Pocono: Kevin Harvick preview

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 8, 2004) - For the past 13 races NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers have gotten used to the monotony of driving around in circles at extreme speeds. This consistency allows them to get into a rhythm and hit the same line...

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 8, 2004) - For the past 13 races NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers have gotten used to the monotony of driving around in circles at extreme speeds. This consistency allows them to get into a rhythm and hit the same line over and over and over again. Well, that's all about to change. This weekend at Pocono Raceway in Lond Pond, Pa., things will be a little bit different. For the first time this season, most drivers will have to shift in and off two of the three uniquely-shaped corners. It's not only taxing on the drivers to remember to do it, but can be very hard on the cars, especially for 500 miles.

"We shift because if we don't, we'll blow our motors up," says the Bakersfield, Calif., native. "You have to shift because the straightaway is so long. Well, most of us have to shift. Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace don't have to shift, but they're in a different motor program than the rest of us. We'll shift twice, down the main straightaway, then again down Long Pond, to get up off the corners better. Shifting, in itself, doesn't add a whole lot of work. There is a lot more wear and tear on the transmission and rear-end, though. That means there are a lot more things that you can screw up. In order to keep up with everyone, you've got to do it."

Once Harvick gets used to shifting again, he'll set his sights on getting the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo dialed in around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year hasn't had much luck in recent years in the Pocono Mountains, compiling only one top-10 and two top-15 finishes in six tries. This year could prove to be a turning point. Team GM Goodwrench has become expert at turning top-20 cars into top-10 cars over the course of events. That's all they need right now to secure a spot in the chase for the NEXTEL Cup championship.

No. 29 GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick on Pocono...

What do you think of Pocono?

"Pocono's hard to figure out. You have three totally different corners. One and two, you're downshifting going into the corners. Three and four, you have to get through the middle of the corner and make sure that you get as much power down as you can because the straightaway is three-quarters of a mile long. You can gain a lot of speed just by getting off the corner well. You have to be careful downshifting going into turn one that you don't hurt the motor. Shock package is important with all the bumps."

Can you take us for a lap?

"You pass the start finish line and shift up into fourth, which is pretty much an overdrive. You downshift about halfway through the corner, lift the gas, and kind of roll into it over the bumps. You come out and about halfway down the straightaway, you shift again back to fourth. You downshift again heading into the tunnel turn and slide through there. You go down the little short-shoot between (turns) two and three in third gear into the flat corner and kind of let (the car) slide through. Then, it's back to the start-finish line to do it all over again."

Is there a perfect set-up for your car?

"Nope. There are too many different kinds of corners. It's more of finding a happy medium. There are a lot of bumps in turn one that you have to get through. Then, the tunnel turn is flat and fast. The last corner is pretty flat and the exit opens up and the car rolls over a lot. Turn one has a little more banking than the other two corners. The other two are pretty flat."

What's the toughest corner?

"The hardest turn is probably the tunnel turn just for the fact you kind of slide through there and you're down-shifting going in. It's a pretty fast corner, and it's pretty narrow. The most important is turn three. That's because the straightaway is three-quarters of a mile long or something like that. If you screw that corner up, that's a long distance and a lot of time you give up off the corner."

Has patience been a big part of this team's consistency so far this season?

"I think so. These GM Goodwrench guys have shown a lot of promise just because of the fact that we can take our cars at the beginning of the race when we think they're terrible and then turn them around and make top-10, top-five runs out of them. That's a good sign for a race team and shows their patience to work and make things better."

No. 29 GM Goodwrench crew chief Todd Berrier on Pocono...

How much do you have to pay attention to the fact that Harvick will be shifting gears in Pocono?

"Harvick will shift twice a lap at Pocono. In order to keep the transmission from overheating because of all that extra work, we'll carry an oil cooler in the car to help to prevent that. We only carry that at Pocono and both of the road course races. Shifting is definitely a burden for any driver because it's not something they're used to doing week in and week out, but we're confident Harvick will be able to handle it just fine."

Points of Interest...

Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No.88 to the 2.5-mile tri-oval for this weekend's 500-mile race. This chassis, last run at Lowe's Motor Speedway two weeks ago, ran five times last year, including the team's only win at Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400.

The no DNF streak continues for Harvick. Despite minor damage in Dover, Del., Harvick was able to keep his GM Goodwrench Chevy on the track. That puts his streak at 52 consecutive races, or one DNF every 17 races.

Even though Harvick gets this weekend off from NASCAR Busch Series racing, he's still going to find a place to race on Saturday. After completing NEXTEL Cup practices Saturday morning, he'll hop on a plane to Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey to run a street stock car race with fellow NASCAR drivers that night.

Start time for Sunday's Pocono 500 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.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman