Kevin Harvick knows the name of the game this time of year is to survive and advance to the next and final round of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. The three races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule that make up the Eliminator Round, starting with Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, are aligned in a way that might have Harvick “bloomin’” at the right time.
Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), raced his way from the Challenger Round through to the Contender Round with top-five finishes at both Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and a 13th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Harvick made advancing from the Contender Round a little less stressful by scoring a win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to automatically punch his ticket to the Eliminator Round.
The next three races that make up the Eliminator Round – Martinsville, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway – line up well for Harvick and the No. 4 team. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Harvick ranks third with 72 starts, six wins, 35 top-10s, an average running position of 13.312, average finishing position of 13.8, 67.1 percent of laps in the top-15 and driver rating of 93.5 at the next three tracks. Harvick ranks fourth with an average finish of 13.8 at those venues .
Harvick also has wins at two of the next three racetracks, including an April 2011 win at Martinsville, where he led six laps and battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps to score the win by .727 seconds. Harvick has yet to score a Sprint Cup victory at Texas, but he has scored five Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix, including three of his last four starts at the mile oval.
In only his sixth start with SHR and the No. 4 team, Harvick started 18th, led one lap and finished seventh at Martinsville in April. The result was only Harvick’s second top-10 of the season following his dominating performance in which he led 224 laps en route to the win at Phoenix. Since that time, Harvick and the No. 4 team have gone on to score wins at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Charlotte, added eight poles, 10 top-five finishes and 15-top 10s to their totals.
Outback Steakhouse has celebrated Harvick’s 17 top-10 finishes thus far in 2014 by giving its customers a free Bloomin’ Onion® on the Monday immediately following the race. And while he’d like to continue those celebrations this weekend by scoring another top-10, he’d prefer to do it in a bigger way – by winning his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the 2014 season and automatically advancing to the Championship round at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.