Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is looking to score his first Sprint Cup win at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
The fact Pocono Raceway is known as “The Tricky Triangle” is not lost on Harvick or the No. 4 team. The difficult three-turn racetrack is one of only five on the Sprint Cup circuit where Harvick remains winless. But, if the start to the 2015 race season is any indication, Harvick should be a favorite Sunday.
Thirteen races into 2015, Harvick has scored nine top-two finishes – including wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. He sits atop the driver standings with 516 points. His five straight Sprint Cup finishes of second or better to start the season is a series record. He has led a series-high 1,123 laps with an average finish of 6.1 thus far. His 1,123 laps led are 464 laps more than the next-closest competitor – 659 by his SHR teammate Kurt Busch.
The Bakersfield, California native leads several other statistical categories: 126.1 driver rating, nine top-five finishes, 12 top-10s, 23 bonus points, 684 fastest laps run, 19.3 percent of fastest laps run, 26.0 percent of laps led, 1,220.38 miles led, 4,011 laps in the top-15, 92.8 percent of laps in the top-15, average running position of 5.4, average finish of 6.1, and a pass differential of 225.
The reigning Sprint Cup champion has led at least one lap in 12 straight Sprint Cup points events in 2015. The only race he hasn’t led was the season-opening Daytona 500. That trend should continue this weekend based on his most recent performance at Pocono.
Harvick’s scored his best finish at 2.5-mile racetrack in his most recent start in August 2014. He started sixth, led five laps and finished runner-up to Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 0.228 of a second.
While Harvick is still looking for his first Sprint Cup win at Pocono, he does know how to find victory lane. In August 2011, Harvick scored a win from the pole and led 44 of 55 laps in his only start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Harvick’s two Sprint Cup race wins in 2015 virtually secure his spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, but from this point on he is looking for race wins and bonus points to start the Chase.
“The first thing you do at Pocono is to survive the restart,” said Harvick. “We learned last time that practice didn’t really matter. If you could get a good restart and survive going through the corner and get in line, then you were in good shape. It’s really fast and the thing I like about what they did at Pocono (Raceway) is that all the bumps are now kind of swells, and you have the same kind of feel that you had there, they are just not extreme bumps.
“Each corner is fast. Turn one is a corner where you drive in and downshift. The key to Pocono now is getting up off the corners and in the throttle and being able to stay in the throttle, really, in all three (turns).”