Darlington II: Kevin Harvick preview

Kevin Harvick Letting go of the Lady in Black HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 10, 2004) - In an effort to expand the reach of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series audience for 2005, NASCAR officials announced earlier this season that the second...

Kevin Harvick
Letting go of the Lady in Black

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 10, 2004) - In an effort to expand the reach of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series audience for 2005, NASCAR officials announced earlier this season that the second race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway would be replaced with a second event at (Fort Worth) Texas Motor Speedway in November. That means this weekend's Mountain Dew Southern 500 will be the last Fall race at the 1.366-mile oval, a thought that GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick is not sure exactly how to take.

"I've got mixed emotions about not coming back to Darlington twice next year," says the 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year. "It's always been one of the tracks on the circuit where you knew the racing was going to be good. It's a lot of fun for the fans to watch and usually comes down to last lap battles. I really feel like our GM Goodwrench racing team is really getting close to a win there so to do it in the last Fall race would be pretty special.

"We have to trust that NASCAR is doing what's right for the sport," adds Harvick in regards to next year's realignment. "They're doing what they feel is best for everyone that is involved. Before we go and talk bad about it, I say we really need to give it a chance and see what happens. Their vision has worked for the new points system, at least for the most part. I do know that the races in Texas have always been sellouts since I've been going there, so there's no reason why they won't be able to do it twice next year."

Harvick will look to do what he's always wanted in Sunday's Fall finale at the "Track too Tough to Tame" - win the coveted Southern 500. In seven starts his performance is impressive, with two top-five and four top-10 finishes. Those are statistics good enough to make him think twice about not getting to see the Lady in Black twice next year.

Points of Interest...

* Darlington Remembered...The Bakersfield, Calif., native's run in Phoenix, Ariz., last Sunday was similar to what happened in the spring race at Darlington this past March. After struggling early with a tight racecar, he battled back in the final 100 laps to finish eighth and post his second top-10 run in his last two tries.

* More Testing...The No. 29 GM Goodwrench racing team is spending two days testing at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway this week in preparation for the final race of the inaugural NEXTEL Cup Series season. Harvick is splitting time between his Richard Childress Racing Busch and Cup cars in race trim around the 1.5-mile speedway.

* Did You Know...Harvick's best finish at Darlington's egg-shaped oval came last year in its final Labor Day race? He led on three separate occasions en route to a memorable runner-up finish to Terry Labonte.

* The New Chase...Now that Harvick has been eliminated from the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, there's another chase on his horizon. The battle for 11th in the NEXTEL Cup Series standings is on with Harvick currently in the 14th position, 279 points outside of Jamie McMurray who sits in 11th and 20 ahead of Bobby Labonte who is 15th.

* Off the Truck...Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No. 111 to the Palmetto State for this weekend's 367-lap event. This chassis, different from what they ran at Darlington in the spring, has been run six times this season (most recently in Loudon, N.H.) and posted one top-five, three top-10 and six top-20 finishes.

* TV and Radio...Start time for Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST. TV coverage of the 500-mile event on NBC starts at 1:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 12:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Darlington...

What's your impression of Darlington? "Darlington's tough, but I like it. It's a very narrow, fast racetrack that has a lot of history and is very prestigious to win. It's one of those places where I'd like to win a NEXTEL Cup race. Keeping the car off the walls is a key when you go to Darlington. You've got to get in a rhythm there and be consistent over the long runs. You have to take care of the fenders, tires and sides of the car."

Give us a lap around the racetrack?

"Going into turns one and two you barely let off the throttle to avoid hitting the wall. You are wide open through the middle, then take a breath out of the gas and just kind of shoot the gap. You try as hard as possible not to hit the outside wall. It's so narrow and so fast that you are only inches away when you get in the gas again. After you get through the backstretch, you find turns three and four are a bit different. You have to let up a lot more getting in and use a little brake. With new tires you can run just about anywhere, but after they wear off you are right up by the wall."

How neat was it to see Terry Labonte win this race last year?

"That was really cool. Terry is one of the most well-respected guys in the garage and I remember last year sitting back in second thinking if I pass him people are going to hate me. It was pretty awesome to see him win the last Southern 500 on Labor Day with all the great tradition we've had there. He's a legend and he's helped make the sport what it is today."

Are pit stops or tires going to be a bigger concern on Sunday?

"Pit stops will definitely play a big role. This race last year and back in the Spring, we had great days in the pits. We'd gain two or three spots and come out way ahead. With tires, we try to take it easy. Instead of trying to kill the car early, we take it the first 50 laps and just be patient. You learn quickly at Darlington that you're going to have to put on four tires every time you come in. Once there gone, you have to rely so much more on pit stops and everything else."

No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Darlington...

What will it take to be competitive at Darlington?

"The most important thing at Darlington is having a good handling car. If you can go in with a good set-up and keep the forward bite when the tires go away, we'll have a better chance at surviving. Qualifying is important as well as consistent pit stops."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Jamie McMurray
Teams Richard Childress Racing