Darlington: Kevin Harvick preview

KEVIN HARVICK A Nighttime Feast or Midnight Famine? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 3, 2005) - The Lady in Black takes on a whole new meaning this weekend for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, as Darlington (S.C.) Raceway trades its southern sunshine...

A Nighttime Feast or Midnight Famine?

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 3, 2005) - The Lady in Black takes on a whole new meaning this weekend for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, as Darlington (S.C.) Raceway trades its southern sunshine for a Palmetto State party under the lights.

The move from day to night is new for 2005. But it's not the first time the "Cup" cars have finished under the lights at the 1.366-mile egg shaped oval. Last year's Southern 500 started in the late afternoon and finished at dusk. The change was welcomed by GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick, though the Bakersfield, Calif., native is quick to recognize long standing NASCAR tradition.

"Darlington is one of our oldest and most historic tracks," said Harvick. "There is so much tradition there that it is hard to accept change as being a good thing. But I think the fans will enjoy seeing us race at night. With the sparks and the cool temperatures, it will make the 500-mile race more exciting. It should be an incredible show."

Harvick has had some incredible races of his own at Darlington Raceway. In his eight starts, Harvick has four top-10 finishes and came very close to winning the Southern 500 in 2003, finishing second. Last year, Harvick qualified 23rd, but quickly raced his way to an eighth place finish. While those runs have meant big points for the RCR owned team, they have had their share of disappointing finishes as well. The GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo has finished 30th or worse, three of the last five starts.

"It seems like Darlington is feast or famine for this team," Harvick added. "When we avoid trouble, we always run in the top-10. But if we get into the wall or struggle mechanically, then we never seem to be able to fight our way back. The one thing I have seen this year is that this team is willing to fight back and get the best finish we can. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble and run up-front all night long. That's what championship teams do week in and week out."

Points of Interest...

* Chasing Once Again...Harvick moved into the top-10 with his 12th place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Last year, the 'Chase for the NEXTEL Cup' came down to just 10 drivers. Harvick spent much of the year in the top-10, until a disappointing finish at California Speedway with just two races to go took him out of the transfer spot. The No. 29 driver is currently eighth in points, 285 markers out of first.

* A Special Place for Miller...Darlington Raceway was the sight of one of the most memorable finishes in recent NASCAR history. In 2004, Ricky Craven banged doors with Kurt Busch at the finish line to score the win by mere inches. Craven's crew chief that day was GM Goodwrench chief engineer (and substitute crew chief) Scott Miller.

* What Ya' Haulin'...The GM Goodwrench transporter will unload chassis No. 137 at Darlington Raceway.

* TV and Radio... Start time for Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 500-mile event on FOX starts at 7:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 7:00 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 Raceway...

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."

Are pit stops going to be a bigger concern on Saturday night?

"Pit stops will definitely play a big role. With tires, we try to take it easy. Instead of trying to kill the car early, we take it easy 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 they're gone, you have to rely so much more on pit stops and everything else."

Do you anticipate any change in the track racing at night?

"I'm not sure it will change a lot. I'm sure we will have to adjust what we typically run there, but it will be the same for everybody. This track is so dependent on tires that once you lose grip, it really doesn't matter that the track is changing. At that point you are just trying to keep it in the groove and off the walls. I know the track will be really fast and probably just as slick over a long run. The weather will be cooler, so that part is always better for the driver."

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

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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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven