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Harvick and team look for right mix for Texas success

April 13, 2012, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

Kevin Harvick and his RCR team look to reverse their recent troubling fortunes at Texas with a good showing. (Autostock)

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Harvick, new crew chief looking for right game plan for success at Texas

Kevin Harvick won his first three career Cup Series victories on 1.5-mile tracks, and six of his 18 career wins have come on so-called "intermediate" speedways. But Harvick has never really come close to winning at Texas Motor Speedway, the site of Saturday night's Samsung Mobile 500.

And so, sitting fifth in the Sprint Cup standings with a quarter of the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup gone, Harvick would like to change recent history here.

"[Martinsville] was a little bit of a wake-up call for us ... I felt like that taught all of us that we are still a fresh group together, we made some mistakes and just try not to do that again."

--KEVIN HARVICK

"It hasn't been a very good race track for us over the last couple of years," Harvick said. "We have had OK finishes, but hadn't felt like we have run great."

Harvick was so disgusted after he finished 13th in this past fall's Texas Chase race that he climbed out of his car and walked away without speaking to anyone, leaving crew chief Gil Martin to explain the frustration.

Working with new crew chief Shane Wilson, Harvick's tallied six top-19 finishes this season -- five of them top-11s.

"Obviously, we put a lot of time and effort into the weeks leading up to the race," Harvick said Thursday before practice. "Just trying to make sure that we didn't make any mistakes ... [and] come here and try to be better. All in all, we will go practice and see where we start and go from there."

Harvick has led only five laps in 18 career Texas starts, and he has only two career top-10 starts in those races. He's managed to convert eight top-10 finishes, but he's led only one lap in the last five years.

Thursday's two-hour practice gave Harvick's Richard Childress Racing team some hope, as his No. 29 Chevrolet was third on the practice sheet -- behind Mark Martin and Greg Biffle.

"It's just a matter of doing our stuff right and trying to figure out the things that I like to feel in the car and things that we didn't do right before," Harvick said. "Things that we think we need to do better this week are to just unload better and have a better starting spot to work from."

Despite his decent results and strong spot in the standings, Harvick said his alignment with Wilson, with whom he won the 2006 Busch Series championship, was still a work in progress.

"[Martinsville] was a little bit of a wake-up call for us," Harvick said. "We had a great weekend altogether and just made some bad decisions race morning as a group. I felt like that taught all of us that we are still a fresh group together, we made some mistakes and just try not to do that again."

Harvick said he's working hard to overcome frustrations like the 19th at Martinsville.

"We sat down at the beginning of the year and just tried to figure out how we were going to progress more productively," Harvick said. "That opportunity was there to, I guess, be a jerk [at Martinsville] and we talked about it as a group. We figured out what we did wrong and we went on vacation.

"We felt like we had a lot of the questions to the quiz. I think there is still going to be situations where I don't do or say the right thing, but that is just human nature. The good thing is we've had speed in the car every week. We hadn't put it all together but the cars have been fast enough."

Harvick's led laps in three of the first six races this season, including the most laps led at Phoenix, where he finished second to Denny Hamlin. If he's managing to temper his frustration, Texas might be the perfect place to practice.

"There will be a point where [the cars] don't run fast enough," Harvick said. "It's going to be a lot more productive if we can sit down and figure it out as a group, to use the resources that we have at the shop to put the pieces together and solve the problem quicker as a group than it is to fuss and fight for two or three weeks -- then have Richard [Childress, team owner] sit us down and tell us that we need to get along.

"Then, all of a sudden we fix the problem, [but] instead of in two weeks ... in four weeks and then you've wasted two weeks. It's just trying to be more efficient and more productive."

Harvick's best Texas start, fourth, came in November 2011 with the previous version of the Cup car. His best finish, third, came in the same style car in November 2006. His best finish with the current car is fifth, in November 2009.