Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), dominated early, found himself mired midpack at the halfway point, raced his way back to the lead and challenged late for the win in Saturday night’s 5-hour Energy 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
“I found a groove that worked for me, but I slipped with about 10 or 11 laps to go and lost all the ground I had made up,” said Harvick, who recorded his third top-five finish in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas and his third top-five result this season. “It was a weird night, for sure, but I’m proud of everybody on this team.”
Harvick started from the pole in the 43-car field and was able to maintain the lead despite fighting a loose-handling condition in the opening segment of the 267-lap race. Harvick made his way to pit road on lap 41 for a scheduled green-flag pit stop, and as the rest of the field attempted to do the same an incident involving Clint Bowyer brought out the caution, and Harvick found himself running second. Having informed crew chief Rodney Childers that he had a vibration following the pit stop, Harvick came back to pit road to get four fresh tires and fuel. The move paid dividends, as Harvick had a tire that was out of balance. Once green-flag racing conditions resumed, Harvick was able to overtake Brad Keselowski for the race lead again on lap 53.
Harvick continued to hold the point until coming to pit road for another scheduled green-flag stop on lap 102. Once again, before the cycle of stops could be completed, they were interrupted by a caution for a spin involving Marcos Ambrose on lap 110. Harvick, who was scored as the first car one lap down to the race leader, was awarded the free pass, which placed him back on the lead lap but in the 18th position.
Mired in traffic, Harvick struggled with an ill-handling racecar that would hamper his ability to return to the form he showed early in the race. Childers continued to make chassis adjustments each time Harvick hit pit road, helping the Jimmy John’s driver steadily climb toward the front of the pack. On lap 208 Harvick reclaimed the race lead, but he had to make one last stop for fuel on lap 208 and struggled on pit road, giving up the lead. Harvick was unable to make up the ground he lost and had to settle for second when the checkered flag waved.
“What put us in second is I didn’t get down pit road very good there coming to the pit box,” Harvick said. “I kind of ran out of gas, and I was paying attention to the fuel pressure gauge instead of the pit road speed light. I lost some time there, but everybody on our Jimmy John’s Chevrolet did a good job. I found a groove that worked really well there at the end. I slipped with about eight or nine laps to go. I was able to make the ground back up, but not get by. Congrats to those guys (the No. 24 team), they have been running good all year. And I’m glad to see a Chevrolet in victory lane.”