Daytona wreck won't define Harvick's season
February 26, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
The race had barely begun when the day came to a sudden, halting end for Kevin Harvick. The Richard Childress Racing driver finished a disappointing 42nd in the season-opening Daytona 500, an unexpected turn of events for a team that had shown plenty of promise throughout much of Speedweeks.
Sound familiar? The same thing happened two years ago. But four weeks after an engine issue cut short his day at Daytona, Harvick and his Gil Martin-led team were coming off a win at Auto Club Speedway and back in the top 10 in points. Harvick finished the year third in the standings, with four wins.
As NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series teams prepare to head to Phoenix International Raceway for this year’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, Harvick finds himself in a similar situation. Caught up in a multicar accident during Sunday’s Daytona 500, he was on the sidelines after just 47 laps of the 200-lap race.
"We just go ahead and prepare for what’s in front of us."
-- Gil Martin, crew chief of Kevin Harvick
The not unfamiliar task of putting a misstep behind them and focusing on the next week’s race has begun. Even if much of the offseason work, effort, testing and focus had been on a single race -- the Daytona 500 -- the work had already paid dividends as Harvick had won The Sprint Unlimited non-points race a week earlier, then one of the two Daytona Duels qualifying races days before the 500.
“That Sunday, it’s pretty tough,” Martin said of the team’s quick exit. “But Monday morning, as soon as you walk in the shop, you’re faced with getting four cars ready, two for Phoenix, two for Las Vegas because they basically leave at the same time. That pretty well takes all your attention so you don’t have an opportunity really to dwell on what happened Sunday. We just go ahead and prepare for what’s in front of us.”
Harvick won at Phoenix last fall, his third career Cup win at the one-mile track. He also was runner-up in the spring race. In 20 career starts, he’s managed to post six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
“Actually, the first four or five tracks that we go to are excellent for Kevin,” Martin said. “I think we’re prepared for them. It’ll take a few weeks to get ourselves out of this hole, but we’ll eventually get ourselves out of it.”
Phoenix will mark the first competitive stop for the new Generation-6 car on a downforce track, where drafting won’t be an issue and handling will be crucial. The new car has been tested extensively, yet there is still much that is unknown about how it will race on the intermediate and short tracks.
Can anything from last year’s successful setups carry over for Harvick and his team?
A lot can and will, according to Martin, who has 12 career Cup wins with three different drivers.
“We did a 2013 car test there at the end of the year and some of the stuff that we did with the car actually applied to our race that we ran in the fall,” he said. “It wasn’t that big of a deal.
“We didn’t have quite as much spoiler and as much splitter then as we do now. But I think that’s just going to be an offset in our setups and everybody will overcome that pretty fast.”
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