Harvick & Co. hope to end Michigan skid

June, 12, 2010

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kevin Harvick has bigger things to worry about this weekend than Tom Logano. Like trying to figure out why a Richard Childress Racing car hasn't gone to Victory Lane at Michigan in 20 years.

The last time an RCR Chevrolet took the checkered flag on the 2-mile Michigan oval was in 1990, when Dale Earnhardt was on his way to his fourth Cup championship.

Harvick, who leads the standings, could be on his way to his first Cup title. Maybe breaking a long RCR slump at Michigan would be a good omen.

But Harvick will need to go from the back to the front to do it Sunday. He starts 31st after a poor qualifying effort.

"We didn't have as much speed in qualifying trim, but our race-trim speed was good, so that's all that matters,'' Harvick said. "I'm happy with the way my car feels. It feels good every week lately, so it's been the same way."

But something about this type track -- a wide racing surface with minimal banking -- hasn't brought out the best in the RCR drivers. Childress cars also are winless at Auto Club Speedway, the Fontana, Calif., track that is almost identical to Michigan.

The RCR trio, including Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, are much improved this season, with all three drivers ranking in the top 12. But winning races remains elusive.

Harvick has the team's only victory this season with his win at Talladega, which was his first victory since the 2007 Daytona 500. The last time Harvick won a non-restrictor-plate race was at Phoenix in November 2006.

RCR's last win outside the two restrictor-plate tracks was October 2008 when Burton won at Charlotte. Burton ranks eighth in the 2010 standings, but he's one of seven drivers inside the top 12 this season who doesn't have a victory.

Burton starts fifth Sunday, but he admits Michigan has the RCR boys stumped.

"This is a track where we've struggled the last few years and haven't performed the way we've wanted to," Burton said Friday. "It's a big challenge for us to try and run well and be competitive here.

"For whatever reason, it's one of our weaker tracks, which is kind of surprising to me. We're looking to come in and step that up and run the way we've been running everywhere else, and I feel like we can."

Bowyer also is confident, but his last Cup victory was more than two years ago at Richmond in 2008.

"We've had some bumps in the road," Bowyer said. "But I had a good feeling we could get back because of the speed in our race cars. We're slowly but surely getting back where we've needed to be. I feel like we're going to have another good run."

The RCR guys shouldn't feel too bad about their winless streak at Michigan. Jimmie Johnson is 0-for-16 racing in the Irish Hills.

But Johnson led the most laps at both Michigan races last year before running out of gas in both events.

"Hopefully we won't do that again," Johnson said Friday. "I think we're close, very close. But as a driver, I know I don't get good fuel mileage. It's just my style and the way I use the throttle to turn the car."

All three of Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- have won at Michigan.

But RCR's 20-year drought here is the worst in Cup. Even Wood Brothers Racing, who has only three victories in the last 20 years, has a shorter losing streak at Michigan than RCR. Dale Jarrett won a 1991 race here while driving for the Wood Brothers.

Harvick doesn't put much stock in the numbers.

"I think all of the stats from the past are out the window, considering how everything has gone this year," Harvick said. "With the way our cars are running, we can run in the top five on any given weekend. And that's what you have to do to win a race in this series."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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