Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 ditech Home Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is heading to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for this Sunday’s New England 300 in a better place than he was last year at this time.
Harvick finished the 26-race regular season as the Sprint Cup points leader in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he headed to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois as the fifth seed to kick off the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs. This year he entered the Chase as the fourth seed.
In 2015, Harvick finished 42nd at Chicagoland after contact with Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet caused the No. 4 Chevrolet to cut a tire and make heavy contact with the outside SAFER Barrier. He left Joliet ranked 16th, trailing 12th-place Jeff Gordon by 22 points for the final transfer position into the Round of 12 with two races remaining before the cutoff.
While last weekend at Chicagoland didn’t go as planned for Harvick and the No. 4 team yet again, their 20th-place finish has the team ranked 13th in points trailing SHR teammate Tony Stewart by one point with two races before the cutoff for the Round of 12. Harvick, in his bid for a second Sprint Cup championship, is 22 points ahead of where he was last year heading into New Hampshire.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion knows how to win at New Hampshire, but he also knows it’s easier said than done.
Harvick has three finishes of fourth or better in his last four starts at the “Magic Mile,” and has led 379 of the 1,205 laps contested over that span – nearly 31.5 percent.
Harvick finished fourth in his most recent visit to New Hampshire in July 2016.
In July 2015, he started 12th and was leading the race when he brought his No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for a four-tire stop late in the race while several other teams opted for a two-tire stop. He finished third.
He had a chance to win in September 2014, when he started third, led a race-high 104 laps and finished third.
His lone New Hampshire finish outside the top-four over his last four starts came in September 2015. He started second and led a race-high 216 laps but ran out of fuel in the closing laps and finished 21st. The result forced Harvick and the No. 4 team to head to Dover (Del.) International Speedway needing a win to advance to the Chase’s Round of 12. The No. 4 team delivered a dominating performance at Dover by leading 355 of 400 laps to secure the win and advance.
Harvick’s one Sprint Cup win at New Hampshire came from the pole position in September 2006, when he led 196 of 300 laps en route to victory lane.
Harvick’s plan of attack this weekend at New Hampshire is to attempt to qualify up front Friday to secure the track position needed to win Sunday, then head to Dover with his place in the Round of 12 secured.