One of the most important elements of any NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team's operations is when they take time to test. Visiting a racetrack early to work on set-ups, shake down a new body, and allow extra seat time for a driver, gets them a jump on the track and competition when they return to race. This is exactly why Kevin Harvick and the #29 GM Goodwrench racing team decided to test Texas Motor Speedway last week.
Crew chief Todd Berrier will be the first to admit that the silver and black racing machine can be better on what the series calls "cookie-cutter" racetracks. The team struggled in Atlanta, and ran out of gas running second in Las Vegas, earlier in the year, two venues similar in design to the newly nicknamed "Great American Speedway".
Over the course of the two-day test, Harvick and the crew worked on nothing but chassis set-up in race trim. The 2001 Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year made 60, two and three lap runs to try and get the car as balanced as possible. They then went to work on new chassis ideas that will provide them with useful insight for the rest of the season.
This weekend Harvick will take time off from NASCAR Busch Series racing and focus his attention on the International Race of Champion [IROC] Championship Series and NEXTEL Cup Series efforts. Fresh off his best finish of the season in Bristol, he looks to continue his push back into the top-five in points and knows a great run in the Lone Star State will get the wheel rolling.
Kevin, how was the Texas test?
We had a really good test in Texas. It was a good couple of days for us and we learned a lot of chassis stuff. We tried a lot of new combinations and most of it worked out the way we wanted. We struggled with the bumps in [turns] one and two at the beginning, and that spilled over to the bumps in [turns] three and four. Once we fixed the bumps in one and two, the ones in three and four pretty much fixed themselves. From that point, it was smooth sailing until the rain came the last two hours on Wednesday. That hurt us a little, but we're excited to go back after having such a great test.
How were the tyres?
The tyres for Texas are probably a little less important than they are at other places just because the speed is up so high and it doesn't seem like the tyres fall off as much as they do at other places. We didn't have to adjust a bunch, but we were able to try a lot of new things we've wanted to try for a while and they all worked. Speeds are probably going to be three or four tenths quicker than they have in the past because they're softer and can stick better in the corners. You definitely get a lot better grip, but it won't allow you to go wide open through the corners like you used to be able to do when the pavement was brand new.
You've tested there twice in the last two years, any special reason?
Texas is one of those places where you can get a lot more from a test besides learning about the racetrack. It's like so many other places we visit throughout the year that we can go there, test a bunch of different things and see what works and doesn't work. During the last test we tried a bunch of different chassis set-ups that we don't normally work on at a usual test, things we didn't necessarily think would benefit us and it turned out they did.
What's your impression of the racetrack itself?
A fast racetrack, very fast. Aside from Dover, it's probably the biggest sensation of speed other than a qualifying lap at Atlanta. You have to go as fast as you can every lap, just for the fact that you spend more time on the throttle through the corners than you do off. If you are off a little bit, you are going to be lapped in a hurry. The support people give out there in Texas is awesome. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that's pretty much true when it comes to the crowd, purse and everything like that. It's a very nice facility and we enjoy going there.
Are you excited to get back in the IROC car?
It's always fun racing in those things. This is going to be a little different because we haven't raced at Texas before or at night. I think it's cool. It kind of fits with the new scheme of things, with Crown Royal coming on board as sponsor. I think Friday night racing will make it exciting for the fans and the drivers. Racing under the lights is always cool.