Dominant Harvick gets a lesson at Dover By Dave Rodman DOVER, Del. (June 3, 2000) Saturday's lesson was perhaps the most bitter yet in Kevin Harvick's brief NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division career. But before many more races pass,...
Dominant Harvick gets a lesson at Dover
By Dave Rodman
DOVER, Del. (June 3, 2000) Saturday's lesson was perhaps the most bitter yet in Kevin Harvick's brief NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division career. But before many more races pass, the driver who led the most laps in Saturday's MBNA Platinum 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway feels he surely will visit Victory Lane.
Harvick said he burned the tires off his No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet in the last 96-lap green flag run, resulting in what he said was a disappointing sixth-place finish. For Harvick, the leader in the NBS Raybestos Rookie of the Year chase to be disappointed with that finish is one of the sure signs of his impending greatness.
"It was a good day," said Harvick, who led the first 57 laps of the race and 97 of the first 102 circuits of the high-banked, high-speed concrete one-mile oval. "The ACDelco Monte Carlo was good all day, except right there at the end."
Harvick was never passed under green in two long first-half stints in the lead in only his 14th career NASCAR Busch Series start.
The 24-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., native surrendered the point to NASCAR Busch Series point leader Jeff Green at lap 58 under the race's third caution. Harvick gave up the lead again at lap 103 to Mike Dillon, when the race's sixth caution flag flew.
With 38 of the first 102 laps being run under yellow, Harvick and Richard Childress Racing crew chief Todd Berrier had every reason to believe another caution would fly.
It never occurred.
"You know, they were wrecking about every 15 laps," Harvick said of his pitting schedule and tire abuse. "We thought for sure there would be another caution and I ran the car too hard. It just started shoving the nose up off the corner."
Harvick, who came to the NBS this season after a short tenure in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, might've got a lesson Saturday from the NASCAR Busch Series' career victories leader. Mark Martin, struggling to gain track position, using adroit pit work to get to the front. Harvick acknowledged his lack of experience hurt him, then.
"The car was awesome early -- we just kind of cruised along there for 100 laps," he said, ironically, of a time when he appeared a lock to win. "We did what we had to do to keep the tires under the car and everything else was just going to come later.
"The 60 car (Martin) stayed out, and anytime he gets out in front of you, you want to get up there and race him -- you want to beat him, but all in all I just should've paced myself a little bit better."
Unfortunately for Harvick, veterans Mike Dillon, Martin, Martin's protegee Matt Kenseth and race winner Jason Keller were the dominators in the second half of the race. Martin took the lead at lap 114 and paced the field to lap 157, and Harvick chased him in vain from second place for more than half that time.
"I guess that's just a lesson you learn," Harvick said. "At any given time you can go that long (on tires), so we'll put that in the notebook and go on to the next one. I learned a lot today and got to race with those guys and I think my guys learned a lot, too. The next time we come back here I've got 250 laps (including practice) under out belt at Dover now."
Harvick's effort resulted in a two-place jump, unofficially, in the NBS point standings and his assumption of the NBS Rookie of the Year lead after 14 races. Harvick is now sixth in points, one spot behind rookie point contender Ron Hornaday. Harvick edged ahead of Hornaday, who he battled for three years in the NCTS, by one point in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, 165-164.
Showing the sagacity of age and experience but also the lack of sympathy by an intense competitor, second place finisher Martin acknowledged Harvick's strength.
"He WAS strong," said the driver who has won 44 more NBS races than the youngster. "But he wasn't there at lap 200. It doesn't mean he wasn't strong -- I just really believe there's no substitute for experience -- period.
Harvick got plenty of that Saturday.
"We just have to keep putting ourselves in position to win," he said. "When sixth, seventh eighth and ninth are becoming frustrating to you, you know you're doing something right and you're wanting to win races."