Aaron's 499: Kevin Harvick embraces restrictor-plate racing

Tom Pennington

What is Kevin Harvick’s key to success at Talladega? Like few others, he embraces restrictor-plate racing and doesn’t worry about getting caught up in the “Big One.”

Kevin Harvick is noted for his prowess in restrictor-plate races, an ability which will serve him well in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Although he enters this weekend as one of the favorites, Harvick won't leave Talladega upset if he doesn't win Sunday.

Because of the craziness associated with plate racing and the frequency with which accidents occur, just making it to the finish line with your car in one piece is considered a success. And even if he does wreck, Harvick isn't going to get too worked up, because as he says "it's part of the game."

"You try to put yourself in position," Harvick said Friday at Talladega. "Sometimes you miss the wrecks, and sometimes you don't.

"For me, I've always just tried to approach it [with] that I don't care attitude, and just do whatever you have to do to try to put yourself in position. And, when you leave here, if you wreck, you can't be mad."

You could say that Harvick is almost philosophical in his approach.

While skill and having a fast car are critical elements, he knows luck plays a larger role in who wins and who loses at Talladega and at its sister track, Daytona International Speedway.

"My approach to these types of races has always been just you don't worry about the things you can't control, which is a whole lot here," Harvick said. "You go out, and go in with a mindset of that I enjoy restrictor plate racing.

"That unknown is something that is intriguing to me to know that you can go somewhere, and you can race all day. I know that a lot of people might think that you are crazy for thinking like it's fun. But it is fun."

At Daytona in February, Harvick was dominant throughout the preliminary events leading up to the Daytona 500. He won the Sprint Unlimited and his qualifying race and much like this weekend, was considered one of the prohibitive favorites in the 500.

But in the race itself Harvick never had a chance to win his second Daytona 500. Just 34 laps in he was swept up in a multi-car wreck not of his creation and his day was over before it ever really began.

What Harvick enjoys about plate racing is the anything-goes nature where drivers don't hold back and sometimes your worst enemy becomes your best friend if that's what gives you the best chance to win.

"It's dangerous," he said. "But, that thought of being able to push and shove kind of like you are at the go-kart track with your buddies. You are pushing whoever is in front of you, no matter what color, what brand, what driver, who you hate, who you don't hate; you are pushing the guy in front of you to try to make the be position at the finish that you can.

"Sometimes you push too hard; sometimes somebody else pushes too hard and you are in there mess, and you get out and go home."

Harvick's attitude is different than most in the garage, who dread the thought of having to run in a large pack of cars at the mercy of those around them.

The way he sees it, plate racing is what you make of it. Inevitably, something is going to happen so why not just try and make the best of a situation that more often than not is out of your control?

"You see a lot of guys drive themselves crazy about having to come to Talladega, and complaining about what they think is right, or what they think is wrong," Harvick said. "It is just a race. It really is. You know what is going to happen coming into the race.

"Sometimes you have absolutely nothing to do with what happens, and you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other side of that is you can drive through the biggest wreck in the world, and not have a scratch on your car. ... This is a part of NASCAR racing, and it has been for a long time. You might as well just enjoy it."

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