Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished third after an up-and-down afternoon on Sunday in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The third-place finish was his 21st top-five this season and his sixth top-five in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.
Harvick also scored his 26th top-10 of the season, tying his single-season career-best set in 2010.
The No. 4 team started second, raced to the lead on lap 18 and remained there until Harvick came to pit road under the competition caution on lap 26.
The Bakersfield, California, native restarted third on lap 29 and worked his way up to second before running over a piece of debris that cut the left-rear tire on lap 36. NASCAR officials called a caution for debris immediately following the cut tire, and Harvick brought the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for four tires before returning to the racetrack in the 41st position for the lap-42 restart.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion quickly regained his form and raced his way back into the top-five by lap 101. By lap 221, Harvick had reclaimed the second position and was closing in on race leader Brad Keselowski. Then, on lap 240, Harvick reported that his shifter had popped out of gear. He was forced to hold the shifter with his right hand as he steered with his left hand. Despite the issue, Harvick was able to maintain his spot in second, but then he hit a piece of debris and cut the left-rear tire on lap 280. This time the race remained under green-flag conditions as he brought the No. 4 Chevrolet down pit road for a four-tire pit stop on lap 282.
The unscheduled stop forced the No. 4 Chevrolet to go a lap down to the leaders and fall to the 21st position. Fortunately, the race remained under green-flag conditions while the leaders came to pit road for regularly scheduled service on lap 297. Remaining on the track, the No. 4 was back on the lead lap and then in the lead by lap 298 for two laps.
As the leaders returned to the racetrack with fresh tires, Harvick fell back to the fifth position by lap 309 and stayed there until the final caution of the day on lap 311. The timing of the caution allowed Harvick to bring the Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet back down pit road for a four-tire stop and return to the track in the sixth position on the same strategy as the leaders. Harvick raced his way from sixth to third by the time the checkered flag waved on lap 334.
“We’ve had really good race cars, and that allows us to overcome things like today with two flat tires,” said Harvick, who had finished second in his last two Sprint Cup starts at Texas. “Even with the shifter problem we were able to maintain what we had. But all in all, we just kept gouging away and everything worked out in the end.”
Harvick led twice for 11 laps to bring his season total to 2,105 with two races still remaining in the 2015 season. He is on track to set a new career high, eclipsing his previous laps-led mark of 2,137 set last year en route to the Sprint Cup championship.Harvick’s third-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.