Atlanta Motor Speedway Notebook: Kevin Harvick Not Surprised By High Speeds Atlanta

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Jason Getz/Getz Images for NASCAR)

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Jason Getz/Getz Images for NASCAR)

HAMPTON, Ga.—Take 125 horsepower out of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, and it’s going to slow the car down, right?

Well, not necessarily, as Friday’s qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway proved emphatically.

Joey Logano posted the fastest pole-winning speed at the 1.54-mile intermediate track (194.683 mph) since Carl Edwards ran 194.690 in qualifying for the fourth race of the 2005 season.

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick was among those who expected speeds to be high in Friday’s time trials, and his logic was impeccable. Even though the new Sprint Cup rules package features lower horsepower and a smaller spoiler, Harvick pointed to four factors that predicted high-speed laps at Atlanta: cold temperatures, tires that recover, denser air and faster cornering speeds.

“You can just watch the thermometer,” Harvick said of ambient temperatures that were around 40 degrees during qualifying. “I think as you go through the first round, the tires come back with the temperature down like this, the tires come back so easily to their static pressure. I think when you look at how you start the tires and you run one lap, they don’t get as much build and then they come right back to where you set them.

“So, I think when you look at that and you see how fast the cars are running and the cooler air is so much better for making downforce. But I think that’s going to be a normal trend. Everybody’s been talking about it and telling everybody that those corner speeds are going to be up, and in qualifying they’re up 11 miles per hour in the center of the corner. So, that’s pretty much going to be the norm. When you slow them down, going down the straightaway, they’re going to get faster through the center of the corner.”

Even with the smaller spoiler, Harvick said the cars didn’t suffer for downforce, thanks to the colder air.

“When you’re adding eight percent or nine percent downforce to the car just because of air density, that’s a big change,” Harvick said. “It’s making more downforce than what they took off probably, compared to how we raced here last year at this particular track (when the race was held on Labor Day weekend) from summer time to winter.

“It’s probably even, actually, with the spoiler cut off. It’s probably making as much, if not more downforce just because of the air density difference.”

Despite the speed in time trials that earned him a spot on the outside of the front row for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX), Harvick hit a speed bump 37 minutes into Saturday’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice.

The engine in Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet exploded in a cloud of smoke as Harvick ran his 35th lap of the session. The crew changed engines in the car, which had been fastest in practice at 191.054 mph in race trim. Accordingly, Harvick must drop to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday’s race.


Denny Hamlin got a rude awakening on Friday morning—literally.

Hamlin was in his motor home at Atlanta Motor Speedway when an SUV rolled backwards into Hamlin’s home for the weekend. The owner of the SUV thought he had left the vehicle in “park.” As it turned out, that was a mistaken assumption.

The SUV crashed into the slide-out (motorized extension) where Hamlin’s bed is located, and that helped prevent extensive damage to the body of the motor home.

“I thought it was going to be way worse from what I felt inside,” Hamlin told the Performance Racing Network after a Saturday news conference at AMS. “My bed was the slide-out that caught the car. I literally thought that there was a bomb or something that had gone off.”

As it turned out, the SUV came within about a foot of broadsiding the motor home proper.

“The slide caught the roof rack of his SUV and it kept it that far from crashing just totally into the side,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know if there’s any damage to the slide, but there are some scratches and some dents and stuff—but I thought it was going to be caved in from what I felt.”


It’s nice to have friends in the garage. Just ask Michael Annett.

One of 13 drivers whose cars failed to get through NASCAR technical inspection before Friday’s qualifying session, Annett would have been heading home from Atlanta had it not been for his good friend Brian Scott and Mike Hillman Sr., team manager of the No. 33 Chevrolet owned by Joe Falk.

Scott had qualified 32nd for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 but agreed to give up his seat in favor of Annett, whose regular crew chief, Jay Guy, will call the race. NASCAR approved the driver change.

“It’s a big deal,” Annett said before Saturday’s first practice. “I can’t thank Mike Hillman and Brian Scott enough. We’d rather be in the (No.) 46 HScott Motorsport car, but we’re running full-time and we need as many driver’s points as we can get.

“Unfortunately, we won’t get any owner’s points for this, but being with a new crew chief, with Jay Guy, it’s another hour-and-half of practice and another 500 miles (on Sunday) to work together.

“So looking back, we could have either gone home and watched this race or be able to work together so when we go to Las Vegas we’re even stronger. I can’t thank these guys enough for giving us this opportunity.”

The No. 44 Team Xtreme Racing Chevrolet, stolen early Friday morning from a hotel parking lot in Morrow, Ga. (south of Atlanta), was recovered by authorizes in Gwinnett County (north of Atlanta) on Saturday. Team owner John Cohen already had withdrawn the car, to have been driven by Travis Kvapil, from Sunday’s race. The car was in a trailer pulled by a Ford F350 pickup truck when it was taken from the parking lot of the Drury Inn in Morrow. Police found the car on the side of a road in Loganville, Ga., but the truck and trailer were gone.

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