The talk all week at Daytona in the Busch Series garage was the strength of the Pontiac racecars in the draft and based on Wednesday's qualifying results, the Pontiac teams were truly the favorites for Saturday's NAPA 300. Of the 11 cars ...
The talk all week at Daytona in the Busch Series garage was the strength of the Pontiac racecars in the draft and based on Wednesday's qualifying results, the Pontiac teams were truly the favorites for Saturday's NAPA 300. Of the 11 cars that qualified ahead of 2000 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year, Kevin Harvick, 10 were Pontiacs.
"It's pretty obvious that the Pontiac is the car to beat here," Harvick said immediately after qualifying. "But we just need to concentrate on what we're doing with the ACDelco Chevrolet. We need to get it handling the best we can and keep our nose clean during the race."
As the race got underway, Harvick began to work with defending series champion, Jeff Green, as they worked their way into the top 10 and eventually into the top five.
Harvick pitted for the first time in fourth place on lap 14 under caution because of rain. He radioed into the crew and said the car was "a little tight up off the corner but we're fine. No adjustments."
The ACDelco team changed two tires and got back on the track in fourth place, but first among the cars that had pitted. The skies over Daytona, however, opened up immediately after the pit stops and kept the race under the red flag for just over an hour and a half.
The drivers climbed back into their cars and fired engines at 3:09 p.m. while the temperature dropped 10 degrees. When green flag racing resumed, Harvick made his move to the front and found himself running in second place on lap 24. He settled in with the lead draft of four Pontiacs just four laps later in single file. He radioed in to crew chief Todd Berrier that the No. 2 car was running much better on the high line than down low.
Harvick ran into difficulty in the pits on lap 47 when Bobby Hamilton Jr., who was pitting just in front of Harvick, boxed him in when he was trying to leave his pit stall. The same thing happened again when Harvick pitted on lap 84 for four tires and fuel. Hamilton Jr. spun entering his pit stall and remained sideways in his pit making it difficult for Harvick to leave his stall.
Not the least bit discouraged, however, Harvick immediately began pressing forward when the race went back to green. He methodically picked off four positions on his way to fourth place behind three Pontiacs with just 10 laps to go. Harvick worked with fellow Chevrolet competitor Matt Kenseth in the draft during the closing laps as things began to get hairy. Kenseth made contact with Joe Nemechek's Pontiac which in turn slammed into Jeff Purvis. Both Nemechek and Purvis' cars suffered heavy damage as Harvick safely slipped by behind eventual race-winner Randy Lajoie.
The two raced to the caution flag, which would be the last lap of green flag racing and concluded the NAPA 300. Harvick's second place finish betters last year's finish by three positions and gets his year off to a good start.
"Matt (Kenseth) and I were working well together there at the end," Harvick said. "There was a lot of contact and we're lucky we didn't get caught up in it. I had a good car. The ACDelco Chevrolet wasn't the fastest car, but the guys did a great job in the pits and we were having a strong top-five run. We were really fortunate to finish second and even more fortunate not to have gotten caught up in the wreck. That gets our season off to a good start and we're looking forward to going to Rockingham."
Kenseth finished third, Jeff Green fourth and Harvick's Richard Childress Racing teammate, Mike Dillon, finished 30th. The next race is Saturday, February 24th, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham on FX at 1:00 p.m. EST.