Kevin Harvick Starting Fresh

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, has led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in championship driver points since the third race of the 2015 season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. However, after the points reset to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs after last weekend’s regular-season finale at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Harvick will be starting fresh this weekend in Sunday’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.

Luckily, the sponsor on the hood of the No. 4 Chevrolet, Jimmy John’s, always starts fresh when making its gourmet sandwiches and knows what it takes to deliver in “Freaky Fast” fashion.

Jimmy John’s, founded in 1983 by then 19-year old Jimmy John Liautaud approximately 163 miles from Chicagoland Speedway in Charleston, Illinois, serves up ridiculously fresh sandwiches quicker than you can say “Turkey Tom,” a customer favorite which, ironically, is No. 4 on the menu. Jimmy John’s is all about the freshest ingredients, the fastest service and “Freaky Fast” delivery. While most people are more than impressed with the quality of Jimmy John’s sandwiches, it’s the speed with which they are prepared and delivered that really puts the now Champaign, Illinois-based chain ahead of the rest.

Harvick is hoping to use the same principles to deliver a freaky fast win early in each three-race round of the 10-race Chase to help him advance to the final four and defend his 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

Harvick qualified for the 10-race Chase by virtue of his two wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. His two regular-season victories were each worth three bonus points. Harvick carries his six bonus points into the Chase to slot fifth among the 16 drivers.

The defending Sprint Cup champion led the 26-race regular season with 978 points prior to the Chase driver standings reset following Richmond. Harvick’s point total through the first 26 races is the most under the current system that came into effect in 2011, surpassing the 914 regular-season points scored by Greg Biffle in 2012 and Jeff Gordon in 2014.

This is his sixth consecutive playoff appearance and his ninth since the inception of the Chase in 2004. He finished fourth in his Chase debut in 2006, 10th in 2007, fourth in 2008, third in 2010, third in 2011, eighth in 2012, third in 2013 and won his first Sprint Cup championship in 2014.

Twenty-six races into 2015, Harvick has been a model of consistency, scoring 10 second-place finishes, 18 top-fives and 22 top-10s to lead the series. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,450 laps with an average finish of 7.7. The 1,450 laps led are 588 more than the next-closest competitor – 862 by Joey Logano.

He leads several other statistical categories: 118.8 driver rating, 34 bonus points, 961 fastest laps run, 25.0 percent of fastest laps run, 19.8 percent of laps led, 1,862.45 miles led, 6,699 laps in the top-15, and average running position of 7.455 in addition to his average finish of 7.7.

Harvick already has two Sprint Cup wins at Chicagoland and three wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He won the inaugural Sprint Cup race there on July 15, 2001, and made it back-to-back Chicagoland wins as he reached victory lane again on July 14, 2002. His three Xfinity Series wins came in September 2005, July 2007 and September 2014.

The No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team is hoping it can continue its approach of winning early and apply it to each round of the Chase. A win in the 16-driver Challenger round, consisting of the races at Chicago, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway, would automatically advance a team to the 12-team Contender round. A win in the Contender round, consisting of races at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, guarantees a spot in the eight-team Eliminator round. A win in the Eliminator round, consisting of races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway, guarantees a spot in the four-team championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick is looking to ride his “Freaky Fast” Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet all the way to a second consecutive Sprint Cup Series championship.