Sears Point: Kevin Harvick preview

Kevin Harvick Keeping it Smooth in Sonoma HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 22, 2004) - NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., is not easy, just ask GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick. In his three starts in a...

Kevin Harvick
Keeping it Smooth in Sonoma

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 22, 2004) - NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., is not easy, just ask GM Goodwrench driver Kevin Harvick. In his three starts in a Cup car at the two-mile road course located in California's wine country, he has posted only one top-five finish, and that was on his third attempt.

"Sonoma is hard enough to run by yourself, let alone with 42 other cars on it," says Harvick, who finished third at Infineon last year. "You have to take care of your transmission, take care of the rear-end gear, and don't wheel hop it. The main thing is to not tear up your car. It's hard to keep from doing that because the racetrack has turns and hills. It's hard to pass and even harder to keep the fenders on your racecar. It's almost like going to a short track race. They usually tear as much up at Sonoma as they do at Bristol (Motor Speedway) or anywhere else."

The 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year knows one of the best ways to take care of the silver and black racing machine throughout the weekend will be to keep things smooth and consistent around the entire 12-turn course. "Getting into a rhythm and hitting your marks is probably more crucial there than anywhere else," adds Harvick. "The racing is usually so tight and the cars so close that if you mess up even a little at any point throughout the race, you probably won't be able to recover. That means we're going to have to be on our game from the time we get there."

To make things a little bit more fun, Harvick will defend his title in the NASCAR Southwest Series race on Saturday in the No. 92 Snap-on Chevrolet outfitted by Kevin Harvick, Inc. And as if two races in Sonoma isn't enough this weekend, the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion will head home to Bakersfield, Calif., Saturday night to participate in a Late Model feature with fellow NEXTEL Cup Series stars Bill Elliott and Sterling Marlin.

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

How excited are you to go back to Sonoma after your success there last year?

"I think it's going to be a lot more fun than it has been the first two times. Our GM Goodwrench Chevrolet was extremely fast last year and that showed with how we ran up front the entire race. I think we were only outside the top-five once or twice. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and I worked out pit strategy a little bit better and I think that helped us a lot. The key when we go back is to concentrate on another good qualifying effort. That will get us up front from the get-go and keep us from having to work through the pack once the race gets underway."

What's the most important thing to remember?

"Sonoma is one of those places where track position is more important than anywhere else we go. Basically, how it works is you work the race from back to front based on how many laps you can run. As soon as you can pit, you come in and pit, take your tires and stay out on the racetrack ahead of the rest of the field."

How's the mindset different between ovals and road courses?

"There's a lot more to do. You have to shift, stop, shift, gas it and slide. The hardest handling characteristic is to get your car to get forward bite up off the corner because you are coming off a low gear and there are a lot of hills and off-camber corners. You have to try and hook your car up the best you can. You have to concentrate on getting the car into gear; just taking care of your stuff is the main thing. It's kind of like trying to find a balance between taking care of your stuff and driving the heck out of it. It's definitely different from our weekly routine."

Do you like road course racing?

"I enjoy it. We've always been pretty fortunate to have decent finishes. We've always run really well at Watkins Glen. We finished 14th the first two years at Sonoma and then really came on strong last year. I won a Winston West race in Sonoma in 1998. I think I'm getting better on the road courses the more I race on them."

What are your chances to repeat in the Southwest Tour Series race on Saturday?

"I think they're really good. We're taking the same car we won with back to Sonoma so I think our chances are pretty good to repeat. That car's a lot of fun to race because you don't have to worry about anything except trying to win. It also helps to give me a little more time on the racetrack, and you can always use more time on the road courses."

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

How do you deal with road courses?

"The most important part of road course racing is track position. You want to pit the least amount of times as possible and get out of the pit sequence so you can run out on open road. Sonoma is very demanding on the car. You have to be mindful of the transmission, suspension, and brakes because they tend to burn up fast. The set-up of the car is totally different from the rest of the places we go. There's no off-set with the tires and the car is balanced on both sides so you can get through all the left and right hand turns."

Points of Interest...

* Team GM Goodwrench will take chassis No.67 to the Golden State for this weekend's 216.5-mile race. This chassis, used at both road courses races last season, helped Harvick post NEXTEL Cup Series career-best finishes at both, a third place finish in Sonoma and a fifth place effort at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

* Harvick's first victory at Infineon Raceway came in 1998 on his way to his only NASCAR Winston West Series championship. Starting from the third position, he led only the last lap and won by .154-seconds.

* Harvick's last victory at Infineon Raceway came last year in the NASCAR Southwest Series race the Saturday prior to the Save Mart 350. Starting from the fourth position, the 1995 Southwest Series Rookie-of-the-Year took the lead on the first lap and cruised to a 3.938-second win over road course racer Boris Said.

* The no DNF streak continues for Harvick. His 17th place finish in Michigan puts his streak at 54 consecutive races, or one DNF every 17.2 events. That's the best ratio of all the drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series garage.

* Start time for Sunday's Save Mart 350 is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 110-lap event on FOX starts at 4:00 p.m., with radio coverage on PRN beginning at 3:15 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin