NASCAR: An Earnhardt win would be good for sport

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2011

By Matt Markey
Toledo Blade
ANN ARBOR, Mich. ó It has been more than a hundred races since Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCARís icon by legacy, has forced a checkered flag to flutter in a Sprint Cup Series event. In excess of a thousand days have passed since the sportís most popular driver has been its best during that segment of motorized mayhem called a race.
Kevin Harvick competes with Earnhardt every week as a fellow driver and does everything he can to prevent Earnhardt and anyone else from winning. But Harvick stepped out of his role as the driver manning the cockpit of the No. 29 Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet for a moment here earlier this week and spoke as the pragmatic businessman and team owner who wants to see the sport thrive.
He wants to see Junior win.
ěI hope so, because Daleís a good person, and obviously heís good for the sport,î Harvick said. ěDale winning would be like us all winning.î
Harvick came to Michigan to promote next monthís racing schedule at Michigan International Speedway that will be highlighted by the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 Sprint Cup race. He said Earnhardt, whose last Cup win at MIS was in June, 2008, has been getting closer to a return to Victory Lane.
ěHeís had opportunities to win races, and theyíve put themselves in position,î Harvick said, ěand if you put yourself in that position many times, then youíre going to wind up winning some races.
ěWeíve seen the confidence grow through the year as theyíve been a little bit more successful, and once he gets the 100 percent confidence back . . . ě
Harvick, who has been in the spotlight recently due to an emotionally charged on-track fracas with Kyle Busch, said he can empathize with Earnhardt and the pressure the son of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Sr., lives under every day.
ěIím just glad I donít have to be in his position, because the scrutiny and the attention and things that come with what he has to go through . . . ě Harvick said. ěFrom the outside looking in, it seems unfair.î
Harvick ranks fifth in points this season among the Cup drivers and has two wins in the first 11 races. The attention this weekend is on Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600, but following his win at MIS last August, Harvick said he is eager to get back to the two-mile layout in the Irish Hills.
ěEverybodyís jacked up about coming up here and excited because we won last year. We feel like we figured a lot of things out,î Harvick said about snapping a long streak of less-than-stellar finishes at MIS.
ěFor us, itís fun because we were able to accomplish something that we hadnít been able to accomplish for the nine years before that.î
He tempers that excitement, however, with a slice of reality because Harvick is acutely aware that success in Sprint Cup involves a complex formula, the timely nailing of a series of fast-moving race set-up variables, and an ample dose of luck.
ěConfidence is a great thing, but for us, whether we win or lose, we are able to put last week aside. We talk about last week for about five minutes. Because what happened last week doesnít really matter, even if you won. If you win, everyone is confident, but for us itís really about just trying to focus on whatís ahead of us, instead of whatís behind us.î