13 November 2009
Harvick rises to the occasion at Phoenix
Phoenix victory the target for Kevin Harvick in the latest round of the NASCAR Truck Series
As a driver and an owner, Kevin Harvick could be doing some serious celebrating following Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Harvick has won three of four starts at the one-mile flat track in the truck series since he started the team that bears his name and is co-owned by wife DeLana. Harvick also is the first driver to win in all three NASCAR national series at Phoenix, with victories in trucks in 2002 and in Nationwide and Sprint Cup in 2006.
Harvick will be making his 100th start in the series and has only one other triumph, at Martinsville in March.
“I always seem to do well at Phoenix, so I'm excited to see what we can do with the Longhorn Chevy this weekend,” Harvick said. “I run well in the truck series, and every time I climb in the truck, I expect to be in contention at the end to win. Our truck programme has really peaked, and that makes it a lot of fun to race and see what we can do on the track. Hopefully at the end of the night, I can defend my win from last year and get the #4 team their first win of the season.”
Harvick drove in the truck series five times at Phoenix from 1996 to '99 for other teams with a best finish of 13th in 1998. Growing up in Bakersfield, Calif., Harvick frequently drove in NASCAR's Western divisions at Phoenix. He figures all that track time has given him an advantage.
“Phoenix is one of those places that I grew up racing on,” Harvick said. “I raced a lot in the Southwest Tour, Winston West and truck series races at Phoenix. I have learned the characteristics of the racetrack and the little things that you can do when your car is not handling perfect. I like the flat racetracks. Racing on Phoenix my entire career has also translated into flat-track success on the entire circuit.”
Friday's race shapes up as a showdown between Harvick's Chevrolet and the Toyota of Kyle Busch, who has won the past five truck races he has entered and seven of 13 starts this season. Busch won at Phoenix in 2007 and ran second to Harvick last year.
KHI also could clinch its second championship in the past three years with regular driver Ron Hornaday Jr., who brings a 197-point lead over Matt Crafton into Phoenix. If Hornaday finishes in front of Crafton, he'll go to next week's season finale at Homestead-Miami as champion. It would be his fourth in the series.
Hornaday is also a threat to win Friday's race. He has six wins this season and posted victories at PIR in 1998 and 1999. Like Harvick, Hornaday grew up in California, in Palmdale just north of Las Angeles, and has plenty of experience at PIR.
KHI is in a tight battle for the owners' title, 75 points in front of the Busch's #51 Billy Ballew Motorsports entry.
“To me, right now we are just focused on two more races,” Hornaday said. “I don't look at the championship until Homestead. The #33 team is not only racing for the drivers' championship, we want to make sure Kevin and DeLana win the owners' championship as well. I don't go into it looking at how many points we are ahead. I know that we just need to win the last two races. That's what I want to go do, and then the points will take care of themselves.”
by Tim Tuttle/Sporting News
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