TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kevin Harvick comes into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway as the defending race champion.
And on Friday he signalled that it will be just as hard to beat the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet this time around.
Harvick said he is confident he can repeat his feat of a year ago when he out-raced Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya for the win.
As far as he is concerned the only thing standing in his way is a crash — something that is all too familiar to anyone who has ever seen a race at Talladega’s 2.66-mile high banked oval.
“This has been a good race track for us as we’ve gone through the years and obviously last year was really good,” he said. “You just got to hope that things work out your way as the crashes happen and things shuffle out and see how the race shakes out toward the end.
“All you can do is put yourself in position and see what happens from there at the end.”
One of the keys to winning at Talladega is that drivers must walk a fine line between holding back and being aggressive. Too much holding back will leave a race car out of position to make a charge to the front and too much aggression will more often than not result in a wreck.
Harvick said he is happy to err on the side of aggression because he thinks that is the way to win.
“I enjoy this type of racing. We prepare well for it,” he said. “We come into it ready to race and push and shove and do the things we need to do to race here.
“I learned a long time ago it’s better to be aggressive here than just sit around and wait for something to come your way because more times than not it’s going to not come your way and things are gonna just happen around you and you’re going to get torn up.”
That kind of aggression, he said, may not work for everybody but it’s the only way he knows how to race.
“At some point you’re gonna have to get up in there and get after it to make something happen,” Harvick said of racing at Talladega. “It’s just an aggressive style of racing, but it doesn’t bother me at all.”
It is actually something of a surprise that Harvick has only one win for his 18 races at the big Alabama track since he took over driving the black RCR Chevrolet after Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001.
That team, with Earnhardt behind the wheel, won 10 times at Talladega.
One of the reasons, Harvick said, is that he is finally realized racing a restrictor plate track is way more about thinking than many other types of races.
“There are just so many things running through your mind as to what you want to do and where you want to go and where you want to be,” he said. “For me I try to stay a couple of steps ahead of it and have a plan before I get to where I’m going as to what I want to do. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”
And, Harvick said, the help he gets from his spotter is far more critical.
At some races, like last week at Texas Motor Speedway, drivers can be spread out around the track, but at Talladega they are all bunched up most of the time.
“You just get up there and push and rely on your spotters and you kind of have that feel as a driver as to what you’re around and when things are starting to happen,” Harvick said. “You spend more time looking backwards than you do forward.”
What Harvick is really looking forward to is another win on Sunday.