Kevin Harvick Harvick the Hot Pick for Chicago HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 6, 2004) - Going off of past statistics, there's really only one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver you could pick in the office pool to win Sunday's Tropicana 400 at...
Harvick the Hot Pick for Chicago
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 6, 2004) - Going off of past statistics, there's really only one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver you could pick in the office pool to win Sunday's Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway - GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick. The winner of two of the first three events run at the one and a half-mile oval in Joliet, it's hard not to tap someone who's been so dominant, led the most laps (23.4%) and possess the best average finishing position (6.3) of all NEXTEL Cup Series drivers.
"For some reason Chicago just fits my driving style," says the two-time Tropicana 400 winner. "When we unloaded the first time with the Busch and Cup cars back in 2001, it fit my driving style for whatever reason. I really like it because you can run right on the bottom of the racetrack. It's still new for the most part. Aside from a couple of little bumps in turns three and four, it's really smooth and once the second groove comes in you can pass pretty easily."
The timing is perfect for Harvick to get that first win this weekend. Of his four wins on NASCAR's elite circuit, only one has come in the first half of the season, the other three coming in the summer months. Last year, he was on a tear throughout the early part of the second half of the season, racking up three consecutive runner-up finishes following his Brickyard 400 win in August at Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway.
"A win would be great right now," adds Harvick. "For some reason, we just get hot during the summertime. I don't know if it just takes us that long to get everything together or that we just seem to be better the second time around we go to some of these racetracks. What I do know is that Chicago has been good to me early in my career. I'd love to get another win and keep this team where we need to be, within that top-10 in points with 10 races to go so that we have a chance to make a run at that championship trophy."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Chicago...
What's unique about the racetrack?
"Probably that you go through the corners pretty much wide open. You let off sooner than you do at most places, and you drive it all the way through the corners under power. That's not extremely different from other tracks, but there is a lot more throttle there than at most places. You get back in it (the gas) a lot quicker than you do at most places."
Do you think you've got it figured out better than anyone else has?
"I think everybody has got the driving part figured out. Right now, it's more about the little things, like shock package. Shocks are probably the biggest part of it. It's really more about picking apart your racecar and coming up with that unique set-up. We had it the first two years we went to Chicago and were pretty close last year, but Ryan (Newman) was in a class all his own there at the end. We ended up running out of fuel."
What's missing from a win for this team this season?
"I think this team has just been a little bit off this year and we've made some mistakes that have kept us from obtaining that first win. Whether it was a loose lug nut in Sonoma (Calif.) or running out of gas in Las Vegas (Nev.), we just haven't had a weekend where everything worked in our favor. With the racing as close as it is in the Cup garage right now, you're not going to get that win unless everything works out just right. I think we could all use a win and it's nice to go into a place like Chicago where we're run well and won before. As long as we can put everything together and not have any of those little hiccups, I'd say we'll be one to contend with for sure."
What's kept your DNF streak going for so long?
"Building good race cars has always been one of the fortes of RCR. They do whatever it takes to finish the race no matter what. That's what keeps us in a lot of these championship battles. We've struggled a little bit this year, but we've been running at the end of every race. We have to make sure we make laps. We have to be reliable in the motor department. The guys on the crew make sure we do that. In the Busch Series we hold that record for the most consecutive races without a DNF, I believe. That's always something we've been pretty good at."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Chicago...
What's your mindset for Sunday's race?
"The biggest thing is that we know we've got a chance to win because we've done it before in the past. That automatically gives the guys on this team a boost and I know it does the same for Kevin. We're taking a brand new car to Chicago, one that has not seen any action on a racetrack. We've put the latest and greatest body on it, trying to go off of what we feel like we've been missing as far as set-up over the course of the first half of the season. It'll go on the chassis dynameter this week and hopefully we'll be good right off the truck."
Points of Interest...
* Out Front...Harvick is the only Cup Series driver to have led in each of the three visits the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has made to Chicagoland Speedway. Out of the 801 total laps run, he's been at the helm for 188, or 23.4%, more than any other driver.
* DNF Streaking...The no DNF streak continues for Harvick. His 14th place finish in Daytona Beach, Fla., puts his streak at 56 consecutive races, tying Jeff Gordon for the longest streak in the modern era.
* Runnin' on Empty...Harvick's chance for three consecutive top-three finishes in Chicago was spoiled when he ran out of gas with three laps to go running second in last year's Tropicana 400. He instead finished 17th, one lap down.
* Busch Leaguer...The 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion will run the Twister 300 Busch Series race on Saturday, his 11th race of the season in the No. 21 Reese's Chevrolet outfitted by Richard Childress Racing.
* The Chase...With nine races to go until the Chase for the Championship, Harvick sits 10th in the standings with 2,095 points. He's 17 markers behind Ryan Newman who sits ninth, and 111 in front of rookie Kasey Kahne who sits 11th.
* Off the Truck...Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No. 125 to Land of Lincoln for this weekend's 400-mile event. This is a brand new chassis that has not left the RCR compound since it was finished early this week.
* TV and Radio...Start time for Sunday's Tropicana 400 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 267-lap event on NBC starts at 3:30 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 3:30 p.m. as well. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.