RACER.com is delighted to add NASCAR ace Kevin Harvick to our group of racing columnists
The month of May has been a sore subject with me for years. It just seems like I usually have the worst luck that particular month, and that stretch of races has been historically tough on us. With the exception of Richmond, places like Darlington, Dover and Charlotte have been quite a challenge. But amazingly, this last May was pretty good!
It started out at Richmond, a place that is a fan favorite, and I really enjoy racing there. We had a cool-looking Reese's paint scheme, and the car was fast. We finished third and ran inside the top 10 the entire night.
The next three races – Darlington, Dover and Charlotte – are some of my least favorite. There's nothing wrong with the tracks, they are just places that have been difficult for me. We were able to finish in the top 10 at both Darlington and Dover. Then at Charlotte, we ran extremely well at my least favorite track. We had a top-five car, but I hit a piece of debris, which bent one of the splitter braces and the car got extremely tight. We finished 11th, and for Charlotte, I will take that and run with it!
But to run as well as we did at each of those places is really a testament to how hard everyone at RCR has worked, and that the restructuring that went on last year is paying off in a huge way.
Gil Martin was named my crew chief during the season last year, and Scott Miller was appointed director of competition last September. That has been a huge plus for RCR as a whole. We built a fleet of new cars, and our engineering department has done a great job with simulation and the tools they have at their disposal to get ahead. Now the big challenge for us is to stay ahead. That is what got us in trouble last year. We fell behind, and I mean we fell way behind.
May was also a good month because Richard Childress and I were able to announce that I will be driving the No. 29 Chevrolet at RCR for a long time to come. Richard and I want the same things, and we have been through a lot together. We are both extremely competitive, and we want to win races and a championship. It was nice to get my contract done and let everyone know about our plans for the future.
To be leading the points after 13 races is certainly nice. It's a position that we haven't been in before. But right now everyone is just jockeying for position to get locked into the Chase. The biggest thing is not really leading the point standings, it's creating a buffer between yourself and 13th. We can't rest on our laurels just yet. We have to remain solid, and try to position ourselves so that we can try to win another race or two before the Chase starts.
It's also important to get everything lined up a few weeks prior to the Chase, as far as which cars will race where. So it is important for us to stay solid, and when we have a bad day, we have to find a way to turn it into a good finish. Those are the kinds of things that championship teams do. We have struggled at that in previous years, but we have made big strides in that area.
For example, we struggled pretty bad at Atlanta earlier this year. We seemed like we were mired around 24th or so for most of the race, but we stayed on the lead lap, and Gil kept adjusting on the car, and we finally hit on something near the end and we finished ninth.
So, our Cup program at RCR has been great so far this year. Our engines and everyone at ECR have been giving us fantastic power each week. We now have our cars handling well, and it's been a good combination.
It's also been a great start to the year for KHI and our Nationwide and Truck Series programs. Ron Hornaday had some really bad luck at the beginning of the season, but that is a championship group, and they have rebounded nicely over the last several races.
Our No. 33 car in the Nationwide Series has been really fast. We have won two races, and been a contender in several others. I am excited about Mike Bliss getting in that car at Nashville and Kentucky, and seeing what he can do with our crew chief, Ernie Cope.
It's an honor to submit this to all of the readers here at RACER.com. I enjoy the magazine, and I hope you'll like reading my entries. I will try to get them to you every other month or so. Thanks for all the support!