Breaking the California Curse Â HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 27, 2004) - GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick seems to be cursed when it comes to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing at (Fontana) California Speedway.Â You would think, being that he is ...
Breaking the California Curse HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 27, 2004) - GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick seems to be cursed when it comes to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing at (Fontana) California Speedway. You would think, being that he is a Golden State native, the racing gods would look down on him with favor at what he calls his home track. Instead, he's found misfortune. Go back to 2001 in Harvick's first race at the two-mile oval in the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The Bakersfield, Calif., native had a car capable of winning, broke a valve spring and finished 25th. In 2002, he had another strong run going until a cut tire late in the race caused him to get into Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he wound up in the 35th position. Last year, more tire problems forced him to pit early and he got caught a lap down under caution. Harvick finished 29th when he couldn't catch a caution in the late stages to get himself back in contention. The 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year is determined to step away from the black cloud that California Speedway has held over his head in recent years. A major overhaul of the silver and black racing machine after a NEXTEL Cup Series test at Texas Motor Speedway last month helped Team GM Goodwrench get the car ready for 250 laps around the D-shaped oval. Now it's time for Harvick to break the curse and take home the checkered flag in front of the hometown crowd. No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on California... What's racing like at California?
"It usually comes down to fuel mileage because there's so much room to race. The groove has really spread out up high in the corners in recent years so you could run three-quarters of the way up the racetrack, or at the bottom, or in the middle. Last year we were strong, but got caught in the pits twice when the caution flew and never got a chance to make it back up. In 2002, we didn't run all that great, but that was par for the course. The year before last, we had a car capable of winning and broke a valve spring. We're expecting to go there and run well this time around. We came back after Texas and had a brand new car sitting in the shop getting ready to go to the paint shop for California. We cut the whole body off and put a new body on it." How much fun is it racing close to home?
"It's always fun when you come home and get to see a lot of your friends that you grew up with. A lot of family usually comes to the race so I get to spend some time with my sister and her husband. It's a lot of fun to go to California. We've put a lot of effort into it this year and hopefully we can run really good and do what we want to do on the racetrack. The hardest part is really trying to have that good weekend because you want to run well in front of all the fans. I always put a little extra pressure on myself being that it's close to home." How do you make sure the motor lasts?
"The problem is that you sit at the same r.p.m. for so long and you're on the throttle for so long down the straightaway that it puts a strain on the motor. Sometimes valve springs break, then the thing blows up. The guys at the shop feel pretty confident going in that our motors are going to be okay. It's really all an aero-package at California, anyway. You do have to have a good motor, but you also have to be able to get through the corners. There's not 28-degrees of banking, or 24-degrees of banking, it's relatively flat. This is probably one of the most important aero-racetracks that there are." What do you think of all the potential moves the circuit is thinking about making?
"All tracks have traditions in our sport, but we have to take our sport to where the demands are and where the grandstands will be full. That's what keeps our sponsors happy and television happy and everybody happy. There are a lot of traditionalists in our sport and I respect those people and understand where they're coming from. I wish it could be that way and that we could race on the same racetracks every year. But when you're getting 200,000 people at Texas and Las Vegas (Nev.) and places like that, it speaks for itself. We've got to keep our sponsors happy." You're running the Busch race on Saturday, any special reason?
"Honestly, I'd like to win a race at California in either Busch or Cup. That's the biggest reason I'm doing it. It's not really a huge rhythm racetrack that will get me ready for Sunday. I mean, every racetrack is some sort of rhythm racetrack, but it's not a Charlotte, or a Bristol, or Darlington, somewhere like that. I like to keep busy when I'm close to home so I don't have a lot of distractions. I like to stay in the racecar and keep moving." No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on California... What's makes racing difficult at California?
"The tough thing about a racetrack like California is what it can do to a car. The last couple of times we've been out there, we've blown up motors and had our day end early or got caught in the pits with some kind of problem and never got a chance to get it back. This track puts a little strain on the engine guys who are trying to figure out how to keep the motors running at such high r.p.m.'s for so long without blowing up. We reshaped a brand new car at the shop after we tested at Texas so we're cautiously optimistic." Points of Interest... · Team GM Goodwrench will take lucky chassis No. 88 to the two-mile oval for this weekend's 250-lap event. This chassis ran five times last year, helping to capture the team's only win at Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400. Chassis No. 88 is the same chassis Harvick won with at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in 2002.
· It won't be all work and no play for Harvick this weekend in his home state. On Saturday night, he'll join Bill Elliot, Sterling Marlin, and Jeff Green at the three-eighths mile Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif., to participate in two ten-lap races called The Race of Champions.
· After a five-week hiatus, Harvick will be back in the cockpit of Richard Childress Racing's No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet for Saturday's California 300. Already with a Busch win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this season, this will be his fourth Busch race at the two-mile oval.
· Start time for Sunday's Auto Club 500 is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 500-mile event on FOX starts at 3:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 2:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.