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Kevin Harvick's Talladega win not only 'Karma' but propitious too

   Kevin Harvick struts his stuff in victory (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern

   It couldn't have come at a more propitious moment, both for Kevin Harvick and car owner Richard Childress: Sunday's photo finish victory over Jamie McMurray...which, after all, was not only Harvick's first NASCAR tour win since 2007 and Childress' first since 2008, but was a 1-2 victory for the Childress-Earnhardt engine program....actually 1-2-3, with Juan Pablo Montoya finishing third.
   Maybe Childress and Company have indeed figured out a way to wrestle with Rick Hendrick's guys...who may be getting too busy wrestling among themselves, to judge from all these uncharacteristic flare-ups between teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
    "This is about as sweet as it gets," Childress said with a big grin. 
    "This is as good a race as you can see at Talladega. It broke a record for lead changes. And the spoiler and everything on the cars worked great."
    Strategy? Well, Harvick and teammate Clint Bowyer stuck near the back of the pack much of the day, then Harvick charged to the front. Third teammate Jeff Burton, who may have had the strongest car in the field, on the other hand, stayed up front racing aggressively all day. But Burton got taken out in a late crash after a perhaps questionable pit stop with only 25 miles to go.
    So tactics? When to make that last lap move?
   "I talked to Kevin and said 'I don't know if you want to be in the lead,'" Childress said. "That was right -- second place was the place to be."
   Let leader Jamie McMurray make the move, in the two-car breakaway, and then make a countermove.
   Now in a bigger pack, something else might have been the move.

   Jeff Burton (R) had the best car at Talladega, but a late pit stop put him in a bad situation....and teammate Kevin Harvick (L) pulled off the win (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "We were tight on fuel, but we were able to save enough gas to get where we needed to be for all the green-white-checkereds," Harvick said.
    "Then it was just all about timing...and the timing worked out exactly how we wanted it to work out:  We knew coming into the tri-oval we needed to be second. And he moved to the right and I moved to the left, and that was it.
    "In practice (Friday) you saw a lot of guys practicing that. And you have basically one move -- as long as you stayed against their bumper, you were able to shoot past them. And then as you shot past them, it slowed down them, and you could stay ahead for several hundred feet, until they drew back even. 
    "It just worked out absolutely perfect on the timing side of it."
     At Daytona two months ago Harvick lost the Daytona 500 because of the green-white-checkered rule. And crew chief Gil Martin didn't take that loss well:          
     "I remember Gil being down in the dumps and telling (NASCAR president) Mike Helton 'That rule sucks,'" Harvick recalled.
   "Mike patted him on the back and said it'll all come full circle. 
    "And here it all worked itself out and we were able to finish it off."
    Childress remembers that well too: "I think we won the Daytona 510 (first overtime); we just didn't win the Daytona 520 (second overtime)."

   Richard Childress (back) and crew chief Gil Martin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    And it's not just at plate tracks that the Childress team has rebounded this season. "We had a good shot at California," Childress said, referring to the Jeff Burton and Harvick late-race charge that came just short.
     "I really feel good about everything the team has got going right now. 
     "We want to win that championship."
    Of course hanging over all this is the contract renewal that Childress is trying to work out with Harvick, who wasn't a bit happy last summer with the way things were going.
    Harvick, though, has apparently managed to put that on the backburner for a while and focus on his racing.
   This time it was his conservative strategy that may have payed off.
    "We spent the first part of the day just trying to protect ourselves -- making laps," Harvick said. "We waited until like about 50 or 60 laps to go to go.
    "We don't like to sit back there and just protect our car...but the last four or five times here we've wrecked, and we did not want to wreck."
    But now Harvick and the rest of the drivers are facing a 'second' Talladega track on the tour next season, with the repaving of Daytona, to a smoother track, with better corner transitions. That should bring Talladega racing to Daytona.
    Harvick isn't the only one wary about what Daytona 2011 might hold: "It's a lot different because it's so much narrower. I think Daytona could become the new Talladega -- with more carnage because it's so narrow."


  Crew chief Gil Martin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Martin has his own views about what Daytona officials should do with the new asphalt: keep it abrasive, to wear tires and slow speeds over a tire run.
    "As far as the (aerodynamic) package, it's going to work well at Daytona," Martin says. "But the thing I like seeing about the Daytona track is that the track is worn out...and it goes down to you've got to make the cars handle.
    "Here, it's a big strategy race, and the drivers have really got to play a chess game the whole time.
   "At Daytona you've got to get your car to handle. It's not just about pure speed, because you have to get in and out of the throttle a lot (at Daytona). 
    "I just hope if they do repave it, that's what they do -- that they use some asphalt that will grain up really fast...instead of being smooth, slick asphalt.
    "In fact I hope they keeps the bumps and just fixes the holes."


    Victory lane was an all-Childress-Harvick affair (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Indeed, that was a great

Indeed, that was a great race. Reminiscent of racing in the 80's where the draft and the slingshot were used to perfection. I wonder what the racing will be like at the 600 @ Charlotte this year? New spoiler package, night racing, more grip. The All Star race should be one for the ages! Back in the day, Charlotte used to run neck-and-neck with Talladega for the lead changes record and with the 600 being a longer race, another record maybe set.

Maybe Shell/Pennzoil leaving was the "monkey off their back" at RCR. Knowing that the fire have been lit under their asses means time get going.

Here's how I think the sponsor game is gonna play out. If KH stays with RCR, Budweiser to RCR/KH, Mobil 1 to DEI, (probably JPM, JMc goes Target, been there, done that) Bass Pro to Stewart-Haas/Ryan Newman, avid fisherman/outdoorsman. Perfect fit. If Petty/Gillett folds, A.J. Allmendinger (Best Buy) to JGR or Stewart-Haas, if sponsorship follows or Paul Menard (Menard's) to Stewart-Haas.

Elliott Sadler? He can literally kiss the baby. Back to the N'Wide & Trucks. Oh, yeah. Let Kasey Kahne do that part time, Army/Haas Automotion thingy at Stewart-Haas. I mean, he's going to be there part-time, right and Stewart-Haas will "only" have a 4 car operation, in-line with the rule book.

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