Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), bounced back from an unscheduled pit stop early in Sunday’s 23rd Annual Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to finish sixth, marking his series-best 16th top-10 finish of 2016 and his 10th top-10 finish in 16 career starts at Indianapolis.
Harvick started seventh and raced his way to third by lap 16. He continued in the third position until the first green-flag pit stop of the race on lap 26. The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS came to pit road for a four-tire stop and several small adjustments, but as Harvick returned to the racetrack he reported a possible right-front tire issue. The team called the No. 4 Chevrolet back to pit road to remedy the potential issue with a two-tire pit stop on lap 31. The move dropped Harvick from third to 29th, one lap down to the leaders.
The Bakersfield, California, native responded by racing his way back onto the lead lap by lap 41. He returned to the top-10 by lap 78 and the top-five by lap 115. Harvick raced his way to the fourth position by the fifth caution of the day on lap 151.
With only nine laps remaining before the scheduled 160-lap distance, crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick, “We didn’t come here to finish fourth,” and he called the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for a four-tire stop while the top-four cars stayed out on older tires.
Harvick restarted seventh on lap 153, but a flurry of cautions prevented the longer run he needed to overcome the leaders, resulting in a sixth-place finish.
“I am kind of disappointed there at the end. I was in a pretty good spot, and on the restart the pace car was consistently going way too slow,” said Harvick, who won the Brickyard 400 from the pole position in August 2003. “It’s unfortunate they can’t correct small problems like that. I just couldn’t get going and got the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) in front of us and wound up on the outside, and then we were just treading water from there. But all in all everybody did a good job; we are definitely off a little bit.”
The Sprint Cup Series points leader extended his points margin over Brad Keselowski to 24 points, and his sixth-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Indianapolis.