Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway by finishing second in the Folds of Honor 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Harvick had to come from the rear of the 43-car field despite qualifying second, because the team made an engine change Saturday during final practice. He wound up leading six times for a race-high 116 laps en route to his sixth top-five in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Atlanta.
Harvick, who won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday afternoon, wasted little time in racing his way through the field. He started 38th but was in the top-15 before the NASCAR-mandated competition caution on lap 25. The No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS restarted 11th on lap 31 but reached the top-five by the second caution on lap 48 and the second position by the third caution on lap 61.
Harvick, who scored his first Sprint Cup Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in only his third career Sprint Cup start in 2001, took the lead for the first time on lap 87 of the 325-lap race around the 1.54-mile oval. The No. 4 team ran in the top-five for the remainder of the race.
The Bakersfield, California, native again took the lead on lap 226 and remained there until he was passed by race winner Jimmie Johnson on lap 253. The final caution of the race came with 20 laps to go due to a multicar wreck in turn three. After a brief red flag for cleanup, Harvick restarted in the fifth position on the bottom row with 15 laps remaining. Harvick raced from fifth to second in the closing laps but was unable to track down Johnson by the finish line.
“Jimmie ran great today, and it was a lot of fun racing with him,” Harvick said. “It was a good race there as we got to the middle part of the race. I just got behind on one restart there. Then I got stuck behind the No. 55 (Brett Moffitt) on the restart when he stayed out and never really made it back up through there. All in all it was a good day for our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team, and we’ll go to the next one.”
Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, has picked up right where he left off in 2014. He finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500 last Sunday, and the runner-up finish at Atlanta marked the fifth straight race Harvick has finished second or better. Dating back to Texas Motor Speedway in November, Harvick has finished second, first, first, second and second.
Harvick scored his sixth top-five and 10th top-10 in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Atlanta. It was also his 115th top-five and 230th top-10 in 504 career Sprint Cup starts.