Every year in late April across the United States, signs of spring begin to appear. The grass begins to grow, the weather becomes warmer, flowers and trees start to come into bloom and, for Kevin Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), he’s hoping that things that bloom are not limited to the outdoors.
Outback Steakhouse has celebrated Harvick’s three top-10 finishes thus far in 2014 by giving its customers a free Bloomin’ Onion® on the Monday immediately following the race. And while he’d like to continue those celebrations this weekend by scoring another top-10, he’d prefer to do it in a bigger way – by winning his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the 2014 season and his fourth overall at “The Action Track,” aka Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Looking at Harvick’s stats at Richmond, it’s fairly easy to see why he is not only looking forward to Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race, but why he should also be considered a serious contender for the race victory. After all, he is the defending champion of the race, and the most recent winner in the Sprint Cup Series.
With four laps remaining in last year’s event, it appeared Juan Pablo Montoya was on his way to earning his first win on an oval – that is, until the caution flag flew with four laps remaining. Harvick decided to hit pit road for fresh tires with Montoya and the other leaders while three drivers elected to stay out. Three others got off pit road before him, and it seemed Harvick’s chances of earning the victory were slim.
When the green flag flew for the final restart, Harvick was able to plow through traffic, driving from seventh to victory lane for his first win of the season.
Harvick’s loop-data statistics show he can’t be overlooked this weekend. His average running position of 7.9 is third-best at Richmond. He is the fourth-best closer at Richmond, with 20 positions improved over the last 10 percent of laps in the last 18 races. His average driver rating of 110.0 is third-best, and his 6,617 laps spent running inside the top-15 is the most of any driver at Richmond. Harvick also ranks third in laps led at Richmond with 898 over the same span of races.
With his ticket into the postseason punched thanks to his two Sprint Cup victories, Harvick and his Rodney Childers-led crew can head to Richmond feeling less pressure and welcome the opportunity to race aggressively for additional wins. The 25-time Sprint Cup race winner will look to score back-to-back victories for the third time in his career, as well as a “Bloomin’” win for Outback Steakhouse.