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Kevin Harvick, atop the Sprint Cup standings, insists he doesn't have anything to prove

  For Kevin Harvick, things are looking up (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   As the man atop the NASCAR standings, Kevin Harvick has to be happy....though sometimes it's hard to tell.
   Yes, it still quite early in the season. However the turnaround in the Richard Childress camp has been striking so far.
   "We have done a good job of turning everything around, and now it's our job to capitalize on the moments when we have the opportunity to win," says Harvick, who had shots to win Daytona and California the past two weeks in his bid to snap a winless streak stretching back early 2007.
   It's a contract year, and that's something of a cloud hanging over things for the driver and team, though they're not talking much about that. At the moment all Harvick and Childress and crew chief Gil Martin are trying to do is make sure they've got things organized well enough so if they do hit a pothole, they can recover more quickly than last year.
    "We have done a really good job of catching up and making our stuff competitive again," Harvick says. "But you saw how long it took -- it took seven months to get things back where they needed to be."
   He says next week's stop at Atlanta may be telling, considering he ran a strong second there the last time out, Labor Day weekend.
   The engineering changes that have made the difference? Harvick said "it was everything but the engine. We really just started over.
   "The structure of management has changed, the chassis, the bodies, the bump-stops...."
   Putting Scott Miller in the role of competition director for all three teams has clearly helped.
   But Harvick says he could see things starting to improve late last season.
   "We got our first generation of 'new-style' cars when we went to Indianapolis (late July), and everybody started running a lot better, and we started building from there," Harvick says.
    "The season was kind of a disaster at that point. That was where we started to turn it around, getting a lot of different cars built.
    "When you start the season and you've got 40 or 50 cars, between the four teams, that are built in the wrong direction, it takes a long time to get that fleet of cars turned around.
   "The one thing we haven't had to worry about is our engine group.
    "It was just a huge task to turn everything around.  The biggest thing is now we have a fleet of the new cars.
     "The management changes have probably been the best things that have happened.
     "Unfortunately it's a money-eating machine to get your stuff turned back around. But when you are behind, you've got to do what you've got to do to catch back up. And Richard has made that commitment.
    "Our job is not to have so many peaks and valleys. That's the thing that's hindered us."
    Harvick has been with Childress for more than 10 years, and "I've been through a couple of those periods...we have always rebounded.
   "The biggest thing everybody learns from it is you just don't like to run like that.
    "Everyone gets frustrated pretty easily.
    "You've just got to forget what happened last year, to a certain degree. But you have also got to remember it so that you can try to prevent that from happening again.
    "The biggest thing that comes out of that is remembering what you did to get yourself into that funk and try not to let that happen again.
    "Obviously the year has started off good. We are starting the way we finished last year.
    "Still a lot of unknowns...as far as what's going to happen when the (new) spoiler gets put on the car (in a couple of weeks). It's probably going to be eight or 10 weeks into the season until you really know where you stand with the spoiler. I think the closing rate is going to be a little bit faster than it is now even than it was at Daytona with the wing."
   That will be seen when the teams test at Talladega in three weeks.
     "The biggest unknown is there's definitely a balance shift in aerodynamics with the (new) spoiler.
   "You can't take this car and just put the new spoiler on it. So we'll all be tested pretty quickly on where we're at. Every team in the garage is worried about whether or not they're going in the right direction."
   That first major telling events will likely be at Phoenix and Texas in mid-April.



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Harvick & Childress

Did those 40 or 50 cars that Harvick mentioned they began 2009 with; did they get revised, or were they replaced with 40 or 50 new cars?

Also, would those 40 or 50 cars from a year ago be candidates for the spoiler, or were they just wrong for NASCAR today?

Finally, has NASCAR done anything to address Go or Go Homer qualifying in light of expected rain tomorrow morning for the Nationwide qualifying at Las Vegas? There are 21 GGH cars trying for 13 available slots. .

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