BROOKLYN, Mich. - Hot, humid, rainy or otherwise - you won't find Kevin Harvick doing much complaining about the weather.
A well-timed cloud burst played a big role in handing Harvick the title in yesterday's Cabela's 250 Busch Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Tony Stewart led most of the race, snatching the lead from pole-sitter Kasey Kahne on just the third lap. But Stewart, who had built a huge lead of almost seven seconds, had to pit for fuel on lap 100, and Harvick stayed on the track and moved out front. He had just enough fuel to hang on until lap 108 when rain brought out the caution flag.
After two caution laps in the downpour the cars came off the track, and the race was ended and Harvick declared the winner a half-hour later after an aborted attempt to dry the track was met with another heavy shower.
“We were kind of racing the clouds and the gas tank more than we were racing the field,'' Harvick said. “We were watching the weather and we knew it would be a factor. We slowed down a little just to get the most out of the fuel we had.''
Harvick, one of 11 Winston Cup drivers in the Busch race, said there was no sense in attempting to run down Stewart, who led for 86 of the 110 laps.
“We weren't even trying to catch him at that point. We were in a fuel conservation mode,'' Harvick said.
Stewart, the defending Winston Cup champion who dropped all the way to 11th after taking fuel and right-side tires on lap 100, did not make himself available for comment after the race. Kahne finished second, followed by Bobby Hamilton Jr.
NOT RUSTY: Rusty Wallace was the fastest driver in happy hour practice yesterday and was the third-fastest in the first practice yesterday morning.
He'll make his 40th career start at MIS today. Wallace ranks second in wins (five), top-fives (15) and laps led (847) among active drivers at MIS. His average finish at Michigan is 12.8 which ranks fifth among all active drivers.
“Michigan is a great place to win, no doubt about that,” Wallace said. “But, with the losing streak that I've got going right now, [84 straight races without a victory] I don't give a crap where I win to tell you the truth.
“We've been so close all year long. I don't think I've went this long in my life without a victory. We've been so close so many times, but we'll get it. I know we'll get it. I'm determined to get it, and we'll see if we can't pull it off this weekend.
“You've got to adjust to all of the strange happenings going on in NASCAR right now - strategy racing, hard tires, imbalanced cars, all of this stuff. It's different than anything I've ever been accustomed to in my whole career, and I've got to adjust to it. We're getting there pretty quick.”
EARNHARDT CONFIDENT: Dale Earnhardt Jr., running second to Matt Kenseth in the Winston Cup points standings, feels his 256-point deficit won't be that hard to overcome.
“We've got a lot of racing left,” he said. “We really can't afford to think that it's over. We've got to continue to try to accomplish what we can week in and week out, and see if we can't make it a little more interesting.
“There is always opportunity for us and unfortunate bad luck for Matt would be an opportunity for us to gain points on him. So we're just going to keep sticking it out and take advantage of any falter he may have.”
Kenseth recently remarked that some of the upcoming racing venues favor Earnhardt.
“Matt always says that and then he always finds a way to come up with something that's salvageable and enjoyable,” Earnhardt said. “He says he doesn't enjoy the plate tracks [Talladega and Daytona] or doesn't run well on them, but he's always there at the end with a good finish.”