Harvick aims to win in Vegas

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet, talks with crew chief Shane Wilson in the...

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet, talks with crew chief Shane Wilson in the garage prior to practice for last week's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Arizona. (GETTY IMAGES)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

A week ago Kevin Harvick finished second in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

But in NASCAR, as in most every other professional sport, second is the first loser and Kevin Harvick hates losing no matter where he finishes.

For him there is none of the usual “we had a sixth place car today.”

Harvick thinks there is only one place to finish and that is first.

So coming into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Harvick has his work cut out for him.

In fact in 11 previous appearances at Las Vegas Harvick has zero wins and last year he finished a miserable — at least for him and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team — 17th behind race winner Carl Edwards.

Yet a year earlier — in 2010 — Harvick was just a tick off of winner Jimmie Johnson’s bumper at the finish line.

So he does hold out hope that he can put his Chevrolet in Victory Lane this week and put his winless skein behind him.

“The year before we were absolutely awful on the mile-and-a-half race tracks but we ran great at Las Vegas,” Harvick said. “(LVMS) has a different type of asphalt and it has a lot of banking and a lot of grip, so you can cover things up that you might not be able to cover up at a track like Kansas Speedway or some of those types of places.”

He said that with a relatively new racing surface at Las Vegas it makes for a lot more grip and higher speeds than they would normally see on an intermediate 1.5 mile banked oval.

“It seems like it’s still really fast and every time we go out there during this time of the year it’s always pretty cool (temperature) so the cars seem to grip well,” Harvick said. “The way that they paved that particular race track, it started off rough and it’s still rough.

“I think everybody’s adapted and it adds character to the track. You can move around the race track and you have options. It’s a different race track than most everywhere else we go.”

The fact is that LVMS was built for stock car racing. It is a multiple groove track that encourages two and three wide racing.

Last October’s tragic accident in the IZOD IndyCar finale at LVMS that killed Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon showed that the high downforce, open wheel race cars are not a good fit here.

Harvick agrees it is, however, a great track for NASCAR Sprint Cup’s 3,400 pound 900 horsepower sedans.

He, for one, loves that it is a drivers’ track and one that brings out the best in those willing to take chances. “I think of race car drivers as calculated gamblers,” Harvick said. “You sit there and think whether you’re 100% sure you can make a pass or not.

“I think you have to be a gambler to a certain extent. I also think there’s an ‘I may not make it this time’ type of move that you have to try to accomplish every once and a while to try and win a race, or put yourself in a position to win a race. I think on a week-to-week basis, it’s a good description of who we are.”

Harvick said while he does look at the Vegas odds for Sunday’s race just to see where the real gamblers put him — he is listed 10-1 at the sports book at Stratosphere Casino — he is glad that he’s not 100-1 like 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

The favourite, by the way, is Johnson at 9-2.

“I’m happy to say I don’t think we’ve ever been 100 to 1,” he said. “(The sports books) do a lot of research and a lot of studying and sometimes they hit it right and sometimes they don’t. More than not, I’d say they hit it closer than further away.”

As for Sunday’s race Harvick thinks it will be — to borrow a movie title — fast and furious.

“When they re-paved the race track, it became a really fast race track,” he said. “(There are) several bumps in the track and you have to make sure you are pointed in the right direction to go over it straight.

“It’s a really fast race track and you just have to have a lot of grip in the car to keep the pedal on the floor.”

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

NASCAR POINTS RACE

(Top 12 drivers going into Las Vegas)

1 Denny Hamlin 89

2 Greg Biffle 83

3 Kevin Harvick 81

4 Matt Kenseth 79

5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 72

6 Martin Truex Jr. 71

7 Mark Martin 71

8 Joey Logano 70

9 Kyle Busch 66

10 Carl Edwards 63

11 Bobby Labonte 58

12 Brad Keselowski 52

 

 

 


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