Kevin Harvick made his first career start at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks at Atlanta last year in the ACDelco Chevrolet. The 2000 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year caught on quickly to the D-shaped 1.5-mile oval and qualified in 14th position. Harvick was running well until disaster struck on lap 89 and he was collected in an 8-car pileup. He ended up only completing 115 laps of the 203-lap race and finished in 34th position.
"We ran pretty well for a while last year," Harvick said. "But we got caught up in the big wreck right before the rain delay. That pretty much stopped what we had going."
We asked Harvick what the team learned over February 20th and 21st at Atlanta Motor Speedway when they tested both his Busch car and the No. 30 Winston Cup car.
"We didn't learn a whole lot at first," Harvick said. "We didn't seem to get much done for most of the first day, but we did get a feel for the new tire. This year's tire is a lot more stable but it does make the car tend to push. Last year the cars were more twitchy. We need to find a way to make the car turn and while not being too hard on the right front tire. That's our plan of attack in practice."
"We did play with some stuff late in testing on the second day that seemed to help. We got it freed up a little more and took away some things that we can try this weekend."
How are the Cup and Busch cars different at Atlanta?
"The Cup cars are a lot more stable at Atlanta, most likely because of the longer wheel-base. It feels a lot more comfortable driving a Cup car at those high speeds because the car really sits down and sticks to the track."
Describe a lap at Atlanta
"Going into turn one you run over a series of washboard bumps that you have to contend with but then it's smooth the rest of the way around. The track really sets you in the seat the most of any track because it's so fast. Right on the white line is the fastest way around the track so you want to stay as low as possible on every lap. However in the Cup car, the groove tends to move around all over the place while in Busch the groove stays in the same place. Hopefully the groove will move around in both the Cup and Busch races because it makes for more side-by-side racing. That makes it a better show for the fans."
What are the keys to going well this weekend?
"First and foremost, we want to finish the race. We didn't finish last year and that hurts you in the points chase. It wasn't my favorite racetrack last year, but a lot has changed because you can't run wide open in the Busch car. It should be a much different style race this year with the increased horsepower."
Eight is Harvick's lucky number in Vegas
After qualifying 20th for last Sunday's Winston Cup race at Vegas, Harvick ran one of his most impressive races to date and finished eighth in just his second Winston Cup race.
"We were a little looser than I would have liked to be at Vegas at the end, but we had a great run. The Goodwrench guys gave me a great car that was really strong on the longer runs and once the race went green for a while that's where we made up ground. It was a total team effort."
12th in the Busch car in Vegas
"We never really did get the car handling well enough to run with the leaders. But to have had an off day and finish 12th, that's not too bad. We just have to learn and move onto the next one."
Atlanta Busch Car
Harvick will be competing in RCR chassis #12 at Atlanta. It was the same car he drove to a second place finish two weeks ago at Rockingham. He also drove the car at Richmond last fall (20th) and captured his third win of the 2000 season at Memphis behind the wheel.
1st in Points Harvick still maintains the points lead in the NASCAR Busch Series standings. He is now tied with Jeff Green with 467 points. It is his second week a top the standings.