Donlavey: Team singing in harmony By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5, 1999) To some it was a bit surprising when legendary NASCAR Winston Cup Series car owner Junie Donlavey plucked Mike Harmon out of the Slim Jim All Pro Series, a...
Donlavey: Team singing in harmony By Brett Borden
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5, 1999) To some it was a bit surprising when legendary NASCAR Winston Cup Series car owner Junie Donlavey plucked Mike Harmon out of the Slim Jim All Pro Series, a part of the NASCAR Touring Division, to fill the seat in his No. 90 Big Daddy's Ford Tauruses this year. It shouldn't have been -- Donlavey has always shown a propensity for giving drivers a chance that they might not get anywhere else. And it has paid off, with three of those drivers going on to win Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR's premier division. Now Donlavey, a veteran of 50 years in NASCAR, has assembled a crew that he hopes will allow Harmon to become the fourth of his drivers to do so. After their first round of tests at Daytona International Speedway, Donlavey likes what he sees in his Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate. "I knew that Mike Harmon coming out of the All-Pro Series was gonna be a top driver," Donlavey said. "We were a little apprehensive coming down here on how he would adapt to Daytona and to our cars. But after running for two days we're feeling real good about it. "Every time he goes out he's picking up. He's getting a better feel for the track and a better feel for the cars. He's really working better than I thought (he would)." As for team chemistry, Donlavey says so far, so good. "The whole group gets along real well," he said. "And they're all working together and it's been a very pleasant trip." It's been an amazing trip for Harmon, who hit a top speed of 187.274 in the fastest of two cars he was testing Monday at Daytona. "We didn't even have a sponsor for our All-Pro car last year and here we are testing for the Daytona 500," Harmon said. "It's very exciting and the car is doing great. I'm getting more comfortable in the car and I'm trying to do my best and every time we try to pick up a little speed it comes around. Right now everything's on track and it's looking really good." Of course, when testing for the first time at a vaunted venue like Daytona, it helps to have a boss that has been around longer than the track itself. "(Junie) has had three rookie of the years," Harmon said. "He's a great coach. He just keeps me patient, and calmed down. Just drive the car and get comfortable. He's not putting any pressure on me to go fast and that's a big help. We're picking up speed each time. He's the professor. Whatever he says I do and so far it's worked out wonderful." But not as wonderful as that feeling the team will have if it makes the Daytona 500. Harmon says it's not too soon to think about it. "As far as starting the race, it's unreal," he said. "Once we get in the car and crank the engines all that goes away. That's just the way it is when you're a racer. Maybe the night before or the day after it'll be pretty emotional."
Source: NASCAR Online