Kevin Harvick Michigan's Fuel Mileage Factor HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 16, 2004) - If there's one thing on every driver and crew chief's mind heading into this Sunday's DHL 400 at (Brooklyn) Michigan International Speedway, it's the fuel...
Michigan's Fuel Mileage Factor
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 16, 2004) - If there's one thing on every driver and crew chief's mind heading into this Sunday's DHL 400 at (Brooklyn) Michigan International Speedway, it's the fuel mileage factor. The ability to stretch 22 gallons of Sonoco gas as far as possible can make or break a race strategy, especially with the many long green flag runs that take place at the two-mile oval.
"You really have to sharpen the pencil," says GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier. "You know as it plays out that there are 12 to 15 guys that are going to go for it at the end - or know that they're going to make it. And you're sitting there floundering around thinking you're a lap short, or not. Sometimes you'll talk yourself into doing things that you typically wouldn't do when it comes down to gas mileage. But still, enough is enough and if you've got it, you've got it and if you don't, you run out. That's just kind of how it works."
GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick agrees with Berrier, but also sees situations like fuel mileage played out in a different light. "I think that's part of why everybody shows up to watch these races," says the Bakersfield, Calif., native. "You never know what's going to happen. You can't predict when the cautions are going to come out. You can't predict how many cars are going to stay out or how many cars or going to pit, or how many cars are going to wreck. So you just play it as it comes and that's part of what puts all those people in the grandstands."
Harvick has seen highs and lows in six starts at Michigan, but he's shown strength of late. In his last three races, he's accumulated two top-five and three top-20 finishes, including a runner-up finish in the fall race last year which again came down to fuel mileage.
"The best thing you can do is just make sure you've got enough," adds the 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year. "Sometimes guys gamble. I don't know if they think there's going to be another caution or that they just think they can make it. We wait until we know we can make it and put four tires on it."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Michigan...
What do you think of the racetrack? "For whatever reason, Michigan is one of those places that fit my driving style. You can drive into the turns down on the bottom in the flat, or in the middle, or right around the wall. Depending on handling, you can move up or down to make your car work. It's a lot of fun to race on and usually boils down to some sort of fuel mileage. It's one of those racetracks where we've always, always been competitive."
What's the wide racing surface like?
"It really helps the racing. If your car is not working, or it's a little too tight, the banking is a little bit flatter in one and two, and you can kind of de-wedge the car getting into the corner by driving down flat. If it's a little loose, you can run all the way up against the wall, or in the middle, or wherever you want to run that's comfortable."
How tough is it to be "off" at a track like Michigan with all the green flag laps?
"The fact of the matter is that if you are off just a little bit, it's not like Busch racing where you can get it back. The racing is so competitive that somebody is going to hit it, somebody is going to be really good at the beginning of the run. If you are off, you stand a pretty good chance of getting lapped because of all the green flag laps. This race last year, we got off to a great start and just had one run that was off and we got lapped. That was it for us."
What do you attribute to your current streak of no DNF's?
"Building good race cars has always been one of the fortes of RCR. They do whatever it takes to finish the race no matter what. That's what keeps us in a lot of these championship battles. We've struggled a little bit this year but we've been running at the end of every race. We have to make sure we make laps. We have to be reliable in the motor department. The guys on the crew make sure we do that."
What's it like to be racing in your primary sponsor's backyard?
"It's always nice to go to Michigan because there are so many people from GM to support us. We usually run really well in front of them and never have had a bad run, just bad luck. Being that it is GM's backyard, I don't know if it just works itself out that way, or if it's just a racetrack where RCR cars always run good."
No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Michigan...
What's your take on the two-mile oval?
"Michigan is a lot like California and we finished ninth there earlier in the year. You have to be careful of long green flag runs and stretching your fuel mileage as much as you can. It's crucial that we get 50 laps out of our fuel tank. We didn't get a chance to test this year, so we'll take a similar set-up to what we ran in the fall when Harvick finished second and go from there. Kevin and RCR have always run really well at Michigan. The engine combinations fit well there."
Points of Interest...
* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No.88 to the two-mile oval for this weekend's 400-mile race. This chassis, used last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, has been run three times in the last five races. It's one of the team's favorites, with a win at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in 2002 and Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway in 2003.
* The no DNF streak continues for Harvick. His 20th place finish in Pocono puts his streak at 53 consecutive races, or one DNF every 17.1 events. That's the best ratio of all the drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series garage.
* Happy Father's Day wishes go out from all of the 18 Team GM Goodwrench crewmembers working this race weekend in Michigan. There are nine dads on the team who will be spending their Sunday in Brooklyn, each hoping to celebrate their big day in Victory Lane with a champagne bath.
* Start time for Sunday's DHL 400 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 200-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.