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Harvick Takes Care Of Business Against Busch

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 7 2010
Kevin Harvick leads Kyle Busch during Saturday's truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick leads Kyle Busch during Saturday's truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Hampton, Ga. – For some time now, there’s been debate about whether the burgeoning business side of NASCAR negatively impacts the sporting side.

Saturday’s E-Z-GO 200 Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway showed that the business side can actually make for a better show on the race track.

Kevin Harvick won the race in his own Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, dethroning Kyle Busch, who had won four of his past five starts at AMS in a Billy Ballew-owned entry but is now behind the wheel of his own Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Harvick openly acknowledged in his winner’s interview that two of the main reasons he entered the race were to sell the trucks his team builds and to stop Busch from winning, both for his own sake and for Chevrolet, which backs Harvick in the Cup, Nationwide and truck series.

“A lot of the reason we race trucks is to make sure Kyle doesn’t win all those races,” Harvick said. “That’s the honest-to-God truth. Sometimes you’ve got to protect your turf, and he was the only one running a lot of the truck races, and it was important for our company and for Chevrolet to score as many bonus points as we could, and manufacturer points, and things like that. That’s the reason we started running more truck races- to keep him from him winning seven or eight races a year.”

Harvick acknowledged that he has no illusions of completely harnessing Busch. “He’s going to win his fair share still, because he’s a good driver,” he said.

Harvick’s wife and team co-owner Delana Harvick,  pointed out that her husband won in his last three truck starts, dating back to last year’s race at Phoenix, and they’ve all come in a brand-new truck.

Kevin Harvick explained that he runs new trucks every time as part of a business plan to sell trucks to other teams.

“We’ve sold trucks to half the field out there,” Harvick said. “That’s kind of how we make truck series racing work – selling trucks and providing technical support. That’s how we keep our team going. If they want this truck, they can have it too.”

It shouldn’t be hard to sell. He led 100 of 130 laps, including the final 56 in the truck’s first appearance on a race track.

Busch’s business model appears to be working well too, at least from a competitive standpoint. Although he mentioned several times this weekend that he could use more sponsorship, his trucks ran well in their first outing other than the unpredictable wreckfest at Daytona last month.

Busch said he wasn’t sure whether fender damage from a first-lap incident with Ron Hornaday Jr. affected his truck, but he was pleased overall.

“We’re a young team, and it feels good to come out of the box and run strong,” he said. “We just need to work more in the aero department… and get more mechanical grip out of it.”

Busch’s second entry, the No. 56 driven by Tayler Malsam, finished 13th.

Saturday’s 200 also saw a strong performance by Busch’s former team owner Billy Ballew, who fielded Toyotas Tundras for third-finishing Aric Almirola and fourth-finishing Steven Wallace, the Nationwide Series regular making his first truck start.

Almirola said he was pleased with his run, but he also indicated he was hungry for more.

“We’re consistent,” he said. “We’re racing for a championship, so the mindset is completely different that a year ago, but we want to win races.

“We’ve still got our homework to do. We just were not quite as good on the long runs as we needed to be. If we keep running top fives, eventually we will win races.”

Rookie Austin Dillon, driving a No. 3 Chevrolet for his grandfather Richard Childress, finished 10th, a successful outing especially in light of his start at Daytona, where he crashed on the first lap.

“Our plan was to run all the laps and finish in the top 10,” Dillon said. “I wanted to get those first laps down and take my time.”

It was a disappointing outing for two of the top drivers from a season ago. Hornaday, the defending series champion, wrecked on Lap 22. Crafton, last year’s runner-up, also crashed but returned to the track and finished 27th. Hornaday is now28th in the standings, while Crafton is eighth. Todd Bodine finished fifth at AMS and took the points lead over Daytona winner Timothy Peters, who was seventh.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 7 2010
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