Harvick pleased with "Test in the West" HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 4, 2005) -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo hit the track for the first time in 2005 during a four-day "test in the west." Harvick,...
Harvick pleased with "Test in the West"
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 4, 2005) -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo hit the track for the first time in 2005 during a four-day "test in the west." Harvick, who skipped NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series restrictor plate testing at Daytona International Speedway earlier in the year, returned to the seat of his Richard Childress Racing Chevy, along with crew chief Todd Berrier and the rest of team GM Goodwrench.
When reports surfaced that the Goodwrench Chevy struggled in Daytona practice, many in the garage area, including several drivers, pointed fingers at Harvick for not helping the team. But that was not the case according to Harvick. "We were never planning on testing at Daytona," said Harvick. "I was hunting in Arkansas with GM Goodwrench and Real Tree as part of a promotion from last year's Bristol race. When the No. 29 went to the test, our cars were sitting in the shop, painted, and ready for the Daytona 500. A lot of people probably don't understand. I didn't go. Todd (Berrier) didn't go. It was more of an R&D car for the motor shop. People can point fingers if they like, but I know for a fact that both No. 29 cars were sitting in the shop, painted and never even went to the test."
There was no confusion regarding the GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo's at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Monday, January 31. Both Harvick and Berrier were there along with the entire Goodwrench road crew. The goal of the test according to Berrier was to work on a new speedway package to help the team on the tracks where they had struggled last year.
"We couldn't seem to find the right combination last year at tracks like (Las Vegas) and California," said Berrier. "Those were the tracks that hurt us. The 1.5-mile to 2-mile tracks cost us being in the (Chase for the NEXTEL Cup) and we made a point in the off-season to work on those tracks."
The results of the work back in the shop showed at both tracks during the week. While no official times were submitted by NASCAR, un-official results showed Harvick as being one of the 10 fastest cars of the 43 that arrived for the test. It was a big improvement over previous trips to the desert. However, Harvick was quick to say that it was just a test.
"The one thing about a test is you never know what everyone is working on," said Harvick. "We weren't trying to set the fastest time of the day. We were more interested in working on the balance of the car with the new rules for 2005. But it is good to know that we were better than we had even hoped to be."
Those new rules included a 4-inch spoiler, one inch shorter than last year, and a new Goodyear Eagle racing tire. The combination was criticized by Harvick prior to the test, but after two days at the Las Vegas track, the change seems to be better than anticipated.
"I really felt like this (the new spoiler rule) was going to make the cars very loose and unstable, especially in traffic. I thought the balance on our car was good and I didn't have any issues when I passed another car," Harvick said. "The tire felt good, but the fall off was more than what a lot of us thought it would be. That's not a bad thing, because it puts it back in the driver's hands. The real test will be when you get around 43 cars. But from my seat, I think it might work out fine."
After a successful test at Las Vegas, the GM Goodwrench team made the 200-mile trek across the desert to California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The 2-mile track played a key role in Harvick's "Chase" chances during last year's season. The No. 29 Monte Carlo had held the eighth spot in the Chase all year, until a motor issue early in the race forced Harvick to a 28th place finish and dropped him from eighth to 14th in the point standings. That one race ended all hopes at racing's post-season.
"This was a very disappointing track for us last year. We were in the Chase until this race. I feel like this race cost us that chance at the championship," said Harvick. "After that race, we tried some things and they just didn't work. I think that is where people look and say we had a terrible season. We had some bad races after missing the Chase, but this Goodwrench team bounced back and we finished strong. But up until California, we were a top-10 car in points every week. That is what we are taking from last year. The rest is over and we choose to look forward not back."
The test at California Speedway wasn't an instant success for Harvick. It took the team most of day one to get the balance right. But once they found it, Harvick said the car was very good.
"We didn't hit it right off the truck like we did at Vegas. It took us a little more time to dial the car in," commented Harvick. "But once we did it was very fast. It reacted to changes like we expected it to. Both our A and B cars were fast and that shows we are on the right track. We will take the data back to RCR and the engineers will fine tune some things. But I am very pleased with how we tested. We are better in every area. That's encouraging."
With testing completed, the GM Goodwrench team looks to Daytona and the Daytona 500. Harvick finished fourth in last year's Great American Race and feels like the chances are good to run up front again. "Our plate cars were awesome last year. We just couldn't get anyone to help us. I think with Jeff Burton and Dave Blaney as teammates this year, we will have a chance to get to victory lane at Daytona for RCR. While we all want to win the race, this group of teammate knows that a win for one is a win for all. That teamwork is showing all through RCR and I can't wait to get started."