Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings following 19 of the 25 events so far in 2016. He holds a 43-point advantage over second-place driver Brad Keselowski heading in to the final event of the 26-race regular season this weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Harvick needs to finish 38th or better Saturday night at Richmond to claim the 2016 regular-season title. It would mark the second season in a row he has finished the regular season with the most points.
The Bakersfield, California native won the 2015 Sprint Cup regular season, besting Joey Logano by 30 points after the 26th race last September. However, after the points reset for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs, Harvick, with two wins during the regular season, was seeded fifth behind Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, each of whom scored four wins in the first 26 races, and Joey Logano, who had three regular-season wins. Each regular-season win added three bonus points to the 2,000 points each for the 16 Chase drivers starting the playoffs the following weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.
Harvick battled through last year’s 10-race Chase to finish runner-up to Kyle Busch by 1 point for the 2015 Sprint Cup championship following the full 36-race schedule.
In 2014, Harvick finished the regular season ranked seventh, 126 points behind points leader Jeff Gordon following Richmond, but went on to score three wins in the Chase to claim the Sprint Cup title by one point over Ryan Newman.
Despite his two regular-season wins so far this season, Harvick will start this year’s 10-race Chase at Chicagoland no better than third regardless of the outcome Saturday night. Both Keselowski and Busch have claimed four Sprint Cup wins each thus far for a total of 12 bonus points to start the first round.
With only Richmond remaining before the start of this year’s Chase, Harvick still would like to add his third Sprint Cup win of the season Saturday night. He scored his first of the year in the season’s fourth race at Phoenix International Raceway, and his second in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Harvick clinched his spot in the playoff field with his fourth-place finish Aug. 1 in the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, securing a Chase spot for the 10th time in his career. He only needs to attempt to qualify Friday at Richmond to make his playoff status official.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are locked into the Chase field by points and wins, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority this weekend at Richmond.