Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), overcame adversity to score a runner-up finish in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. It was Harvick’s 11th top-two finish of the season.
The defending Sprint Cup champion started seventh and raced his way to the lead by lap 99 of 200 around the 2-mile oval. He led a total of 15 laps before reporting the No. 4 Chevrolet was out of fuel on the backstretch, but he managed to bring the car to pit road for fuel and remain on the lead lap. The fuel miscue dropped Harvick to the 17th position by lap 117.
A quick caution on lap 122 allowed Harvick to bring the No. 4 Chevrolet back down pit road for a splash of fuel and return to the racetrack in seventh. By lap 142, Harvick had raced his way back up to the third position. He remained in the third spot until crew chief Rodney Childers called the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for the final time on lap 162 as the first car to make its final pit stop of the race. The strategic move allowed Harvick to gain an additional position, and by lap 176 he was back up to second.
When the final caution flag of the race flew on lap 184, Childers instructed Harvick to stay out and maintain his position at the front of the field. On the final restart, fellow Chevrolet driver Martin Truex Jr. lined up behind Harvick in the third spot and briefly pushed him to the lead in turn one before pole-sitter Matt Kenseth regained momentum on the outside and pulled away to the victory.
“We just fought a lot of things today,” Harvick said, who scored his fifth second-place finish in the last six Sprint Cup races at Michigan. “I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet for fighting back today. We had some handling issues at the beginning of the race, and then they were able to really make the car handle a lot better; and then we overcame the running out of gas there, and we were able to put ourselves back in position up in the front. The No. 20 (Kenseth) was the class of the field today, but everybody on our Jimmy John’s team did a great job.”
Harvick’s 15 laps at the front bring his season total to 1,406 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 19 of the 23 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015. Harvick also recorded his 16th top-five finish of 2015 on Sunday at Michigan, which ties his career high for a single season, set in 2010.Harvick’s second-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday. It was Harvick’s eighth top-five and 13th top-10 in 30 career starts at Michigan.