Kevin Harvick Harvick Set for "Martinsville Madness" HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 13, 2004) - If you thought the NCAA Men's college basketball tournament, otherwise known as "March Madness", was exciting last month with 64 teams vying for...
Harvick Set for "Martinsville Madness"
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 13, 2004) - If you thought the NCAA Men's college basketball tournament, otherwise known as "March Madness", was exciting last month with 64 teams vying for a coveted championship trophy over a one month span, wait until this weekend's Advance Auto Parts 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Anytime you stack 43 cars on a stretch of half-mile oval at one time, the racing gets tight and frantic, creating its own brand of madness.
GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick knows first hand the frustrations of Martinsville. NASCAR suspended the Bakersfield, Calif., native in 2002 after an on-track incident in a NASCAR Truck Series race there, forcing him to watch the Cup Series race the next day from home. Last year in the fall, Harvick saw his chances of a top-five run slip away after NASCAR officials opened pit road a lap early under caution halfway through the race. Stuck out front on old tires, he could only watch as the field passed him by and he was forced to fight his way back in the late stages of the 500-lap event.
The smartest way for Harvick and Team GM Goodwrench to quell the "Martinsville Madness" will be to run as well as they have in their last two trips to the .526-mile concrete racetrack. A strong 16th place finish in the spring coupled with a seventh place effort in the fall, both career highs, will help to provide momentum the silver and black racing machine needs to be out front when the checkered flag flies.
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Martinsville...
What's your take on Martinsville?
"I love racing there because it's only about 30 minutes from home and I get to sleep in my own bed. The commute to the racetrack isn't bad at all. As far as racing goes, the track is small and the racing is tight. It's usually a long, hard day with all the beating and banging. It's hard to get a good finish without having something happen to you. Our goal is to survive, keep the fenders on it, and radiator in it. If you are not around after 400 laps into the race, you are not going to have a chance of winning it."
What's the toughest part of racing there?
"You really have to make your car turn through the center of the corner and be able to get up off the corner with the gas pedal as close to the floor as you can get it to get that forward bite. It's not easy with so many cars around you, but you just have to wiggle your way into a position where you can do it. The tight racing makes it a little bit harder to pass so you have to back up where you get in to try to get underneath somebody. There's a kind of fine line in making your car turn and getting that grip that you need up off the corner."
How often have you thought back to what happened during this race weekend in 2002?
"It's almost scary to sit back and think about it sometimes. I still have my moments where I blow up or get mad, but I think everybody has those moments. It's part of everyday life. That time was a pretty big moment in my whole life. To sit at home, watch that race and not be in it was pretty disappointing. It was like a big reality check. The good thing is that NASCAR still wants me to be myself, be aggressive and speak what's on my mind. The fact of the matter is that it's still their court and you have to play by their rules."
How do you handle the frustrations of short track racing?
"I'm probably not the best one to answer that because I have had times when I've blown up before. Over the last few years, I've learned you have to carry some things back to your house and vent away from everything. Martinsville and Bristol (Tenn.) are two places that bring out a lot of emotion and I like that. You just have to see what happens and hope you can handle the situation in the right way."
How's Matt Crafton handling your trucks?
"Matt's been a great addition. He seems to be at the same point as I was when I got an opportunity with Richard (Childress). He's definitely capable of doing what we need him to do to win races if we put him in the right stuff. The biggest challenge for us has been the fact that this is a brand new race team and we're still working on trying to get everything built and going in the right direction. Now that it's complete, it should be a fun year for all of us."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Martinsville...
What's your rundown of Martinsville?
"It's a short, round concrete racetrack that they tore up in 2002 to make a second groove. Track position is everything, and it's very hard to pass. Brakes are something you need to concentrate on conserving, while the tires don't seem to matter as much. Tempers tend to flare throughout the race weekend with how tight the racing gets. It's typical short track racing, and we're glad we have Harvick behind the wheel because we know how well he runs on them."
Points of Interest...
* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No. 111 to Martinsville for this weekend's 263-mile event. This is the same one they ran at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in the year where Harvick posted his season-best third place finish. Chassis No. 111 was used extensively last season, running six times over the course of the 36-race schedule including Martinsville's October event in which Harvick posted a career-high start (fifth) and finish (seventh).
* Instead of running in the NASCAR Truck Series race for the third year in a row on Saturday, Harvick will watch it atop his No .6 GM Goodwrench racing team pit box. He looks to be a guiding factor for his driver Matt Crafton, who is coming off a career-best fifth place finish in Atlanta, Ga.
* Crew chief Todd Berrier won his first Truck Series race at Martinsville with Jay Sauter on September 26, 1998. It was Berrier's 38th start as crew chief for Richard Childress Racing's No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Silverado.
* Start time for Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 500-lap event on FOX 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.