Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as the defending race winner at the concrete mile oval, but he’s still chasing perfection.
Harvick arrived at Dover last October ranked 15th in points after issues at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon placed him in a “must-win” situation to advance to the Round of 12 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The odds were long as Harvick had never made a trip to victory lane in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover.
With his back against the wall, he went on to deliver the most dominant performance of his Sprint Cup career. He started 15th after rain cancelled qualifying Friday afternoon, but he quickly raced his way to the front and led 355 of 400 laps to beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the finish line by 2.639 seconds.
According to NASCAR Stats and Information, he registered a 149.7 driver rating out of a possible 150.0, narrowly missing his fourth perfect driver rating in a Sprint Cup race. He previously registered perfect 150.0 driver ratings at Phoenix International Raceway on three occasions – November 2006 and 2014, and March 2015.
Harvick’s Sprint Cup win last October was his first at the Monster Mile, but the Bakersfield, California native has run well at Dover in recent years.
He won the Sprint Cup pole at Dover in September 2014, when he turned a lap of 22.095 seconds at162.933 mph in the second round of qualifying. On race day, he stayed at the front of the field for 223 laps but had to settle for a 13th-place finish after a valve stem issue led to a flat tire following a pit stop and caused him to fall a lap down to the leaders.
In May 2015, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion started sixth and led 91 laps, but finished second after Jimmie Johnson beat him by 0.435 of a second in a green-white-checkered finish.
In the last four Sprint Cup races at Dover, Harvick leads all drivers with 152 points and 693 laps led. The next-closest competitors in those categories are Martin Truex Jr., who has 148 points, and Johnson, who has 295 laps led.
This weekend, Harvick will seek to repeat his successful run at Dover and score his second Sprint Cup win of the 2016 season. He scored his first in only the third race of the season at Phoenix. That win, by a .01-of-a-second margin over Carl Edwards, tied for the 10th-closest finish in Sprint Cup history. A second win this weekend at Dover would virtually secure Harvick’s spot in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup and provide added bonus points to start the first round of the playoffs.