Kevin Harvick returns from a short, two-weekend sabbatical of competing in only one series as the GM Goodwrench Service Plus team swings to the 33-degree banked, 2.66-mile tri-oval Talladega Superspeedway (Talladega, Ala.) this weekend.
The NASCAR Winston Cup rookie, who has never raced at the Superspeedway under the rules changes implemented by NASCAR at Talladega last October, has a lot to undertake. Aside from gearing up for a summer of coast-to-coast travel as Harvick will compete in both the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series, the GM Goodwrench team has achieved nothing less than perfection at Alabama's tri-oval. The team has been summoned to Victory Lane three out of the last four visits to Talladega.
How have the last two weeks been, racing one series each weekend?
KH: "Boring. Well not boring, but I've been restless. When we were in Martinsville (Va.), I'd climb out of the car and hear the trucks on the track. I felt like I should be rushing to the other garage. And when I'd realize that I didn't have to, I really didn't know what to do with myself. I almost forgot what I did during breaks when I was racing only in Busch. But I spent the time hanging out with the team and taking the moments I had because I won't have moments like that pretty soon."
How have you and the GM Goodwrench team prepared for Talladega?
KH: "We tested last week before I took off with the Busch team for Nashville (Tenn.). It went well. It's a different feel in the Cup superspeedway car than I'm used to in the Busch superspeedway car, but I adapted.
"The team is ready for this one. I think the guys on the team look forward to the superspeedway tracks much more than any other place we go to. The car and how we do in the race is really all about them. There's only so much a driver can do to control how good the car is at these places. There are a bunch of factors like aerodynamics and horsepower and everything else that if they don't come together, you're not going to win. It's just more exciting for the guys.
"As for me, I'll be spending the time in practice practicing. That sounds weird I guess, but a lot of times you spend practice making the car better. When we go out for happy hour I'll be spending the time drafting with people and learning how the car reacts to certain things. Most of the other guys have two races (Talladega-2 2000, Daytona-1 2001) under them with the new race package. It'll be my first time out with it. It's a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but we'll get it there. If there's a team that can take someone who has never raced under the new package and get them a win, it's this one. They're just awesome at superspeedways. Their record says it all."
Do you have any strategies you've worked on for Talladega?
KH: "Other than leaving pit road and turning left? I'm joking. Yes and no. I know everyone says you don't want to be out front for a long time at Talladega because you never know how the draft is going to work and who is going to push you along or sling shot out in front of you. But that's not how I race. I don't care what race I'm at, I want to be out in front the whole time. I'm not a driver that bides his time in the back then makes a move for the front. The best way for me to race is to be out in the front pack all day. You're less likely to get caught up in something.
"Plus, some guys spend time making pacts before the race. You know, 'I'll draft with you if you draft with me.' Most of the time it doesn't seem to work and they just get ticked at each other. So, I don't think I'll be making those kind of deals. But who knows? We'll see what happens."
-Champion Sports Group