Kevin Harvick The Ups and Downs of Dover HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 1, 2004) - For some reason GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick can't get a firm grip on Dover (Del.) International Speedway. In six attempts in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series...
The Ups and Downs of Dover
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 1, 2004) - For some reason GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick can't get a firm grip on Dover (Del.) International Speedway. In six attempts in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car since 2001, he's seen both good times and bad times while visiting the one-mile oval. It hasn't frustrated him as much as it has given him a reason to achieve more when he hits the racetrack nicknamed the "Monster Mile" for Sunday's MBNA America 400.
"Dover is one of my worst tracks when it comes to consistency," says the 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year. "We either run really well there or we stink. Last year was a perfect example. We went there in the spring, ran as hard as we could, but didn't get anything going and finished four laps down. Then, we went back in September and had our best day there in a Cup car. We ran up front, led some laps, and finished in the top-five for the first time. The two years before that, we were either good or bad, there was no two ways about it."
Harvick's rookie year was his best at Dover, posting two top-15 qualifying efforts and just as many top-10 finishes. In 2002, the 2000 NASCAR Busch Series champion could not find any rhythm and finished outside the top-25 both times. Last year was a split decision with a fourth place effort, following up a 27th place finish in the spring.
A one-day NASCAR Busch Series last week with his No. 21 Reese's racing team has given Harvick some extra track time, something he knows is crucial to finding the consistency needed to master the Monster Mile.
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Dover...
What makes Dover so difficult?
"The biggest thing is getting into a rhythm and getting comfortable in the car. It's probably one of the top-two places that you feel the speed of the racetrack in the seat because it forces you down in it so much. You have to unload pretty close and have a good first few laps, then go from there. You carry so much speed through the corners, and the exits off the corners are really narrow. That's usually how you can screw up there. You come off the turns and hit the right side of the car against the wall because as you come out of the corner, you're going uphill. The momentum throws you out towards the walls."
You posted your first top-five at Dover in the fall last year. What'd you do differently?
"We just got it (car set-up) right. Dover is one of my toughest tracks so it was good to go there and run in the top-five all day like we did. We unloaded close and just made small adjustments, really just picked at it but could never get the push out of it. We had a great car in the beginning and just a slight push in the center at the end. The team gave me great pit stops and helped to keep me in it all day. It was perfect because it was a huge day for us in the points last year."
Do you have to compensate for the track's concrete surface?
"Not really. It's just like riding your bike down the sidewalk. In fact, when you first get on the track it feels like you are driving down the sidewalk. The rubber fills up the cracks eventually, but it's not much fun those first couple of laps. The track's got a different feel. You are up on top of the racetrack more than you feel like you are when you are on the pavement. It's a different type of feel. I don't really know how to explain it."
How close do you actually come to smacking the wall?
"Every lap you come close because you are coming up out of a hole and the straightaway is up on a hill, so it just kind of throws you up into the wall. The track is so fast that if you miss your mark coming up off the corner you are going to hit the wall. There is not enough room for error. It's one of those places where you have to get up off the corner right every time, and if you miss your mark even a little bit, you are going to have a flat right side."
Are you looking forward to some fun during the Race of Champions at Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut?
"It's really cool to be able to go back and race on a lot of the short tracks around the country that I've never seen before. A lot of these (local) tracks have been responsible for molding some great race car drivers. It tends to bring back memories of when I was racing back home. All we did was live for the next Saturday night race."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Dover...
How much of Kevin's Busch Series test can you take to the NEXTEL Cup side?
"I don't know what all we'll be able to take because the cars are pretty different, but it definitely helps to get Kevin in the car early. It also gives us a chance to see how the new tires hold up on the concrete. I know he spent most of the day in race trim and hopefully got a better feel for the racetrack. That's always good for us."
Points of Interest...
* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No. 111 to the one-mile oval for this weekend's 400-mile race. This chassis, the same one they ran at Dover last spring, has been run twice this season at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
* As if running in both the NASCAR Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series races in Dover, Del., this weekend, isn't enough, Harvick will hop on a plane Saturday afternoon to participate in the Race of Champions at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl with Ken Schrader, Bill Elliott, and Kerry Earnhardt that night.
* Last September's MBNA America 400 was without a doubt the Bakersfield, Calif., native's most impressive effort to date at the Monster Mile. He attained his highest qualifying position of third (albeit by rain), highest finishing position of fourth and led laps (133) for the first time in his six starts.
* Start time for Sunday's MBNA America 400 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 400-lap event on FX 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.