When Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Jimmy John’s team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) unloads its Chevrolet SS for Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, there is one goal in mind: winning to secure bonus points for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship and, as far as results go, nothing else matters.
Under the new Chase format, the top-15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the Chase. The 16th position will go to the points leader following the Sept. 6 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway if that driver does not have a victory. Each win counts for three additional bonus points to help seed the drivers for the first round of the playoffs.
Harvick clinched his Chase berth with a second-place finish Aug. 3 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. With just three regular-season races remaining before the start of the Chase Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Harvick knows that regular-season points no longer matter. Winning is the only way to capture additional bonus points for when the Chase field is seeded following Richmond.
The Bakersfield, California native has reason to believe that winning on Saturday night is possible. He was in command of the March race at Bristol, having led 28 consecutive laps before misfortune struck. With just 50 laps remaining, a broken oil line knocked him from the lead and into the turn one wall. Despite a “Freaky Fast” car that day, Harvick finished 39th after the No. 4 Chevrolet was unrepairable.
Harvick does have wins at Bristol in each of NASCAR’s top three touring series. He won the Food City 500 Sprint Cup race in April 2005 by leading 109 laps and finishing 4.652 seconds ahead of runner-up Elliott Sadler. He also has five Nationwide Series wins – August 2000 when he won from the pole position and led 241 laps; August 2001 starting second and leading 85 laps; March 2003 starting 11th and leading 97 laps; April 2005 starting 38th and leading 76 laps; and March 2009 starting 13th and leading 46 laps. His lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Bristol came in August 2011, when he started sixth and led 103 of 200 laps en route to the win.
Harvick is doing double duty this weekend at Bristol and will get additional seat time behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in Friday night’s Nationwide Series event. Harvick already has two Nationwide Series wins driving for JR Motorsports in 2014 with wins at Richmond in April and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in June.
Harvick will pilot SHR Chassis No. 4-850 Saturday night. If recent history is any indication, he will likely be starting up front. Chassis No. 4-850 has started in the top-five in all three of its previous events this season and scored a runner-up finish in the Sprint All-Star Race in May, as well as seventh-place finish at Kentucky in June.
According to Harvick, it is all about bonus points and, as far as results go, nothing else matters.