Roger Diez: Atlanta spawned a new term, ‘Harvicking’
Last week’s Atlanta race dodged the raindrops, and Kevin Harvick’s Ford absolutely dominated the proceedings. Only Brad Keselowski’s Ford was able to get anywhere near Harvick, who not only won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race but overcame an air gun failure that required a second pit stop. Harvick now joins Austin Dillon as a lock-in for the postseason playoffs. Harvick also embarrassed the Xfinity field, and the only reason he didn’t win the Camping World Truck race was because he didn’t enter it. Even a loose lug nut in the Cup post-race inspection and a $10,000 fine for crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t dampen the team’s spirits.
Atlanta spawned a new term, “Harvicking,” which I believe was coined by the clown prince of the garage, Clint Boyer. The term referred to Harvick’s uncanny ability to hug the yellow line at the bottom by getting out of the throttle much earlier than anybody else. This allowed him to get on the throttle earlier and rocket off the corners. It was probably the main reason for his domination, but nobody else seemed to have the setup to allow them to do it consistently.
There was a big swing in the Cup standings after Atlanta, which is to be expected this early in the season. Joey Logano is now at the top of the standings with 89 points. Ryan Blaney drops to second, six points back, with Denny Hamlin a further six back at 77. Harvick has move to fourth with 75 points, Bowyer is fifth at 74, and rounding out the top 10 are Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, and Aric Almirola.
Twenty years ago, Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted its first NASCAR race, and this week all three of NASCAR’s top series race at the revamped track. It’s the second mile and a half oval on the schedule, but very different from Atlanta. As usual, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has the best record with four Las Vegas victories, although none since 2010. Keselowski has won twice recently, in 2014 and 2016. Truex has won once, and Harvick scored his only victory there in 2015. Kyle Busch is the only other active driver to win at LVMS, his 2009 win his sole visit to victory circle. Once again, I expect this race to be a battle between the veterans and the young guns. Although the veterans prevailed last week at Atlanta, the young guns won’t be denied this season, as Austin Dillon proved at Daytona.
The late winter storms we’re experiencing reminded me once again of how similar race car driving is to driving in snow and ice. When you drive a race car, you are always at or near the limit of adhesion, that point at which the tires stop sticking and start sliding. This is the result of speed and cornering forces pushing the tires to their limits. In slippery conditions like we have now, the limit of adhesion is reached at much lower speeds. Perhaps as low as 5 mph, because the road surface’s coefficient of friction is approaching zero. Winter driving is great training for the aspiring racing driver, because you can experience both “loose” and “push” conditions at very low speeds. Try braking and turning at the same time on snow, for instance. You will note that the front wheels turn in the direction you want to go while the car plows straight ahead. That’s “push,” Get on the throttle hard in the slick stuff and watch the rear end of the car pass you. That’s “loose.” Just don’t do either one if I’m in the immediate vicinity. When driving in slippery conditions, remember what racing drivers are taught. Use deliberate, progressive movements on all the controls: brakes, throttle, steering. Remember, a four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t magic. It helps you go, but you won’t stop better than anybody else. Oh, and concentrate on what you’re doing, driving. Put down the cell phone and turn down the music and PAY ATTENTION! All of us who share the road with you will appreciate it.