The GM Goodwrench Service Plus team continued working to keep Rookie of the Year contender Kevin Harvick in the top-10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings. With a 10th place showing this past Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, the...
The GM Goodwrench Service Plus team continued working to keep Rookie of the Year contender Kevin Harvick in the top-10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings. With a 10th place showing this past Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, the team has moved into ninth place, their highest position of the 2001 season.
The term "unloaded off the truck fast" seems to be a cliche, but for Harvick his Chevrolet was just that, FAST! After the first lap of Friday's practice, the No. 29 sat atop the speed chart for most of the two-hour session. As the team prepared to run one final qualifying run before the clock ran out, Harvick felt oil under his Goodyear tires and quickly pulled the No. 29 back into his garage stall. As his crew inspected the car, chief engine builder, Danny Lawrence quickly noticed oil dripping from his power plant. Not wanting to take any chances, the decision was quickly made to put another RCR horse under the hood. The crew went to work knowing they had about 90 minutes to complete the change and get the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet through inspection and on the line for their qualifying attempt. The change did not adversely affect the No. 29 car because Harvick was able to post the eighth fastest time in qualifying.
Sunday morning was shrouded with rain clouds and sprinkles, but quickly cleared as the 150,000 race fans packed the road into Brooklyn, Mich., and Michigan International Speedway. Harvick had an unusual day with a camera crew following his every move for a Sunday night special on FOX featuring behind the scenes footage of Harvick on race day. The rookie's day started with an interview atop the garage suites with Winston Kelly, then he was shuffled via golf cart, with camera crew in tow, out to greet 2,500 ACDelco customers in the hospitality tent. Once he finished signing autographs for hundreds of fans, it was off to the GMSPO suite where he enjoyed a breakfast visit with company executives and clients.
Shortly after that, Harvick attended the drivers meeting where special guest Muhammad Ali was on hand and the NASCAR crowd acknowledged him with a standing ovation. Afterwards, Harvick slipped into a private room and visited with the legend.
Now, it was time for the action. As the green flag fell on the 200-lap event, the GM Goodwrench Service Plus team felt good about their chances in the race. Within 20 laps, two yellow flags had waved and crew chief Kevin Hamlin made the call to bring his rookie into the pits to top-off the fuel cell. Hamlin, aware that this race has come down to fuel mileage more than once in the past, was preparing for it, just in case.
That stop put Harvick in the middle of the field for the restart, a place Harvick would rather not have been. It didn't take long before the yellow waved once again and the crew gave their driver four new Goodyear tires and topped off the tank again. On the restart, Harvick started his move to the front by taking position after position and climbing his way into the top-five with 80 laps remaining.
As the driver came down pit road for service on lap 128, he pulled his Chevrolet into the pits for gas and tires when the engine stalled. After unsuccessfully attempting to restart the engine, Harvick had to use the trusty jump start as the GM Goodwrench Service Plus crew pushed the No. 29 down pit road until Harvick popped the clutch and continued on his way. Even though that mishap cost him several positions, it didn't take long for him to get back on the wheel and bust into the top-five once again.
With 40 laps to go, Hamlin called Harvick into the pits and he got in and out with no problems. Shortly thereafter, when the first of three caution flags came out before the field had cycled through the pit stops, Harvick was relegated to the tail end of the lead lap. He then found himself running in 13th position.
When the final restart came with seven laps remaining, Harvick put his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet on the edge and worked the final laps like a seasoned veteran. He attacked ever corner like it was the last and when the checkered waved he had himself, for the third week in a row, a top-10 finishing position.
"I made some rookie mistakes today," said Harvick. "When we came in for a stop after halfway, I stalled the car and couldn't get it started. I did what I do when leaving the pits in the ACDelco car on the Busch Series, but these cars react differently. But I think I've got it figured out now."
The 10th place finish not only helps Harvick climb to ninth in the points standings, just 87 points out of eighth, it gives him a solid lead in the Rookie of the Year standings with 171 points to 147over Kurt Busch.