by Ryan Isley
In this weekend’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, Kevin Harvick will have sponsor Jimmy John’s – whose motto is “freaky fast” – on his No.4 Chevrolet. He has to hoping his new pit crew is freaky fast, unlike the crew he has used all season.
Harvick will start the “Challenger” round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup this week sixth place in points, six points behind leader Brad Keselowski. Harvick had two wins this season, but could have easily led the series in victories if not for the mistakes on pit road. It is no secret that while Harvick has consistently had one of the best cars this season, he has had one of the worst crews in NASCAR servicing it. It is also something Harvick knows. And something he has mentioned publicly.
With that in mind, Stewart-Haas Racing has made a switch heading into the Chase to help Harvick battle for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. As the Chase begins, the No.4 car of Harvick is getting a new pit crew. When he heads to Joliet, Illinois this weekend, he will do so with the pit crew from the No.14 car of Tony Stewart, who missed the Chase.
In 2011, it was Stewart and this pit crew who ended Jimmie Johnson’s run of five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. In 2014, the crew will again try to win a title and keep Johnson from winning his record-tying seventh championship.
One other positive about Stewart’s crew coming over is that they are a team that has become accustomed to change this season, with Stewart missing three races. While he was out, the No.14 crew worked with two other drivers in Regan Smith and Jeff Burton. Therefore, working with a new driver should not be an issue.
The change in crews is important now that a win in any of the first three races in the Chase would clinch a spot in the second round of the Chase. It is also important heading to Chicagoland, where Harvick has a real good shot at making his way back to victory lane.
Among the 16 drivers who made the Chase, only Harvick has multiple wins at Chicagoland, winning the first two races at the track in 2001 and 2002. While he hasn’t gone to victory lane in the next 11 races at the track, he has five more top-10 finishes, including a 3rd-place finish last season and a runner-up finish in 2011.
The only driver in the Chase who has a better average finishing position at Chicagoland Speedway than Harvick’s 9.9 is six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson at 8.9. Johnson, however, has not led the field to the checkered flag at the track despite his seven top-5 finishes, which tie him with Harvick for the most among the 16 drivers.
Combine the success that Harvick could (and probably should) have had this season with his career of success at Chicagoland, and it is logical that he very well could get the win this week and guarantee himself a spot in NASCAR’s next round.
Afterwards, he can celebrate with another of his sponsors – Budweiser.