Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished third in the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. It was Harvick’s 14th top-five finish in 20 Sprint Cup starts in 2015.
The defending Sprint Cup champion started from the sixth position, raced his way to the lead by lap 32 and stayed up front until lap 45, when he pitted for four tires and fuel. Harvick restarted 12th following the pit stop as the first car to take four tires, since several others opted to stay out or take two tires.
The four-tire strategy paid off. Harvick was able to regain the lead on lap 62 and hold it until his next green-flag pit stop on lap 84. The Bakersfield, California, native raced his way back to the lead on lap 93 and looked dominant as he led the field for the next 27 laps. When an accident in turn two brought out a caution, Harvick brought the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for its final four-tire pit stop on lap 121.
Harvick raced his way back to the lead by lap 142 and looked ready to secure the win, but a flurry of late-race cautions set up a dramatic sequence of restarts. On lap 149, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun through the grass to bring out a caution. Harvick lined up on the outside with Martin Truex Jr. directly behind him, while Kyle Busch and Joey Logano lined up on the inside. Logano pushed Busch to the lead on the restart, while Harvick and Truex struggled to connect and lost ground.
Harvick would have two more opportunities to regain the top spot as late-race cautions set up two more restarts, but Busch and Logano proved too much to overcome on the green-white-checkered restart. Harvick crossed the finish line on lap 164 just behind race winner Busch and runner-up Logano.
“We had a great day,” said Harvick, who scored his fifth top-five in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis. “I think everybody did a great job, just in that, I think, second- or third-to-last restart where the 22 (Logano) and 18 (Busch) were able to get hooked up and kind of get by us, and I lost control of the race there. Just didn’t pan out there at the end, but everybody did a great job all day.”Harvick’s third-place finish led the way for SHR in Sunday’s Jeff Kyle Brickyard 400 race. He led four times for a race-high 75 laps to bring his season total to 1,359 laps led. Harvick has only led more laps than that in a single season once – in 2014 when he led 2,137 laps en route to the Sprint Cup championship. He has led a lap in 16 of the 20 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015.