On the Outside Looking In
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (September 8, 2004) - His time to be anxious is over. GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick had been clinging to an eighth place position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point's standings for three straight weeks until last Sunday in Fontana, Calif., when it all came crashing down. A 28th place finish in the Pop Secret 500 dropped him seven spots to 15th, a mere 56 points outside of the magical 10th spot that will ensure a position in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. It's now time to go for it all.
For the first time in a long time the Bakersfield, Calif., native finds himself on the outside looking in. It's not the best situation that he could face with the new points system in place, but it is one where he now will have to attack instead of hang on. That may be a little new for him, but he understands the circumstances and is going to do his best to make it all happen Saturday night under the lights at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (RIR).
"It all comes down to one race," says Harvick, who will be sporting a special KISS paint scheme for the Chevrolet Rock n' Roll 400. "This is the make or break race of the year for us so we're going to have to pull out all the stops in order to put ourselves in contention to win. We'd rather not be in the situation we're in, but what's happened is done and we can't change it. We're on the aggressive now and they're (positions 10-14) the ones who need to be looking over their shoulders, not me anymore. For my sponsors, for RCR, and for this team, the time is now to go for it all. Richmond's an unpredictable place and anything can happen."
The pressure is definitely on for Harvick to make the most of this night in Richmond, but if there's anyone who can deal with it, it's "Happy" Harvick. After all, he's been in tight races, rookie-of-the-year battles, and championships all throughout his life, and come out a winner nearly every time.
Points of Interest...
* Rockin' with KISS...The No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo will look a little different this weekend as it trades in its normal silver and black colors for a crazy KISS paint scheme as part of the annual Chevy Rock n' Roll 400 finale Saturday night. KISS has had a long-standing relationship with General Motors Service Parts and Operations (GMSPO) and will be on all three GMSPO-sponsored cars throughout the triple-header weekend.
* Did You Know...NASCAR's decision to penalize Harvick and drop him from 10th to 20th in the final rundown after the June race in Pocono, Pa., cost him points as well as money, 31 markers in fact. Everything else equal, that would put him tied with Jamie McMurray for 11th in the points standings heading into the last of the 26 races that will establish the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.
* IROC Racing...The 2002 International Race of Champions (IROC) Series champion finds himself on top of the standings for the second time in three years as the series hits RIR for the first time on Thursday night. He's tied with Ryan Newman with 33 points, with one other race remaining on the schedule at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.
* The Chase...With one race to go until the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, Harvick sits 15th in the standings with 3,002 points. He's one marker behind Jeremy Mayfield and 56 outside of Mark Martin, who sits in the magical 10th spot.
* Off the Truck...Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No. 111 to the Old Dominion State for this weekend's 300-mile event. This chassis, different from what they ran at Richmond in the spring, has been run four times this season and posted one top-five, two top-10 and four top-20 finishes.
* TV and Radio...Start time for Saturday night's Chevy Rock n' Roll 400 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 400-lap event on TNT starts at 7:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 7:00 p.m. as well. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Richmond...
How would you feel if you didn't make it into the Chase?
"Disappointed. There is really no other way to explain it. I'd be disappointed with the whole season. That's one of the drawbacks in my thinking of the chase itself. A good example is what Kurt (Busch) said at the beginning of the year when he was 11th and ended up finishing third or whatever in 2002. So, I think maybe the top-10 is a little shallow for the number of cars that need to be involved in the points - maybe 15 or 20. Who knows. If you are winning races but not in the top-10, you're still probably going to be the title in the newspaper the next day."
Did you like the resurfaced racetrack when the circuit was at RIR in May?
"The racing surface is super smooth and they did a great job repaving it. The bumps in turn two are gone and it's really grippy. The bottom groove is definitely the preferred line and it took some time to work a second groove in the spring. The tires held up very well and we're similar to what we ran at Bristol (Tenn.) both times. Our car was super-fast in the spring and we could run out in front with the leaders, even after we cut those tires and went a few laps down."
Do you like racing under lights?
"Well, it's neat for the fans and good for the drivers because it keeps us cool in the cars. I think you get a bigger speed sensation at night, with the brakes glowing and the sparks flying everywhere. Believe it or not, it's actually easier to see from a driver's standpoint when you are racing at night."
How different will the IROC racing be from its usual action?
"This will be a totally different race than we've ever seen with the IROC cars. You're going to see a lot of beatin' and bangin', and there are probably going to be a lot of torn up cars before the checkered flag flies. Some of the past races we've run in the IROC have been pretty low key because the cars are so even and things get spread out so there's not a lot of passing. That won't be the case in Richmond I can tell you right now."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Richmond...
How is the team preparing for Richmond?
"Not much differently than we've prepared for any other race this season. This race is going to be our biggest test of the year because of where we've put ourselves in the points. We're not out of it by any means. Kevin ran well at Richmond in the spring after our tire problems. We'll do our best to make sure he can do that again on Saturday night."