Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team return to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 as the defending race winners. In last year’s event, Harvick led just two laps -- lap 5 and lap 200 – and took the checkered flag with a 0.011-second margin of victory over Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Chevrolet.
I think we should be good at Talladega.
Harvick nearly swept both races at Talladega Superspeedway last year. He started 14th in the October race and moved all the way up to first by lap 2. He led a total of 12 laps and was passed for the top spot as the caution flag waved on the final lap of the race by his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.
The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team will utilize chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Harvick led twice for a total of five laps with this car at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February’s Daytona 500 before the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet’s engine expired on lap 22.
· In addition to his duties in the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Harvick is also scheduled to compete in the No. 4 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) entry for Kevin Harvick Incorporated at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday.
Kevin Harvick discusses racing at Talladega Superspeedway and the two-car draft:
You hardly got to run at Daytona since your car’s engine expired just 22 laps into the race, but did you get a feel for your car and say “We’re going to smoke them in Talladega?” “I don’t know if anyone’s going to smoke anybody at Talladega. In all of the practices and races leading up to the race in Daytona, the cars were really fast. We had a good Speedweeks all the way up until the 500. Then the bottom fell out and we had a little problem with the engine. Those things are going to happen. I think we should be good at Talladega. We’ll see where all the rules fall as far as where NASCAR thinks we need to be with our car package and cooling packages and things like that. That will affect how we race. Based on everything we did in Speedweeks and the first 20 laps of the Daytona 500, everything was rock solid.”
There has been a lot of development that has gone into the ECR engine. Is it shocking when something goes wrong with one of them? “Well it was 152 races in between engine failures for the No. 29 team. There are just too many parts and pieces and too many tolerances that are way too tight to not have something go wrong every once in a while. I felt like they did a great job analyzing everything and understanding where the problem was and what they needed to do going into Talladega. Everyone feels fairly comfortable with what we’re doing with the engines.”
What did you think of the two-car draft? “Sometimes when race tracks are repaved, they develop new characteristics. I think when you take the grip option out of a race you can do things with a race car that people don’t necessarily plan on. I go back, and I look at when I won the Daytona 500. I was pushed all the way through Turns 1 and 2 and all the way down the backstretch by Matt Kenseth, and that’s what won the race. We just weren’t able to do it through the corners at full speed like we are now because the race track was bumpy and not as much grip. Now that you take that grip out, you can push each other all the way around. It’s a different concept, and it takes full commitment from the guy in the back because you can’t see what’s going on in front of you. You just have to feel the guy’s car in front of you as to how hard you push. As drivers and teams, you try to race under the conditions that are presented to you that weekend. New race tracks are tough with asphalt because it takes the grip out of the equation.”
We know what the pusher has to do, but what is the responsibility of the driver in front of the pusher? “There’s a lot of different scenarios that are presented as to where you are around with cars, as to how much you have to let off the brakes and things like that, that keep the rear car attached to you because when the air starts moving around other cars it becomes a little more difficult, but when you’re by yourself, you hold it wide open, and everyone pushes and off you go.”
You have to be paying attention the whole time.
What’s it like to be the pusher, when all you see in front of you is a blade? “It’s just full commitment from the back because you can’t see anything in front of the guy in front of you. You just hold it on the mat, and if you hit something, you hit something. The only way to go as fast as you can is to try and stay square on the guy in front of you. The guy in front of you has as much responsibility just holding his car straight and trying to make as little movement as possible. There’s a lot of responsibility on both sides, and it doesn’t take much to mess it up and wreck the guy in front of you. You have to be paying attention the whole time.”
What did you think about the radio communications at Daytona? Not only were teammates talking to each other, but drivers from other teams could pipe in and talk to you. Do you want anyone else doing that to you? “Anyone that gets on another team’s radio frequency has to get that approved by that team. The only thing that makes me nervous is if we get to Homestead, and your radio has someone else on it, and things aren’t working so well with your radio. It seems like a lot of confusion, and it seems like it will cause more problems that are necessary down the road. Hopefully, that gets addressed, and we can move forward.”