Kevin Harvick Keep on Bloomin’

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), knows the name of the game this time of year is to survive and advance to the next and final round of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. The three races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule that make up the Eliminator Round, starting with Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, are aligned in a way that might have Harvick “bloomin’” at the right time. 

The defending series champion raced his way from the Challenger Round through to the Contender Round with a dominant performance in a “must-win” situation at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He fought off elimination by dominating the race at Dover, where he led 355 of 400 laps to score his first Chase win of the season. In the Contender Round, Harvick finished second at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, 16th at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and 15th last Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to advance to the Eliminator Round.

The next three tracks he’ll visit for the Eliminator Round – Martinsville, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway – line up well for Harvick and the No. 4 team.

Harvick has been victorious at two of the next three racetracks, including an April 2011 win at Martinsville, where he led six laps and battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps to score the win by .727 seconds. Harvick has yet to score a Sprint Cup victory at Texas but has back-to-back second place finishes and has led 98 laps is his last two starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He has scored seven Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix, including five of his last six starts at the mile oval. 

Thirty-two races into this season, Harvick has been a model of consistency as he has 20 top-five finishes, and he’s also led a series-high 2,056 laps with an average finish of 9.3.

Harvick is the first driver to lead 2,000 laps in consecutive seasons since Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1996. The last three drivers to lead more than 2,000 laps in a single season have all gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship. Jeff Gordon led 2,320 laps in 2001, Jimmie Johnson led 2,238 laps in 2009, and Harvick led 2,137 laps in 2014.

The reigning Sprint Cup champion leads several other statistical categories: 118.1 driver rating, 44 bonus points, 1,241 fastest laps run, 32.3 percent of fastest laps run, 22.6 percent of laps led, 2,503.12 miles led, 8,224 laps in the top-15 and average running position of 7.549.

Outback Steakhouse has celebrated Harvick’s 24 top-10 finishes thus far in 2015 by giving its customers a free Bloomin’ Onion® on the Monday immediately following the race. And while he’d like to continue those celebrations this weekend by scoring another top-10, he’d prefer to do it in a bigger way – by winning his fourth Sprint Cup race of the 2015 season and automatically advancing to the winner-take-all Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.