|Kevin Harvick is the 5/1 favorite to win at Kansas Saturday night|
Ever since 19-year-old Jimmy John Liautaud opened his first gourmet sandwich shop in Charleston, Illinois in 1983, Jimmy John’s has been serving up ridiculously fresh sandwiches quicker than you can say “Turkey Tom,” a customer-favorite which, ironically, is No. 4 on the menu.
“Freaky Fast! Freaky Good!” That’s Jimmy John’s.
When Jimmy John’s first partnered with Kevin Harvick in 2010, it was easy to see that the relationship was destined for success. After all, he delivered the sponsor’s first win in “Freaky Fast” fashion by pulling into victory lane at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, in the first race Jimmy John’s was primary sponsor of his Chevrolet.
The fundamentals that have made Jimmy John’s such a successful chain mirror those that make Harvick one of the most successful drivers of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season – high-speed execution.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), showed his ability to back up the company’s beliefs and slogans by delivering a dominant performance in just his second points-paying race start with SHR in March at Phoenix International Raceway. He’s been fast week-in and week-out and is one of only two drivers with multiple Sprint Cup wins in 2014.
Heading to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City this weekend, Harvick cannot be overlooked as a contender for the win. After all, he has shown consistent speed on the intermediate tracks this season, and he heads to Kansas as the most-recent Sprint Cup winner at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Harvick, who started from the pole, led 138 laps while battling through a wreck-filled race slowed by a record 15 cautions. He was able to pull away from current SHR teammate Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon on a late restart to score his first Sprint Cup win at Kansas.
This weekend, Harvick hopes to deliver another victory for sponsor Jimmy John’s and become the sixth driver to have multiple Sprint Cup wins at Kansas. By doing so, he would be just the third driver to win back-to-back races at the track, joining Sprint Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth on that elite list.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You enter Kansas as not only the most recent race winner there, but also the most recent polesitter. Talk a little bit about last year’s race weekend.
“We had a solid weekend the last time we were in Kansas. I know a lot has changed there because we did the Goodyear confirmation test before heading out there for the race. Speeds will definitely be up compared to what they were last year. There will be totally new concepts with the cars and tires, so we’ll have to take all of our notes and throw them out the window and create new ones as we go back for the race. So, you never know what the situation’s going to be with tires and cars and all the different things we have, so you have to be very open-minded.”
Take us on a lap around Kansas. It’s got a unique layout compared to some of the other mile-and-a-half tracks.
“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and a lot fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”
What’s it like racing at Kansas Speedway since the reconfiguration? The track has had some time to settle and the asphalt has aged since it was repaved about a year and a half ago. What do you expect we’ll see this weekend?
“The Midwest winters are pretty harsh, and I think as you go into a night race this time with new asphalt and cooler temperatures without a lot of sun beating on the track, it should make for speeds that are really high. Hopefully, the asphalt has lost a little bit of grip, but I think we’re still going to see really high speeds and a fast-paced race.”
Your success at Kansas hasn’t been limited to the Sprint Cup Series. You’ve also won there in the Nationwide Series. Talk a little bit about your successes there.
“Kansas has been a really good track. I really liked it before they paved it just for the fact that you could move all around the racetrack. But, those days are gone. They’ve changed the racetrack, and now we have very high speeds. The asphalt ages, and I think that’s the biggest thing regardless if it’s Sprint Cup or Nationwide. You have to be able to adjust to whatever the environment is and the situations that are created from repaves to new tires and all the things that change in our sport. You have to adjust to them.”