Kevin Harvick The Learning Curve HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 4, 2004) - Like any event in any sport, it's hard to know how to win before you really get the chance to experience it. A perfect example is the Bud Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) ...
The Learning Curve
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 4, 2004) - Like any event in any sport, it's hard to know how to win before you really get the chance to experience it. A perfect example is the Bud Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. A unique format with breaks and sprints, if you haven't been in that kind of situation, it's hard to know exactly where to be when it comes down to the finish. In fact, in the 25 shootouts that have been run since 1979, only four drivers have won in their first attempt.
Last year's Shootout was the first for 2001 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and a majority of his No. 29 GM Goodwrench racing team. With a new Chevrolet Monte Carlo body style, smaller field, mandatory caution, and five-minute break, no one was sure what exactly to expect. Even though they churned out two great pit stops and were a contender up until the end, they didn't get themselves in the perfect position to be the one to take the checkered flag.
As it turns out, that was the worst performance of the season for Team GM Goodwrench in a race at Daytona, notching a fourth place finish in the rain-shortened Daytona 500 that next weekend and a ninth place finish in the Pepsi 400 in July. Proof that they learned a lot in 2003 about how their silver and black racing machine handles on the superspeedways. That learning curve experience makes them one to reckon with come Saturday night.
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Daytona...
What was your first Bud Shootout experience like?
"It was some wild racing. With the new Chevrolet body style, I could pretty much do anything I wanted to on the track. I probably could've had a better run, though. I just didn't capitalize on some opportunities I had because I wasn't exactly sure how the car was going to react. The car was great, and I had the team to thank for that. All in all, I never got myself in a spot where I could go for it all. I thought I might have had a chance towards the end, but then I got stuck in the middle. I definitely learned some things about the set-up of the race that will help me this time around. The smaller field really makes you evaluate how you approach it. It should be fun."
Talk about why you're in the Shootout - your pole at Indianapolis Motor
"That was pretty special. I'm not the greatest qualifier in the world, and to get a lap like that and sit on the pole at the Brickyard was pretty cool. For myself and the guys to do that was a total team effort. I really felt I had nothing to do with sitting on the pole at Daytona in 2002. Those were strictly racecars and power and tricks here and there. When you go and do something at Indy and you know everybody has put as much emphasis on that race as they do for Daytona, it really makes you feel like you've accomplished something big."
Is it important to run well, even though it's a non-points event?
"Yes, I think so. First off, it's a great way to get some race practice in before qualifying and the big one next weekend. Also, everyone is in it to win, whether there are points involved or not, because this race kicks off our season. It's a big race, and to win the thing would definitely get the ball rolling for the entire GM Goodwrench team."
Does the extra bit of racing help remove the rust of the off-season?
"I think it definitely does. After testing, you're ready to go out and see how the car is going to react around other cars on the track. You can only learn so much from testing, and after a while you need times like this to make sure you're going in the right direction. It's really when you get in the action with cars around you that you know it's time to go racing again. All we can do is hope we're ready. Honestly, I've never felt as prepared for a season as I do this year. I know everybody at RCR has done everything in their power to get ready for 2004."
What do you think of the unusual qualifying format for the Daytona 500?
"To tell you the truth, I'm not that big a fan of it. It makes for a long two weekends of racing that could easily be pushed into one. However, I understand that NASCAR is trying to make an effort to build excitement around the biggest race of our season. The change in the way we qualify just makes it a little more fun for the fans. Hopefully, I'll qualify better than I did last year. That way I won't have to worry about running well in the Twin 125s and risk the chance of getting caught up in another wreck like we did last year with Kurt Busch."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on the Bud Shootout...
Can you have a strategy for this type of race?
"I don't think it's as much of a strategy as it is that you make sure your car is ready to go as hard as it can for the different circuits. I don't think we were as prepared as we could have been last year with the new body style and short sprints. It didn't take us long to get better though, and we showed that with how stout we were in the superspeedway races. We're better prepared this time around. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
Points of Interest...
* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No.87 down to the 2.5-mile superspeedway for Saturday night's 26th annual kick-off to Speedweeks. This chassis is the same one Harvick finished fourth with in the Daytona 500 last year.
* Richard Childress Racing Enterprises, Inc. won six Bud Shootouts with Dale Earnhardt since the inception of the non-points event in 1979 (1980,1986,1988,1991,1993,1995).
* Four of those wins kicked off championship seasons for the dynamic duo, in 1980, 1986, 1991, and 1993.
* Start time for Saturday night's Bud Shootout is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET. TV coverage of the 70-lap event on TNT starts at 8:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 7:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.