Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished ninth in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night. Harvick, who won the race in 2011 and 2013, scored his 11th top-10 in the 12 points-paying races of 2015.
Harvick started eighth and charged to the front of the pack by lap 64 to take the lead, which he held until pitting under green on lap 78. After the pit cycle, Harvick regained the lead on lap 81 and held it until the next caution on lap 90. During that caution, several cars opted to either stay out or take two tires. Harvick came to pit road and took four tires to restart fifth on lap 95.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion struggled on the restart and dropped back to 10th, reporting that the car was too tight on short runs, but he raced his way back to seventh by the next caution on lap 137. Harvick again brought his No. 4 Chevrolet down pit road for adjustments and gained a spot on pit road to restart sixth on lap 142.
A long green-flag run followed that saw Harvick work his way up to fourth by the time the next round of green-flag pit stops came on lap 189. The pit crew again gained Harvick a position on pit road, returning him to the racetrack in third position, where he remained until the fourth caution on lap 231.
The pit crew gained another position on pit road during a four-tire stop under caution on lap 232 and returned Harvick to the racetrack in the second position. Harvick remained within the top-three until the sixth caution of the night on lap 283. During the caution, Harvick stopped on pit road for adjustments, but several cars stayed out, forcing the Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet to restart 10th. The No. 4 team’s four-tire strategy paid dividends as Harvick raced from 10th to fourth by the seventh caution of the night on lap 329.
Harvick was racing in second position attempting to chase down Martin Truex Jr. for the lead when Truex pitted for the final time on lap 379. Harvick pitted from the lead on the following lap and returned to the race in the 10th position with less than 20 laps remaining.
Several cars remained on the racetrack instead of pitting, attempting to stretch fuel mileage. The fuel-mileage gamble paid off for most of the drivers in the top-10, and Harvick crossed the finish line in the ninth position.
“We were a little off tonight,” said Harvick, who recorded his 12th top-10 finish in 29 career points races at Charlotte. “We fought a loose-handing car and never made it any better all night. We kept ourselves in the game on pit road and everyone did a great job.”
Harvick was credited with leading three times for 26 laps to bring his laps-led total at Charlotte to 322. Harvick has now led 1,032 total laps through the first 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup races of 2015. He has only led more laps than that in a single season once – his championship season one year ago with 2,137 laps led.Harvick led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Charlotte by finishing ninth in the Coca-Cola 600.