Reigning Daytona 500 Champion Kevin Harvick Ready For Defense * Harvick Returns To Track After Eventful 2007 Season * Jeff Burton: 'Racing Today Is Better Than It's Ever Been' * Toyota Has Eight Of The Top 10 Times in Monday Morning Session of...
Reigning Daytona 500 Champion Kevin Harvick Ready For Defense
* Harvick Returns To Track After Eventful 2007 Season
* Jeff Burton: 'Racing Today Is Better Than It's Ever Been'
* Toyota Has Eight Of The Top 10 Times in Monday Morning Session of NASCAR Preseason Thunder
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 14, 2008) -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) has a reputation for being a guy who will race any time, any where -- whether it's running his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship team or following up his victory in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte by running in a NASCAR Camping World Series race in Iowa the next day.
So what else would the defending Daytona 500 champion do with his offseason?
"We raced every weekend at my house," said Harvick of the asphalt go-kart track at his house that drew 10-12 people from the neighborhood on a regular basis. "We started a couple years ago. It's something we've become addicted to. We enjoy it. It's time to get away from everything, but do something you like to do."
Harvick's 2007 eventful season included his victory in the Daytona 500 by just .02 seconds over Mark Martin, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race win, qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, finishing fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings and celebrating Ron Hornaday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title for Kevin Harvick Inc.
"My wife did make me go on vacation for three days," Harvick said, "but I'm used to moving and going and having things happen all the time. And when you all of a sudden stop, it's hard to keep yourself entertained. We just kept the pace up and tried to stay home and do everything we could."
The offseason ended Monday morning for Harvick, as he was the first to take the track for the second week of testing for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams at Daytona International Speedway. Those that were in the even-number positions in the car owner standings as of July 17, 2007, will test through Wednesday, July 16. Odd-number position cars tested last week.
NASCAR Preseason Thunder begins the lead-up to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. As a member of the exclusive club of past winners, Harvick has special appreciation for the task at hand.
"It's all everybody wanted to talk about -- whether you won the last race or two weeks ago or whatever you had done," Harvick said. "And being able to be part of the 50th anniversary celebration with all the past winners is something that's been pretty cool to be part of."
Harvick gave Richard Childress his first Daytona 500 victory since Dale Earnhardt in 1998. Harvick will attempt to become the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 since Sterling Marlin accomplished the feat in 1994-95. Since Marlin, the Daytona 500 winner has finished in the top 10 of the following year's race just three times (Earnhardt, second in 1999; Michael Waltrip, fifth in 2002; and Dale Earnhardt Jr., third in 2005).
"It's definitely something you never forget," Harvick said. "I walked into my wife's office the other day and she was on YouTube watching the race, and I thought that was pretty cool because it still gives me the chills every time I watch it."
Harvick also enjoyed a new experience from the other side of the pit wall in 2007. Hornaday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship was the first for KHI and has given Harvick additional insight on what it takes to win a title.
"Ron has a great attitude with his people," said Harvick, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion for Richard Childress Racing. "I've tried over the offseason to apply that and come in with a better attitude with my team. I think this morning everything went really good, and the guys are working with a little bit of a spring in their step."
Harvick will field one full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series car, while driving the second car himself part-time. KHI will also again field two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rides.
"The goal is to have fun, be competitive, and win races," Harvick said. "That's what we built it for. I like to be at the shop and around the race cars. To me, it's almost like playing a game to try to put all the people in the right places, and to try to put the right chemistry of people together."
Burton Speaks Out ... Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) has heard some of the recent talk about the sport that it isn't like it 'used to be.' And he doesn't agree with it.
"We have more competitive teams today than we've ever had," said Burton, who followed his RCR teammate Harvick to the Daytona International Speedway infield media center during Monday's lunch break. "We have more competitive drivers today than we've ever had. You can talk about the good old days all you want. The racing today is better than it's ever been. Those are the facts.
"If there's something else that has caught the attention of spectators, given time I believe we'll get them back because ultimately, we do have good racing. Ultimately, we do have competitive racing. We have great viewership. We have great spectators. We have fans that are passionate about it. We have a high level of expectations from our spectators and our fans, which we should. I think this sport is pretty solid. The interesting thing to me is when you ask -- and I've done that this fall when I was in a position where I was around a bunch of race fans in different situations, and I asked them, 'What do you think?' None of them ever complained about the quality of racing.
Burton also talked about the magnitude of the Daytona 500. Both his brother Ward (2002) and teammate Harvick (2007) have Daytona 500 victories. Jeff Burton's best finish in the event is a second to Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota) in 2000. He was third last year.
Over Christmas, Jeff Burton stopped by his brother's house and saw Ward's Daytona 500 trophy.
"It was pretty special," Jeff Burton said. "Having that trophy sitting there, that's the biggest race you can possibly win in our sport. That's something that no one can ever take away from him, and that's something he'll always cherish and his family will. That's a special thing."
Between testing and banquets, Burton's offseason was pretty full -- up to a point.
"Christmas got here pretty quick," Burton said. "Over the last two weeks, I didn't do anything. So I was either doing a lot or really doing nothing."
Pit Stops ... Toyotas were the early front-runners during Monday morning's test session. Eight of the top 10 times were posted by Toyota, led by overall leader Jarrett at 184.987 mph (48.652 seconds). Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP/National Guard Chevrolet) was second fastest at 184.646 (48.742) and Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Dodge) was third at 184.305 (48.832).
Jarrett's second car was fifth, followed by Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota), two of the cars for Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota), Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota), and Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota).
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch this week's NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.
Session II: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams in even positions in car owner standings as of July 17, 2007
What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the 2008 Daytona 500
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Monday, Jan. 14 through Wednesday, Jan. 16.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Who: Bobby Labonte, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Sam Hornish Jr., Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Scott Riggs, David Gilliland, Dave Blaney, Bill Elliott, Brian Vickers, Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Fuller, Norm Benning, Stanton Barrett, Carl Long, Boris Said, Ken Schrader, Eric McClure, Derrike Cope, Sterling Marlin.