BY TINA AKOURIS, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
Kevin Harvick has a reputation this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series of coming out of nowhere to win. Harvick, who leads the Cup series with three victories, literally flew out of traffic last Sunday to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran out of gas in the final straightaway.
Now Harvick will be looking to do the same thing as he tries to get his first Nationwide victory of the season in the STP 300 on Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet (7, ESPN).
“Chicagoland has been a good track to us, but it’s been a while since I’ve made it to victory lane there,” Harvick said. “We started from the pole last season and finished in the top 10 [in seventh].”
Not only is this the 10th anniversary of Chicagoland Speedway, but it is also the 10th anniversary for Kevin Harvick, Inc.
And this is the first time KHI is in the running for both the driver championship and owner championship in the Nationwide series and the Camping World Truck series.
KHI driver Elliott Sadler is leading the Nationwide series points standings and Harvick’s No. 33 team is fifth in owner points.
Harvick will drive the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Impala on Saturday, but for the season the car will have six drivers: Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Scott Speed and Max Papis.
In eight Nationwide starts at Chicagoland, Harvick has won twice (2005, 2007) and also had four top-five finishes and five in the top 10. But Harvick’s Nationwide wins were with Richard Childress Racing, so he is looking for his first win at Chicagoland in his own car.
“Chicagoland is a unique track and a little bit different than a lot of places we race,” said David Hyder, Harvick’s crew chief. “The track is bumpy in the middle of the corners and you really need to turn good on the throttle.”
Harvick agrees with his crew chief that the Chicagoland track is tricky to drive.
“This track is unique,” Harvick said. “You can go through the corners pretty much wide open. You can let off sooner than you do at most places we go to, and you can drive it all the way through the corners under power. There is a lot more throttle there than most places. You get back in the gas a lot quicker there too, compared to other places.”
If Harvick has at least a top-10 finish, he will tie Tommy Houston’s Nationwide record of 198 top-10 finishes.
Harvick will have quite a busy weekend. Also racing in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway for Richard Childress Racing, Harvick will have to qualify for the Cup race Saturday morning and fly to Joliet in time for Nationwide qualifying at 3:35. Harvick will not be at today’s practice and instead David Mayhew will drive Harvick’s No. 33 car.