Shift Happens At Pocono

For the past 13 races NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers have gotten used to the monotony of driving around in circles at extreme speeds. This consistency allows them to get into a rhythm and hit the same line over and over and over again. Well, that's all about to change.

This weekend at Pocono Raceway in Lond Pond, Pa., things will be a little bit different. For the first time this season, most drivers will have to shift in and off two of the three uniquely-shaped corners. It's not only taxing on the drivers to remember to do it, but can be very hard on the cars, especially for 500 miles.

"We shift because if we don't, we'll blow our motors up," says the Bakersfield, Calif., native. "You have to shift because the straightaway is so long. Well, most of us have to shift. Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace don't have to shift, but they're in a different motor program than the rest of us. We'll shift twice, down the main straightaway, then again down Long Pond, to get up off the corners better. Shifting, in itself, doesn't add a whole lot of work. There is a lot more wear and tear on the transmission and rear-end, though. That means there are a lot more things that you can screw up. In order to keep up with everyone, you've got to do it."

Once Harvick gets used to shifting again, he'll set his sights on getting the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo dialed in around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year hasn't had much luck in recent years in the Pocono Mountains, compiling only one top-10 and two top-15 finishes in six tries. This year could prove to be a turning point. Team GM Goodwrench has become expert at turning top-20 cars into top-10 cars over the course of events. That's all they need right now to secure a spot in the chase for the NEXTEL Cup championship.

"Pocono's hard to figure out," said Harvick. "You have three totally different corners. One and two, you're downshifting going into the corners. Three and four, you have to get through the middle of the corner and make sure that you get as much power down as you can because the straightaway is three-quarters of a mile long. You can gain a lot of speed just by getting off the corner well. You have to be careful downshifting going into turn one that you don't hurt the motor. Shock package is important with all the bumps."


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