Kevin Harvick Big Challenge on Bristol’s High Banks

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will attempt to score his 11th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top-10 finish by winning this Sunday’s Food City 500 in support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Interestingly enough, however, even though Harvick is off to the best start of his 15-year Sprint Cup career in 2015, he hasn’t scored a top-10 finish at Bristol since March 2011, or a top-five since August 2008.

Dating back to last November’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick finished second or better in nine of the last 10 points-paying events and 10th or better in every event. During his current streak of 10 top-10s, he has four wins, five second-place finishes and an eighth-place finish. He’s led a series-high 1,086 laps during that time.

Harvick finished second at Texas last fall before going on to win the final two Sprint Cup races of 2014 at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick and the No. 4 team started 2015 with consecutive second-place finishes in the 57th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He then went on to win back-to-back events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix, finished second at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, then eighth at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Last week at Texas, Harvick scored another runner-up finish.

Seven races into 2015, Harvick sits atop the driver standings with 306 points. His five straight Sprint Cup finishes of second or better to start the season is a series record. He has led a series-high 766 laps with an average finish of 2.6 through the first seven races of 2015. His 766 laps led are more than twice that of the next-closest competitor – Joey Logano with 324.

Harvick is one of only three drivers to finish in the top-10 in each of the seven Sprint Cup races this season. Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. are the other two. Morgan Shepherd set the record for top-10s to start a season in 1990 when he did it 11 races in a row.

Harvick leads several other statistical categories – 132.8 driver rating, 413 fastest laps run, 35.6 percentage of laps led, 908.64 miles led, 2,123 laps in the top-15, 98.7 percentage of laps in the top-15, average running position at 3.79, average finish of 2.6, and 84.3 percent of quality passes.

Even though it’s been four years since his last top-10 at Bristol, Harvick has found success at Bristol over the years. He won the 2005 Food City 500 in convincing fashion by leading three times for 109 laps, beating Elliott Sadler by 4.652 seconds. A prelude to that win was Harvick’s Xfinity Series victory the day before, giving him a sweep of the Bristol race weekend. He also has nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at the half-mile oval.

Harvick has five wins and three poles at Bristol in the Xfinity Series. He’s also scored 15 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and has led 1,216 laps. He has an average starting position of 9.4 and average finish of 7.5.

Since joining SHR in 2014, Harvick finished 39th after an accident in the Sprint Cup race last March, and he won the pole for the August 2014 race with a speed of 131.362 mph. He led 75 laps before a pit road speeding penalty cost him track position in the latter race before finishing 11th. However, he led a total of 103 laps – 10 percent of the 1,003 laps available in last year’s two races at Bristol.

The best news for Harvick coming into this weekend may be crew chief Rodney Childers, who’s led three different Sprint Cup drivers to top-five finishes at Bristol – Scott Riggs, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers. Childers led Riggs to a fourth-place finish in August 2006 while both worked for Evernham Motorsports. While at Michael Waltrip Racing, he led Reutimann to a runner-up finish in August 2010 and Brian Vickers to a fifth-place finish in March 2012 and fourth-place finishes in August 2012 and 2013.

While Harvick and Childers have been freaky fast virtually everywhere since they were paired together at SHR in 2014, both are hoping to keep the momentum going this weekend at Bristol by scoring their 11th consecutive top-10, eighth of the season and first win together at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.