 471 laps in his 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts there, with an average start of 15.3, an average finish of 11.2 and a lap-completion rate of 98.4 percent – 4,736 of the 4,812 laps available.
Since he joined SHR in 2014, Harvick has never started lower than 12th and he has three top-five finishes. Harvick also has three wins in 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Chicagoland to go with six top-fives and eight top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval.
He even has competed in one NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Chicagoland. On September 16, 2011, Harvick drove Truck No. 2 and started second and finished second in the Fast Five 225.
By the time Harvick won his second consecutive race at Chicagoland in 2002, Jimmy John’s had grown to 160 stores. If Harvick can win at Chicagoland this weekend, those 160 stores will celebrate as will more than 2,800 stores that are now open across 43 states.
It would be a great hometown victory for Jimmy John’s and for Harvick, Childers and the No. 4 team.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Are you frustrated by not having been to victory lane this year?
“I am beyond all the frustration. To me it is now a challenge just because I feel like this is very similar to 2014 and 2017. I can see the progression in the speed of the cars and the things we have done and honestly we just chose the wrong direction to start the year. Our cars weren’t where they needed to be and everyone realizes that as a company. We had some situations where we were in position to win some races and had some things go wrong, whether it was my team or the 14 (Clint Bowyer). In the end, our cars just weren’t fast enough. I think everybody has kept his head down and is looking at it as a challenge now. Aside from the second half of the Charlotte race, I think over the last month or so the cars are headed in the right direction. Aric (Almirola) had a great test at Indianapolis and that is really the benefit of having quality teammates and people who communicate and an organization like we have with Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) letting the racers go race. Sometimes that overrules the engineering. Not saying that our engineering guys did anything wrong, but it was just the direction wasn’t right to be able to do the things we are doing on the racetrack in the cars in real-life scenarios that are being covered with what we are doing on the track. That is what really tells the tale. We are all pulling the rope in the right direction now and feel like we have made some good gains. This is part of that challenge that is a cycle. I have talked about this for years – you have to build, you have to rebuild, build and rebuild. You are on the good side of it and the bad side of it and it all has a funny way of cycling itself through. We have had a number of challenges since I have been here with Tony in and out of the car and drivers changing. It is a resilient group of people who continue to set aside the frustrations and look forward. We were all frustrated at Pocono because we were in a position to win the race. It is hard to put your thumb on everything and know when steering boxes are going to break. I know we had a pit-road penalty but they had a phenomenal day on pit road. There were just a number of things that piled onto one stop there. At this point, in these types of situations for me, they are almost more fun than winning all the time because you get to talk about things and live that frustration and go through those scenarios and, in the end sometimes, it makes you stronger at the end of those seasons to be where you need to be as we saw with the 22 (Joey Logano) last year. They were nowhere in sight at the beginning of the year and they finished as the champs. Winning is easy because it means everything is right. You get to get gritty when it is not 100-percent going your way.”
You’ve worked with Jimmy John’s for a few years. What makes Jimmy John’s unique?
“I’ve known Jimmy since 2009 and I’ve personally seen how driven he is and how his work ethic is embraced by everyone who works at Jimmy John’s. They’re freaks about the details just like he is and want to be the best, period. And he’ll outwork everyone to be the best. That’s the same mindset we have in racing.”