Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will attempt to add a second Sprint Cup win to his impressive resume at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday in the Folds of Honor 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
He won his first Sprint Cup race there in only his third career start on March 11, 2001. The circumstances surrounding the month leading up to Harvick’s first career Sprint Cup win in 2001 make it all the more remarkable.
Following Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Harvick was named the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and made his Sprint Cup debut Feb. 26 at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, where he finished 14th. The following Wednesday, Feb. 28, as the series headed west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Harvick married his wife DeLana. The following Sunday, March 4, Harvick scored his first career Sprint Cup top-10. Then, on March 11, less than one month since his debut in NASCAR’s top series, Harvick won his first Sprint Cup race at Atlanta.
Harvick’s first win also didn’t come easily. He was in third place with five laps remaining and chased down NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett for second, then overtook Jerry Nadeau for the lead. Once in front, Harvick had to hold off another future Hall of Fame driver in Jeff Gordon to secure the win. As he and Gordon raced door-to-door to the finish line, Harvick prevailed to secure his first win by 0.006 of a second.
Since that maiden Sprint Cup win, Harvick has reached victory lane at Atlanta on five other occasions, four times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – including his last three Xfinity starts in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – and once in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick came close to adding a second Sprint Cup win at Atlanta in each of his last two starts at the 1.54-mile oval. In September 2014, he won the pole and led 195 of 335 laps before late-race tire strategy by several drivers led to a multicar accident involving his No. 4 Chevrolet. He started from the outside front row in 2015, led 116 laps and finished runner-up to race-winner Jimmie Johnson by 1.802 seconds in his most recent Atlanta start.
If the 2014 Sprint Cup champ plans to achieve success Sunday at Atlanta, he is going to have to do it with NASCAR’s first race with the 2016 lower-downforce aerodynamic package. The new lower-downforce package was raced last season at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and received overwhelming support from the competitors.
This weekend, Harvick will attempt to add that elusive second Sprint Cup win at the 1.54-mile oval in Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500. He will also race the No. 88 Bad Boy Off Road Chevrolet Camaro Saturday for JR Motorsports in search of his fourth consecutive Atlanta Xfinity Series win.