Up To The Challenge: Harvick Ready To Step Out Of RCR Shadow * JR Motorsports Mixes It Up At NASCAR Preseason Thunder * Johnny Sauter Returns To NASCAR Nationwide Series With Fastest Time Of First Session DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2008) --...
Up To The Challenge: Harvick Ready To Step Out Of RCR Shadow
* JR Motorsports Mixes It Up At NASCAR Preseason Thunder
* Johnny Sauter Returns To NASCAR Nationwide Series With Fastest Time Of First Session
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2008) -- When Kevin Harvick (No. 33 RoadLoans.com / Camping World Chevrolet) took the track first Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway for the start of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, he officially began his 10th year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
He's won two championships (2006, 2001) and helped owner Richard Childress earn the series' first split title when Harvick and Johnny Sauter claimed the owner championship in 2003.
And Daytona has been good to Harvick with RCR and with his own Kevin Harvick Inc. team. Last February, he won the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race before capturing one of the most exciting Daytona 500 victories in the event's history driving for RCR. In 2005-06, Tony Stewart won the first race of the season in NASCAR Nationwide competition driving for KHI.
But this season's kickoff has a different feel to it for Harvick. For the first time in a decade of series competition, he won't be driving for Childress. Instead, he'll be driving his own KHI cars. And he'll be helping to develop new talent, bringing newcomer Cale Gale into the fold.
"I've been so fortunate to run the 21 and the 2 (for RCR) and win a lot of races (32, second all-time in series history)," Harvick said. "But it was time to do something different for myself.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of running my own cars and creating a little bit different challenge from all aspects. I know what it's been like the last few years to be winning races and being competitive week in and week out, and that's what we are shooting for."
Harvick and his wife, DeLana, have built KHI into a championship-caliber team with their NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series organization, capturing the title in that series last November with driver Ron Hornaday Jr., who also will drive in select NASCAR Nationwide Series events for the team.
Gale relishes the opportunity to learn from two champions as he begins his NASCAR national series career.
"To be able to race with (Kevin and DeLana) and share a car with Ron Hornaday is a dream come true for me," Gale said. "The main thing is to go out and do everything I can as a race car driver when I am in the car. Start to race consistent, get better finishes each and every week and learn as much as I can as quick as possible."
That learning curve will be just fine with the boss, who is one of four current or former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who are returning to the NASCAR Nationwide Series as owners to develop drivers, crew members and team personnel as well as help grow the series.
"With Nationwide coming on board, it's a huge boost for the Series," Harvick said. "I think as we go forward (the series) will be as strong as ever and you will see more young guys, more independent teams and hopefully more Cup drivers having Nationwide teams and participating in the series, supporting the sport as they should."
JR Motorsports Combination Clicking ... JR Motorsports has the same name, but a new look, this season. When two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports last summer, he and Rick Hendrick also announced that Hendrick's NASCAR Nationwide Series program would merge with Earnhardt's, instantly creating one of the strongest teams in the series. The team consists of the No. 88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet driven by Brad Keselowski and owned by Earnhardt and the No. 5 National Guard / Delphi / GoDaddy.com / Lowe's Chevrolet owned by Hendrick with driving duties shared by Earnhardt, Mark Martin (the series all-time leader in wins and poles), two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and road-course ace Ron Fellows.
During Friday's first session, both of the team's cars were among the top 10 fastest; Keselowski was fourth at 187.809 mph and 1994 series champion David Green had the eighth and 10th-fastest times while shaking down the No. 5 car.
"We're doing a lot of small changes -- just moving fenders, doing some different shapes of the body and making small gains on it throughout the day," said Cam Strader, crew chief for the No. 5.
Keselowski was positive about the mix.
"It's pretty cool having teammates to work with," he said. "The guys have been bouncing ideas off each other to see what we can find and we both picked up a bit from the morning to the afternoon. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow though. Junior's coming down to draft with the No. 5 if the weather cooperates, and I want to get out there and learn as much as I can from him. He's a master at this, so having him as a boss and teammate has its perks here."
Pit Stops ... The morning session was delayed 45 minutes due to the misty weather and was extended a half-hour until 12:30 p.m. Johnny Sauter's (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet) one-year hiatus from the NASCAR Nationwide Series was hardly noticeable following his performance on the speed chart. He had the fastest lap of the first session at 179.076 mph. Rookie Bryan Clauson (No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodge) was seventh-fast in his first trip to Daytona with a speed of 178.552 mph. Kyle Busch (No. 18 Farm Bureau / Z-line Designs/Interstate Batteries Toyota) was the fastest in the afternoon drafting session (182.556 mph).
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Saturday, Jan. 19 when NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers will participate in the final Fan Fest of the testing sessions. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. The cost is $15. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.
Session I: NASCAR Nationwide Series teams in odd positions in car owner standings as of July 17, 2007
What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the 2008 Camping World 300 presented by Chevrolet
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Friday, Jan. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 20.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Who: Mike Wallace, Johnny Sauter, Brandon Miller, Clint Bowyer, Robert Richardson, David Green, Kyle Busch, Mike McLaughlin, Tim McCreadie, Eric McClure, Brad Coleman, Brian Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kenny Wallace, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Clauson, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Danny O'Quinn Jr., Erik Darnell, Greg Biffle.