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Harvick is in control heading to Indy

In spite of his near disastrous 34th place finish last Saturday night at Chicagoland,  Kevin Harvick has a 103 point lead over second place driver Jeff Gordon as the circuit takes a rare weekend off before heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
With just seven races left to set the field for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, all three Richard Childress Racing teams are in this year’s Chase. Jeff Burton continued his smooth steady drive for the Chase with a seventh place finish at Chicago.  Clint Boyer’s fourth place finish Saturday night was enough to knock Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the top 12 and secure the final spot.  Boyer heads to Indy with a 15-point lead over Jr.  

Any notion that Harvick’s resurgence was cosmetic vanished with his win July 3 at Daytona, where he recorded his second win of the 2010 season, and his second career win Daytona. Thus far he has led the standings for a career-high 14 weeks, including the last 10 weeks in succession.  His recent decision to re-sign with Richard Childress racing quieted any lingering distraction, and last year’s dreadful performance when the No. 29 Chevrolet finished 19th and no RCR cars made the Chase is just a distant memory.
The big hang-up for Harvick at the moment is bonus points.  Regardless of  Harvick’s points lead,  Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin will instantly jump out to a 30 point lead when they re-rack the points after Richmond, by virtue of their five wins to Harvick’s two.
Discussing the points race last weekend at Chicago, Harvick said, “With our current situation in the points, we are going to do all we can to give ourselves an opportunity to win each week.”  
RCR Racing’s significant in-house reorganization, the installation of Burton’s former crew chief Scott Miller in a director of competition role, and overall rededication, have yielded a serious challenge to Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson’s four-time and reigning series dominance.  “Jimmie’s still the champion, and he’s still the guy to beat,” Harvick said.  “For us, we’ve just got to keep working on our cars and keep trying to make things better.  Hopefully, when the stress starts with 10 weeks to go, we’ll be as ready as we’ve ever been to make a strong run at it.”
The circuit’s visit to Chicagoland Speedway calls to mind last week’s announcement of nominees for the 2011 NASCAR  Hall of Fame.  The list  included a name familiar to all Chicago area race fans: Fred Lorenzen. A native of Elmhurst Ill, Lorenzen is one of the five new additions to the nominee list.  Holman & Moody’s “Golden Boy” of the 1960s,  Lorenzen was one of the sports first  superstars  and has the credentials to back it up.   
Lorenzen competed from 1956 to 1972, finishing with 26 wins and 32 poles in just 158 career starts. Despite competing in a limited number of races each season,  he entered only 16 of 1964’s 62  races and won eight of them, including five consecutive races to finish 13th in the final standings that year.
The 1965 season may have been Lorenzen’s  finest. He won both the Daytona 500 and the World 600 at Charlotte, two of the circuits biggest events. Always a bundle of nerves, the driver dubbed “Fearless Freddie” retired from the sport in 1967 at the very young  age of 33.  It has been widely speculated that Lorenzen was never able to get over Fireball Roberts’ fiery death in the 1964 World 600.   At the time of his retirement he was the sports all-time money winner.
Lorenzen made a brief comeback from 1970 to 1972, but was never to recapture the old magic.  During his comeback, he collected two poles and 11 top five finishes, but never returned to victory lane.  He was named one of NASCAR’s  “Top 50 drivers”  in 1998, during the sport’s 50th anniversary season.
Following a weekend off the “Race for the Chase” continues at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,  on Sunday, July 25.  Of the 16 series races held at the Brickyard, the eventual series champion has won eight times there, including four of the last five.  Tony Stewart in 2005, and Jimmie Johnson in 2006, ’08, and ’09. Jeff Gordon leads all NASCAR drivers with four wins at Indianapolis, followed by teammate Jimmie Johnson who has three.
You can reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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