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KHI growing into one of top NASCAR Nationwide Series teams

By Lee Montgomery
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Kevin Harvick Inc. has grown into one of the dominant teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, winning two of the past three championships and two of the four races this season.

Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series team owned by Kevin and DeLana Harvick has improved steadily since its first race in 2004, with Kevin Harvick consistently challenging for victories. And this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, a KHI Chevrolet will be one of the cars to beat in the Aaron’s 312.

A KHI Chevy won at Daytona earlier this year with Tony Stewart driving, and a KHI car has won four of the past 14 races at superspeedways.

Harvick has never driven one of his cars at Talladega, where KHI has one win — 2007 when KHI finished 1-2 with Bobby Labonte edging Stewart.

"I hadn’t really thought about the fact that I have never run my own car there," Harvick said. "Our superspeedway cars have been really good and the guys were really happy with the way the cars ran at the desert (in testing), so it should be a lot of fun to drive.

"KHI’s won there and most recently finished a close second (with Ryan Newman in 2009), but none of those were with me. I’m looking forward to getting in the car and having that same success and maybe getting my first win at the track."

Harvick has 36 career victories in the series, but it wasn’t until last year he won his first race in a KHI car. He won twice in the No. 33 Chevrolet in 2009 and already has two wins in 2010.

"I think we’re really close," Harvick said of his Nationwide team. "You’re always fine-tuning things, and things change. That’s the unique part about our sport is it seems like personnel change and everyone wants to move up from Nationwide and truck series to Cup. You’re always going through people and you’re always trying to find that balance of keeping that foundation.

"I feel like in the truck series, we’ve done (that). In Nationwide, we’ve had the same group together for a couple years now. We’re really close to where I feel like it needs to be."

Ernie Cope joined KHI as a crew chief for one of its truck teams in 2008 but moved to the Nationwide team last year and remains at the helm this year. Over that span, Harvick said the team has made "huge gains."

"I think it’s been good because KHI won three of the first five races on the Nationwide side, and that has been a great start for us," Harvick said. "And the trucks have been the same way in winning half the races, so it’s been a lot of fun.

"The hardest part is just to keep it going and keep pushing forward and keeping the progress that we have had with the vehicles to keep making them faster each week and to do what you need to do to continue to win."

Fast facts

What: Aaron’s 312
Where: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Ala.
When: Saturday, 3 p.m. Eastern
TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
Track layout: 2.66-mile superspeedway
Race distance: 117 laps/311 miles
Qualifying: Friday, 11:30 a.m. Eastern
2009 winner: David Ragan
2009 polesitter: Ryan Newman
Points leaders: 1. Kyle Busch, 1,154; 2. Brad Keselowski, 1,134; 3. Kevin Harvick, 1,089; 4. Justin Allgaier, 1,053; 5. Carl Edwards, 1,048; 6. Paul Menard, 938; 7. Joey Logano, 903; 8. Greg Biffle, 864; 9. Scott Lagasse Jr., 754; 10. Brendan Gaughan, 751.