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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Harvick lays claim to the golden horseshoe

The Oakland Press/MATT MYFTIU
Kevin Harvick is interviewed in Victory Lane after his win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kevin Harvick better go see the doctor, because that golden horseshoe he mentioned early this season, in reference to Jimmie Johnson, officially has a new place of residence.

Continuing an amazing run in 2010, Harvick clinched a Chase berth with his win at Michigan International Speedway, which was his third victory of the season. As I stood in Victory Lane and watched his crew’s jubilation as they celebrated, it was clear they were very happy to be there. And for good reason.

We all remember 2009, when Richard Childress Racing was in the dumps. The team's cars were not up to par with the competition , and the numbers were ugly.

Take Harvick for example. In ALL of 2009, he had zero wins, five top fives and 9 top tens. In contrast, this season after just 23 races, he has three wins, 11 top fives and 16 top tens.

Quite a turnaround, and the team, by being the most consistent in NASCAR, is positioning itself as the championship favorite heading into the Chase, which begins in just a few weeks.

Harvick’s crew chief Gil Martin said the win at Michigan, after the team’s recent struggles in the Irish Hills, is the latest in a string of good news this season.,

“The season has gone so well from last year,“ Martin said. “To come to Michigan and run like we did today after we’re run like he have for the last 3 years shows how far the organization has come. I can’t say enough about the whole organization.”

While he may be the driver, Harvick says his success in 2010 goes all the way to the guys in the shop getting the job done.
“The quality control that we have at the shop, the guys are making sure they do a good job of making sure the right stuff is leaving the shop and that’s really what’s it all about,” he said.

Childress, who last won at MIS with Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1990, said that despite the team’s success, it’s important not to let it go to their heads.
“Someone’s got to beat Jimmie this year, and it might as well be RCR. But you never say you’re the team to beat. I don’t every want to be cocky, and then you have to put your head between your tail when you leave homestead. We’re not going to do that.”

Martin said a lot of the success can be attributed to the man in charge, who has spearheaded the resurgence with his leadership.

“The commitment Richard has give us all as far as moral support, financial support … Without his commitment, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Martin said.

Harvick, who in the past was known as kind of a brat with a tendency to cause trouble, also said maturity may have something to do with his success this season.

“As you get older, you get to experience more things and understand how the world turns. You learn how to deal with things better and learn by your mistakes as you go forward,” he said.

Harvick went on to say that the RCR team worked so hard to get better was because of the terrible 2009.
"The reason is we were so damn bad last year. It’s just a matter of everyone was embarrassed last year, and we’ve been running pretty well since the last 6-8 weeks of last year. We all wanted to achieve the same goals."

Childress said the team realized last year what was wrong and was determined to get things better, and they got more on the right track toward the end of 2009.

“We went down a road going into 2009, and we took the wrong path. When NASCAR pulled the testing, our simulation wouldn’t work anymore,” Childress said. “The areas we knew we had to work on, it was a team effort to turn that ship and we all turned it together.”

So getting back to the golden horseshoe, it’s officially Kevin Harvick’s. Now he just has to make sure he holds on to it throughout the Chase.

Fireworks after the race
After an on-track incident that sent Newman spinning, let’s just say there was a difference of opinion about what happened. The two drivers had a semi-animated discussion, and there some (very light) pushing involved.

Afterward, Logano explained that he does not like how Newman races the competition.
“He races me way too hard, he races everybody too hard. I’m not the only one that complains about it every week. He just went in and door-jammed me. I was down there trying to save it and trying to save it,“ Logano said. “When someone is right on your side it takes your air off. I’m down there just hanging on and hanging on. I saved it three times before I’m like, ‘He should have given me room by now.’ I will have to call and talk to him about it because I know I’m not the only one that complains about it, but I don’t know why he races everyone so hard. I hear it from too many people.”

Newman saw it another way, saying: “I’m just trying to teach the little kid how to drive.”
Short and to the point, I like it.

Also, I’m glad it didn’t come to blows. Ryan looks like a burly wrestler and Joey has as much meat on him as a stick figure. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

Points implications
We know Harvick qualified for the Chase, but what else happened today?
On the down side, Kurt Busch blew his engine early and dropped like a rock from 4th to 10th in the points. He’s got a healthy cushion on 12th, but that still has to sting.

On the upside, Tony Stewart’s solid sixth-place finish moved him up to fourth in points, a gain of four positions.

Become a fan of the Facebook page NASCARBeyond

The coveted 12th spot went back to Clint Bowyer, as Mark Martin fell to 13th after a terrible day and a 28th place finish.


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