Tales from the road are legendary in racing.
"Work hard, play hard" has been a way of life for many a crewman.
But Nick Harvey, Competition Director for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity teams, has elected to use his down time more constructively with a story of his own. Last year he penned his first novel—Twelve Mile Bank—under his formal name, Nicholas Harvey.
“I’ve always been interested in writing, and I always thought one day maybe it might be one of those retirement things--‘Hey, one day I’ll write a book,'" Harvey said. “Actually, a friend sent me a manuscript for a book he was writing for some feedback. He has a busy life, and it got me really thinking. I had this idea for a book that I’d been chewing on for a long time. I thought if my friend has time to do it with his busy schedule, surely I do, too. So I just started to write it.
“We spend a lot of time on airplanes. We spend a lot of time in hotel rooms. I just tried to write a little bit each time I had some down time. I’d get up a half-hour earlier and write a couple of pages. At night, I’d write a couple of pages before I went to bed. And pretty soon, I had a book.”
Harvey confessed that working on the book has made life away from home more tolerable. He combined his love of Grand Cayman and scuba diving to set the backdrop for the story.
The PADI-trained dive master centered his book around AJ Bailey, a 20-something dive operator. Although the book is self-published, Harvey has been thrilled with the response. He was able to have Twelve Mile Bank picked up by Main Street Books in Davidson, N.C.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with car racing,”Harvey said. “But there are definitely influences in the book from people I’ve met across my life, so that obviously would maybe include the racing industry. They always say write about what you’re passionate about, and, outside of motorsports, my passion is diving. My wife and I love the Cayman Islands, and we go there every year. I’ve always had an interest in World War II submarines so I put it all together in a book.
“So, it’s based around a young dive master who runs a dive boat in the Cayman Islands. She originally grew up in England where her grandfather would tell her stories about the war. There was one particular story he told her about a submarine when he was patrolling the Caribbean waters and she remembered that story. So there’s parallel timelines and a lot of history in there with descriptions of the islands that all come together with her looking for something that has been missing since World War II.”
The 52-year-old Londoner started his racing career behind the wheel in 1976. He raced Karts for the British National Team before graduating to Formula Fords, Ferrari Challenge, Trans AM, Barber Saab and Formula Atlantics.
“I ran out of money very quickly, so then I drove anything anyone would let me drive,” Harvey said.
Harvey transitioned to the mechanical and engineering side of the racing. He worked for several teams around Silverstone before moving to the U.S. in 1987. Harvey used his racing skills as a driver coach for Skip Barber before starting his own consulting firm.
In 1997, Harvey joined Cal Wells’ PPI Motorsports. He then moved to North Carolina when the organization’s focus turned to NASCAR three years later. Harvey was promoted to Team Manager for PPI in 2001 but returned to the West Coast and consulting two years later. When Michael Waltrip Racing started its Xfinity Series program in 2011, Harvey was lured back to N.C., where he also managed the test teams. Following a short stint with Germain Racing in 2013-2014, he rejoined MWR and remained until the team shut down at the end of 2015.
Over the last two seasons, Harvey has steered Ganassi’s Xfinity Series program. Under his leadership, three different drivers visited Victory Lane in the No. 42 Chevrolet last year. Kyle Larson’s three wins—Fontana, Richmond and Dover—came in 11 starts. Tyler Reddick won at Kentucky Speedway in the fall and captured the poles at Kansas and Homestead-Miami Speedway. And Alex Bowman earned his first-career NXS race victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.
“We were really fortunate last year to have a great season with both cars,” Harvey said. “I thought we did a really good job with the 48 (Brennan Poole) as well as the 42. Even though the 48 didn’t win a race, the 48 got deep into the Playoffs and showed a great deal of consistency and speed.
“We set the bar high, but that’s the goal, right? We just don’t run around. We’re racing against Penske and the Hendrick’s affiliate team—JRM—who do a really, really good job. They’ve had more success than us in certain ways, so there’s always a ceiling to look up to.
John Hunter Nemechek will share driving duties in the No. 42 NXS Chevrolet this year with Larson and Jamie McMurray. So far, Harvey is impressed with the work ethic of the second-generation racer, whose father, Joe Nemechek, piloted the No. 42 Chevrolet for CGR co-owner Felix Sabates two decades ago.
“He’s a confident young man and we’re very confident in him,” Harvey said. “We’re not talking about winning. We’re talking about how to win. Everyone wants to win. It’s how you go about it. That’s what we’re focusing on.
“Personally, it was really something I wanted to see happen. I met John Hunter a while back and we stayed in touch all through last year. I kept a close eye on him. I think it was pretty incredible what he did with his dad and the resources they had. I think part of the learning curve for J.H. is to realize that his job here is 100-percent driver and not all of the other stuff.”
Harvey’s crew has been working during the off-season with the flange-fit composite bodies for the Xfinity Series. The soft rollout for 2018 includes all tracks except Daytona and Talladega. While using the 13 interlocking panels is optional this season, teams face 150-pound deficit should they continue with steel bodies.
“In theory, it evens up some things across the field a little more,” Harvey said. “There’s less over-body work with the flange fit. The whole idea is to standardize the body with less playing around going on, less development work. It doesn’t take it to zero development work with the tolerances you’re working in. There’s still a bit of movement in it. It doesn’t go away altogether.”
Harvey and his crew learned quite a bit after working with the flange-fit design in 2017. The introduction included the September races at Richmond and Dover along with Phoenix on Nov. 11.
“Obviously, we did three races, and the biggest track we ran on was a mile,” Harvey said. “The biggest difference we saw last year from what we’ll see going into this year is the intermediate tracks, and that’s what we’ve spent most of our time on. So there will be a big difference in speed—average speed and cornering speed—where the downforce is really going to be seen.”