Rockingham: Kevin Harvick preview

Kevin Harvick Relaxing at The Rock HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 17, 2004) - GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick is coming off of two hard weeks of racing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. All he wants to do right now is relax, but he...

Kevin Harvick
Relaxing at The Rock

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (February 17, 2004) - GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick is coming off of two hard weeks of racing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. All he wants to do right now is relax, but he knows that's not going to happen because the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season has only just begun. One good thing, this weekend NASCAR's premier circuit doesn't venture far from home for most NASCAR folks.

(Rockingham) North Carolina Speedway has been a best and worst friend to Harvick over the years. The 2001 NASCAR Cup Rookie-of-the-Year has seen both good times and bad at the high-banked oval, but in the Cup car he's struggled. This time around Harvick believes he's more prepared. A test session with his Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Busch Series team has given him a new confidence that he can conquer what he calls his toughest competitor on the circuit.

One of the Bakersfield, Calif., native's goals going into this weekend will be to relax. Hard as it may be, Harvick knows there's no reason to get excited and tense trying too hard too early. He plans to take his time, go with what the teams learned in the off-season and that hopefully will be enough to give him his first top-10 finish.

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

How was your Busch Series test at Rockingham?
"I think it was the best test I've had there in a couple of years. We unloaded pretty good and found a good shock and spring package that will help with handling over an entire run, not just early or late. Rockingham's a high downforce, big tire-wear track where you have to work on the handling of your car to make it work. The key is keeping the car balanced so it will start off halfway good at the beginning of a run and keep the tires underneath the car at the end of the run. From what I can remember, we were faster than some of the Cup cars running that week so I'm anxious to see what happens."

Did you learn anything about the new, softer tires?
"It's hard to tell what we got out of that test with the tires because that track's surface is so rough on them. They fade quickly so you're left with making the handling of the car most important. I think we accomplished the better handling part during the test, but you never know when the car's going to push or get loose. You adjust around the set of tires that you have. It's one of those deals where you have to hope that each set of tires that you have are good enough."

Happy that we're not running there twice anymore?
"Definitely. Not that I had anything against the racetrack itself, but as everybody knows, it's probably my worst racetrack. For some reason, I don't have a lot of feel for it. I'm more excited that another race in California took its place. Being from that area, it will be nice to get back home more than once this season to see family and friends."

Must be nice racing a little closer to home and the shop.
"Oh yeah. We were down in Daytona for almost two weeks. It was nice and warm, but it wears on everybody, being around your PR guy, your crew chief, any one person on the race team for so long. I think it wears on you because basically you have to live with everybody the whole time you're there."

How much of a boost are your great runs at Daytona?
"This is the second time in a row we've come out of Daytona on a high and look where it took us last year. I really would have liked to go into Rockingham with a win, but the smart people in our heads say we should be happy with a fourth place finish. All in all, it was a good couple of weeks for the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet. It's a good way to come into the season because we've been on both sides. Coming out of there with a good finish is the way to go."

Will Team GM Goodwrench be able to benefit from their teammates?
"The possibility is definitely there. We've got to be able to have Robby (Gordon) and Johnny (Sauter) go to other race tracks and step up to the plate and deliver some good information. If we can all do that, it'll definitely help our program. I felt like we had a lot of really good tests last year and Robby helped us tremendously on the road course program and I think that showed. I think if we can draw something from the No. 30 car this year that would really help."

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

What's your biggest concern heading into Rockingham?
"Getting a good qualifying effort. You have to qualify good to get a good pick on pit road so you can stay up front. Tires are not really a concern because it's a standard deal for Rockingham. It's more about track position, and getting your car ready for the long runs. Hopefully the Busch test that Kevin ran before Daytona will give us some good information. He seemed to think it went well and the biggest thing he needs going in there is confidence."

Points of Interest...

* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No.112 to Rockingham, N.C., for this weekend's 393-lap event. This chassis, built last year, was used three times last season - Texas Motor Speedway (started 8th, finished 15th), California Speedway (started 37th, finished 29th) and the spring race at Michigan Speedway (started 10th, finished 18th).

* The 2000 NASCAR Busch Series champion is coming off of his best two weeks ever to start a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season. In the three races he ran in Daytona Beach - the Bud Shootout, Gatorade Twin 125s and the Daytona 500 - he finished in the top-five all three times. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the only other driver to do so.

* Harvick's last run at The Rock brought him his second top-15 finish in six tries and best effort since February 2001.

* Start time for Sunday's Subway 400 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET. TV coverage of the 400-mile race 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.

-rcr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick
Teams Richard Childress Racing