Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), had his promising start to the first round of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup end in a disappointing 42nd-place finish on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in the MyAFibRisk.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Harvick started from the pole position and led the first five laps of the race before falling to second on a lap-six restart. Following that early caution, the race featured a season-high stretch of 118 green-flag laps, necessitating multiple green-flag pit stops before a debris caution on lap 124. During that time the Bakersfield, California, native raced inside the top-three, except during green-flag pit cycles.
The defending Sprint Cup champion regained the lead on the lap-129 restart, which was followed almost immediately by the race’s third caution of the day on lap 131.
Harvick restarted from the lead, but he faced a tough challenge from several cars as the green flag waved. Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet and the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson made contact, which led to a left-rear tire rub that eventually cut Harvick’s tire. The flat caused Harvick to spin on lap 139, sending the No. 4 backward into the turn-three wall. Harvick was forced to the garage area, where his crew spent several laps making repairs. Harvick returned to the racetrack, albeit 58 laps down.
“I got a fairly good restart, just had a little tire buzz at the end shifting into third gear,” Harvick said. “I saw those guys coming on the apron; they must have gotten together and had a good run up. I stood my ground and he just slammed into the side of the door like I wasn’t even there. My spotter was telling me ‘four-wide,’ and I guess he just figured that he’d come up the racetrack. But I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team for not giving up and doing all the things they had to do to get the car back on the track; and we’ve just got to go win one of these races.”Harvick led twice for a total of 10 laps to increase his season total to 1,460. He has led more laps than that in a single season just once – in 2014 when he led 2,137 laps en route to the Sprint Cup championship. He has led a lap in 21 of the 27 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015.