April 19, 2006

Racing Reporter Harvick Gets Nashville Busch Win

Kevin Harvick (click for larger version)
Five years ago, Kevin Harvick won the pole at Nashville Superspeedway in the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race at the lightning-fast concrete racetrack. On Saturday, the 2001 series champion and current points leader returned to capture the 18th win of his career.

"Life is good right now," said Harvick. "But in racing, things can go bad in a hurry, so the best thing is to enjoy it while you can, and then move on to the next race."

Harvick battled last year's race winner Reed Sorenson for the final 35 laps, but Sorenson's challenge for a repeat ended with five laps to go when he scraped the wall in Turn 4. Harvick then had to hold off his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer — who won the 2005 June race at Nashville — with two laps left but had a great restart and pulled away with little effort and was rewarded with the coveted Sam Bass guitar trophy.

Bowyer remained in the runner-up slot, Busch Pole winner Denny Hamlin was third, J.J. Yeley was fourth, and Carl Edwards was fifth. Jon Wood had his second-best finish of the season with sixth-place, Raybestos Rookie Burney Lamar was seventh, Kenny Wallace was eighth, Paul Menard was ninth, while Michael Waltrip completed the top 10 finishers.

Harvick padded his NASCAR Busch Series points lead, now holding a 156-point advantage over second-place Hamlin. Bowyer is third, followed by Yeley in fourth, fifth-place Edwards, Menard in sixth, then Wood, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch and Lamar in seventh through 10th, respectively.

ARCA Race Goes To Stephen Leicht

Asheville, North Carolina's Stephen Leicht, in a Robert Yates Racing Ford, earned his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory in only his second series start on Saturday afternoon at Nashville Superspeedway, claiming the PFG Lester 150 by a margin of 0.538 seconds over fellow rookie Brad Coleman.

"I still haven't realized I won this race," said Leicht. "It probably won't hit me until tomorrow. I knew we had a good car, but I didn't know if we had the experience to beat guys like Frank Kimmel. And you know, Steve Wallace has a lot of seat time in these cars."

Top-10 finishers: 1. Stephen Leicht, 2. Brad Coleman, 3. Frank Kimmel, 4. TJ Bell, 5. Willie Allen, 6. Cale Gale, 7. Todd Hansen, 8. Damon Lusk, 9. Michael Faulk, 10. Steve Wallace

Top-10 ARCA RE/MAX Series Points after Nashville: 1. Frank Kimmel-410, 2. TJ Bell-400, 3. Bobby Gerhart-400, 4. Damon Lusk-395, 5. Billy Venturini-365, 6. Mario Gosselin-365, 7. Ken Weaver-350, 8. Stephen Leicht-345, 9. Erin Crocker-315, 10. Chuck Weber-270

Jeff Green Enjoyed His Off Weekend

For 38 weekends a year, Nextel Cup drivers are racing.

It was Easter week. There was no Cup race, only the Busch series event at Nashville on Saturday. But the main reason the Cup teams didn't have a scheduled race is because NASCAR knows it couldn't draw a sellout crowd on Easter Sunday.

Officially, it's called "a week off."

While all drivers had Easter Sunday off, it could hardly be looked upon as a leisure time, because most teams spent the week testing at Richmond.

Last Wednesday saw Jeff Green, driver of the No. 66 and his Haas CNC Racing crew posting the third-fastest lap time of the evening session. The effort gave Green and the No. 66 team the sixth-fastest time overall after the first two days of testing.

"I'm pretty happy with how everything went in the test," said Green. "We didn't really make a 'Bonzai' qualifying run until Wednesday evening, and ended up with a pretty good lap. We spent the rest of the time trying a lot of different stuff on race runs. We took our time and just worked through a lot of things. I feel like we'll be good when we get back here."

After testing, Green spent time at the team's shop in Harrisburg, NC.

Green and his wife, Michelle, flew to Green's hometown of Owensboro, KY., last Friday to celebrate Easter with family, and returned to Harrisburg yesterday.

"Me and some hunting buddies drove up to some farm land I have that's about 70 miles outside Owensboro," continued Green. "We went up and did a little turkey hunting. Then we spent Easter with the family, and just relaxed a couple days before heading to Phoenix."

Green, who began racing full-time in the Cup series in 2002, is now driving for the fourth different team.

He has yet to win a Cup race, but despite the winless streak, he is a capable driver. From 1999-01, he won a Busch Series Championship and finished second twice, while recording 13 Busch wins in that time period.

While driving for Petty Enterprises in 2005, it was a season of mechanical failures and mid-pack finishes. Green was only able to lead eight laps during the entire season.

In 2005, Green started off with a 16th place finish at Daytona, which is not bad considering their equipment and level of competition.

However, the only remaining bright spots for the team were two, top-10s at Bristol and Pocono, 11th at Lowe's in the Coca-Cola 600, and a 12th at Homestead.

He finished 29th in points.

The HAAS CNC team has struggled over the past two seasons. In 2004, with Mike Bliss and Ward Burton as drivers, the team scored only four top-10s.

Green definitely has the necessary driving skills, and if the team can build a solid program around the former Busch champion, get some reliable horsepower, and keep the fenders on the No. 66, Green could be in for some good runs before the season is over.

The Nextel Cup drivers will have 14 consecutive weeks of racing before another break, and then it will be 16 more consecutive race weekends.

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