Harvick No Longer the Underdog as Chase Heads to Dover HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 19, 2006) -- GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick's ascent to the top of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings marks both a career highlight and significant milestone for...
Harvick No Longer the Underdog as Chase Heads to Dover
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 19, 2006) -- GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick's ascent to the top of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings marks both a career highlight and significant milestone for his team, Richard Childress Racing (RCR). It's the first time in Harvick's six-year Cup career he has led the standings and the first time an RCR driver has led the points since Mike Skinner March 1999.
"The roll we are on is incredible," said Harvick. "If you look at how we have run and the finishes we have had, the whole year has just been phenomenal. If it ended right now, I think we would be happy and know we have really improved upon where we were in the past. Right now we are having fun and trying to race to win. At the beginning of the year, nobody would have expected us to be sitting in this spot, so we have kind of run from the underdog role from day one. It has kind of been nice to fly under the radar and just have fun with it."
After consecutive victories at Richmond and New Hampshire, Harvick has emerged as the early Chase favorite heading to Dover and is riding a wave of confidence and momentum. He has won three out of the last six races to assume the lead by 35 points over second-place Denny Hamlin.
"I think it is a Catch-22," said Harvick of the team's recent string of successes. "You want to temper yourself to the point to where you are excited, but not overly excited. We are excited that we have turned our organization around, and we feel like we can race for the championship, but I have also been on the arrogant and cocky side of it in years past. You don't want to stick your foot in your mouth. Maybe at the end of the year, you can become a little bit proud of what you have done, but right now we just want to keep doing what we are doing. We don't want to fall on our face. We want to stay competitive and contend for the championship. Sure, we are confident in our cars. I am confident, (crew chief) Todd (Berrier) is confident, everybody is confident, but we aren't going to get cocky about it."
Harvick also leads the NASCAR Busch Series standings by 619 points and could become the first driver to win two NASCAR national series titles in the same season. Harvick leads second-place Carl Edwards, another NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver running full schedules in both series, in the NASCAR Busch Series standings. The 2006 NASCAR Busch Series title would be Harvick's second. His first Busch Series championship came in 2001, when he also went on to win Cup Series rookie-of-the-year honors.
Harvick has five top-10 finishes in 11 career starts at Dover. He earned his best finish to date with a third-place result in June.
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick about Dover International Speedway and the Chase...
What is your plan for the remaining nine races?
Right now, we are doing what we have done all year, which is race week to week - at least I do. I know (the crew members) have a lot of planning and work to do at the shop, and I feel like they have laid out their plan with the cars and how we want to race them. We have stuck to our plan pretty much through everything. We are looking forward to going wherever it is we have to go and see where it falls. We are just going to race as hard as we can and take the most out of the weekend."
Do you feel like your success has been a long time coming?
"When I started in Cup in 2001, we had really good cars. In 2003, we were in the middle of the championship race and had some trouble there toward the end of the year and fell back. The last couple of years, we have been hit or miss and struggled for the most part and missed the Chase. These guys had a good plan going in to the end of last year and the first part of this year, and it has continuously gotten better. There is really not just one thing that is better. I think our cars are better, our bodies, our motors. I feel like I am in a better frame of mind, and I feel like we have got experience, too. Every year, you gain a little more experience, and you feel like you know how to handle situations better."
Of the nine tracks remaining in the Chase, which one are you most concerned about?
"If you look at the past record, there are probably several that on paper we haven't performed well on, but I feel like the racetracks we are going to, we have ran well at this year. The mile and a halfs we have run well. Dover we had a chance to win the race. Talladega can go either way. You can flip over or you can win the race. You have a 50-50 chance going there. I have been conservative in the past, and I am not going to do that this time. We are going to race as hard as we can and however it shakes out, it shakes out. Whether we have been good in the past or bad in the past, I think each week is different from here on out."
Points of Interest...
Chase for the NEXTEL Cup...Harvick won at New Hampshire International Speedway last weekend to take the lead in the standings for the first time in his career. He ranked 13th in the standings at this point last season. If he sustains his hot streak, he would become the first driver in NASCAR history to win both the Busch and Cup Series titles in the same year. Harvick and fifth- ranked Jeff Burton are the first drivers to represent team owner Richard Childress in the Chase. Harvick has ranked among the top 10 the last 21 races and has 15 top-10 finishes in 2006. Harvick also has been running at the finish in the last 39 races, the longest current streak.