TERRE HAUTE —
NASCAR Sprint Cup action continues Saturday night with the running of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Tony Stewart won the race a year ago. Kevin Harvick is the current leader in the Cup totals.
What a diffference a year has made for him and the Richard Childress Racing team.
Harvick feels good about staying at or near the top going into the 18th race of the season and second in the Race To The Chase.
He began the season by winning the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. He earned no points for that victory but it indicated the end of a slump for him and the RCR team.
A year ago, Harvick ranked 27th in the Cup totals. Now he is first, while teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer are eighth and 15th.
Harvick gives complete credit to his boss. “Richard … provides the money and resources,” he said on a teleconference this week.
Saturday’s race will be the final one on the Daytona track before it is repaved. Harvick said he is sorry about that — he won the Daytona 500 in 2007 — but feels certain the repairs will be good. “Time takes its toll; it will be totally different in February,” he said.
He noted that drivers have become more aggressive each week with the close competition. “It should exciting each week with more bent fenders,” he said.
Harvick has made it to first in the standings without winning a race but has been more than consistent. He has a series-high 12 finishes in the top 10 and is tied for first with seven top-five finishes.
“I would give our season an A+ so far coming off of last year. We’ve consistently been in the top five. That’s what you have to do to earn championship numbers,” he said.
He still rates Jimmy Johnson, who is second in the points race, as the driver to beat for another Cup title. “The ball is in our hands. We have to be prepared for it,” said Harvick.
The Cup contingent is at Chicagoland Speedway for another Saturday night race next week and will be in Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400 on July 26.
“Those are places we have done well. I feel we can be competitive each week. We need to be consistent and be positive. We probably need to win one or two races and avoid disasters,” he said of keys to winning the Cup title.
The 34-year-old driver has been racing full time in the Sprint Cup races since 2001 and was rookie of the year in the series. His best finishes have been fourth twice, in 2008 and 2006.
Harvick won at Indianapolis in 2003 and won the race from the pole. “Everyone circles Indy on their schedule,” says Harvick.