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Thunder Notes: Harvick Won’t Commit To Future

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 16 2010
Kevin Harvick is giving away very little when it comes to his future at Richard Childress Racing. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick is giving away very little when it comes to his future at Richard Childress Racing. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Kevin Harvick, whose driving contract with Richard Childress Racing ends at the conclusion of the 2010 season, shed absolutely no light on his future plans during the media portion of his appearance at Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m not getting in the middle of it,” he said. “When it all boils down to it, it’s all about winning races, and that’s all I care about. We’re going to come into the season, and we’re going to race a lot this year, and we’re going to have fun. That’s my main goal for the year is to have fun. How it all plays out, I couldn’t tell you.”

If it indeed is all about winning Cup races for Harvick, a change could be in store. He hasn’t won a Cup race since February, 2007, at Daytona.

Harvick, who also fields teams in the Camping World Truck Series and in the Nationwide Series, said the overall health of those two series seems OK even in a tight economy.

He pointed out that costs have been slashed for truck owners, and that has been a positive change for the series.

“It’s become more affordable to race, and I think the series is going to be as healthy as it’s ever been with Kyle (Busch’s) two or three teams coming in, we’ve got Turner Motorsports, got two fully competitive teams coming in,” he said. “I know we had a couple teams that fell out, but I think there’s more quality teams this year than there has been in a long time.”

He said the Nationwide Series also is going to be OK even though team owners will have to absorb the cost of introducing a new Car of Tomorrow.

“I think that series is going to be strong as well,” he said.

Trevor Bayne doesn’t need his 2009 statistics pointed out to him. He knows that he was unable to back up his impressive qualifying runs when the final results were posted. In 15 Nationwide Series starts, he qualified 13times in the top 12, including a pole at O’Reilly Raceway Park and a second at Michigan. But his best finishes were a pair of sevenths and his average finish was 18th.

Bayne, who plans a full Nationwide campaign in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, said Saturday that improving his performance over the duration of the race is something he plans to work on this season.

“For the last couple years I’ve been racing in longer races, but the competition that we were racing against wasn’t near the level that we’re at now,” he said. “The track still changes the same, but it’s how other drivers have adapted to the track as it goes on. That’s something I’ve got to get used to.”

It will help, he said, being able to go to a track having some personal experience there from last year, even though he still will be seeing some new venues, including Daytona International Speedway.

“Now I’ve got it written down what the track did the previous year, and when I go back, I can remember, OK, this track freed up so we can be ahead of the curve,” he said. “Last year as the race went on, we were kind of chasing it. Now the car is tight, so now what do we do? We couldn’t be ahead of the game on that. But I think we’ve learned a lot in the off-season as to why our long runs kind of fell off, and hopefully we can improve those.

“Our qualifying was great, but we’re still looking to improve that until we’re on the front row every single week.”

The way Clint Bowyer sees it, Richard Childress Racing’s drop back from four Cup teams to three, losing the No. 07 Casey Mears team, isn’t all bad.

He said RCR seems to function better with three teams, even though Mears got great reviews from his teammates.

“For whatever reason, whether it’s the management or whatever else … I just have a feeling that three cars are going to be better for our organization,” he said.

It has been in the recent past. In both 2007 and 2008, RCR placed all three of its drivers, Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick, in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Last year none of the four made it.

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing, is having to build lots of new relations as the season approaches. In addition to learning the ways of a new crew chief, Donnie Wingo, he’s having to familiarize himself with an all-new crew for the most part.

With Roush dropping the No. 26 team, Wingo’s old outfit, to meet the NASCAR maximum of four teams per owner, the company has undergone some significant personnel shuffling, Ragan said.

He said most of his new crew members came over with Wingo from the 26 team.

“(Wingo) is our head guy, he’s our crew chief, he’s our team leader and he can bring in who he feels like will make our team better,” Ragan said, adding that one key addition is that of Loren Ranier, who will be his spotter. Ranier previously did that job for Jamie McMurray when he drove the No. 26.

“I feel like he’ll be a key asset to our team and an asset to myself,” Ragan said. “He’s worked with Donnie so much in the past, he can kind of help that flow from myself to Donnie throughout the three of us.”

Daytona International Speedway president Robin Braig said that moving the starting time of the Daytona 500 back to around 1 p.m. already is paying off for the speedway. He said that he attributes 5,000 to 8,000 ticket sales because of the change.

Braig said fans told speedway officials that the later starting times of recent races had forced them to add an extra day of travel and motel costs and in some cases caused the races to end under cautions caused by late-afternoon rains.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 16 2010
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