Kevin Harvick Wake Me Up When September Ends

The punk-rock band Green Day released a song titled “Wake Me Up When September Ends” as part of its 2004 album titled, American Idiot. While the song was released in 2004, it may never be as timely or relevant as it is right now for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as they head to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Sunday’s AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race – the final event in the Challenger Round and first cutoff race of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Harvick recorded just a single top-five finish in September – a fifth-place effort to start the month at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. In the three races since, he led a total of 226 laps but came away with three consecutive double-digit finishes for the first time since March 2014, when he finished 41st at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 39th at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and 36th at California Speedway in Fontana. 

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the defending Sprint Cup Series champion this time around. After leading the Sprint Cup driver standings from the third race of the season at Las Vegas until the 26th race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Harvick and the No. 4 team now find themselves 15th in the standings, trailing Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 12th and final transfer position by 23 points.

Luckily for Harvick and the No. 4 team, the calendar will have turned to October when the series arrives at Dover, and if anyone can make up a deficit in the point standings, it would be the defending Sprint Cup champions.

Last year, the team was in a tough spot in the Chase after a 33rd-place finish following an incident at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The team was eighth out of eight teams remaining in championship contention and needed a win to advance to the final four-driver Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. What followed was nothing short of miraculous – the No. 4 team finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth before scoring a dominant win at Phoenix International Raceway in the final race of the Eliminator Round to advance to the Championship Round.

Once in the Championship Round, Harvick and the No. 4 team brought home their second consecutive win to capture the 2014 Sprint Cup title in convincing fashion.

In 2015, the Bakersfield, California native led the 26-race regular season with 978 points prior to the Chase driver standings reset following the 26th round at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Harvick’s point total through the first 26 races was 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.

Twenty-eight races into 2015, Harvick still 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 1,676 laps with an average finish of 9.4.

Harvick leads several other statistical categories: 118.2 driver rating, 37 bonus points, 1,074 fastest laps run, 27.9 percent of fastest laps run, 21.2 percent of laps led, 2,105.98 miles led, 7,132 laps in the top-15, and average running position of 7.776.

While Harvick has yet to visit victory lane at Dover in the Sprint Cup Series, he has shown enough speed in recent years to get the job done. Since joining SHR at the beginning of the 2014 season, Harvick’s Dover performance profile includes a pole position for the AAA 400 in September 2014 and a runner-up finish to Jimmie Johnson in the FedEx 400 in May 2015, and he’s led 338 laps in three races overall.

This weekend at Dover will be the final attempt for the No. 4 team to advance to the Contender Round and keep its hopes of a second consecutive Sprint Cup championship intact.