Kevin Harvick grew up racing go-karts in Bakersfield, California, dreaming of his turn to one day emulate his childhood hero Rick Mears, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and three-time IndyCar Series champion who also hails from Bakersfield. His dream was to win the historic Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) saw his career take a different path that led him to NASCAR instead of IndyCar.
The path that led to NASCAR meant that Harvick would have to slightly amend his dreams of winning at Indianapolis. Instead of winning the 500, he would instead try to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400.
In 2003, in just his third attempt at the Brickyard, Harvick made his dream of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a reality, and he did so in grand fashion. Harvick won the pole with a speed of 184.343 mph, led 33 laps and beat runner-up Matt Kenseth to the finish line by 2.758 seconds.
Since 2003, the 16-year Sprint Cup veteran has come close to scoring additional wins at Indianapolis. In 2006, Harvick started 10th, led 18 laps and finished third. In 2010, he started ninth, led five laps and finished runner-up to Jamie McMurray by less than two seconds.
In 2014, Harvick set the Sprint Cup track qualifying record with a time of 47.647 seconds at 188.889 mph in the opening qualifying round. He went on to win the pole with a time of 47.753 seconds at 188.470 mph in the final round, then led 12 laps in the race, but he finished eighth.
Harvick started sixth and led a race-high 75 laps in 2015, but his bid for a second Brickyard win was foiled by a late-race restart when runner-up driver Joey Logano pushed race-winner Kyle Busch past Harvick to the lead. Harvick would go on to finish third.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion would like nothing more than to score his second Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis in Sunday’s Brickyard 400. A win Sunday would be Harvick’s second of the 2016 season and would secure his position in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. He scored a thrilling win in just the fourth race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway by .01 of a second over runner-up Carl Edwards. In total, the 2016 season has produced 11 different winners through the first 19 Sprint Cup races.
Harvick clinched a top-30 points position with his ninth-place finish July 9 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He needs an additional win to clinch his spot in the 2016 Chase field after race No. 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
While Harvick and the No. 4 team are virtually a lock to make the Chase field, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority through the next seven races starting this weekend at Indianapolis.