HERE AT NASCAR north, we also pay attention to the Flyers' remarkable run to the Stanley Cup finals.
Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have Flyers fever. Harvick says he and his wife DeLana have watched every Flyers playoff game. They and Truex hustled to Philadelphia after the May 16 Sprint Cup race at Dover, Del., to see the Flyers-Montreal series opener that night.
"To have the [regular] season end the way it did and then get behind against Boston [and win] was one of the neatest things I've ever seen," Harvick said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "To see the determination that everybody on the team has and the never-say-die attitude is an inspiring story, even if you're not into hockey. It's something everybody can learn from."
Harvick, the Sprint Cup points leader, began following the Flyers 3 years ago after he and Jeff Carter met when Harvick attended a Flyers game at the Wachovia Center promoting a race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. When Harvick learned Carter is a NASCAR fan, he invited the Flyers forward to races at Dover and Bristol, Tenn.
Harvick marvels at the intensity of playoff hockey.
"I'm relatively new at hockey," the 34-year-old Californian said, "but in the playoff series, they take it to another level. It's like every game is their last game, and they don't care whether they're hurt. They just do whatever it takes to win."
The Harvicks sat with then-injured Carter (foot) in a suite during the Montreal series opener.
"He kind of whispered that he might come back," Harvick said. "You could tell he was a little antsy, wanting to get back on the ice. For everything they've been through to get to [the finals], to have him sitting in a suite wouldn't have been right. To have him be a part of the conference championship and celebrate on the ice with the team had to make him feel good."
The Harvicks and Truex plan to be at Game 3 of the finals Wednesday night. NASCAR Night at the Flyers!
Truex, from Mayetta, N.J., is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan.
"For [the Flyers] to come back after being [down] 3-0 in the Boston series and 3-0 in the first period of Game 7 [of that series] is pretty impressive," Truex said yesterday. "They've shown a lot of heart and determination."
Truex, who is in his first season driving the No. 56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, thinks the way the Flyers have marched to the Stanley Cup finals translates to other sports.
"When you put your heart and soul into it, you never know what's going to happen," he said. "I like all the Flyers. They play great together."
Harvick and Richard Childress Racing announced last weekend that he is staying with RCR as driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet. He signed a new, multiyear contract.
RCR teammate Jeff Burton is eighth in points and Clint Bowyer is 15th.
If there's a race, there's usually a controversy.
Late in the final 10-lap segment of Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, Denny Hamlin cut off the high passing lane, forcing teammate Kyle Busch into the wall. On his radio show, Busch said some uncomplimentary things about Hamlin's maneuver. After the race, Busch marched into Hamlin's hauler to discuss the incident.
Hamlin explained that he saw Busch first slide to the bottom of the track. Then Hamlin's spotter told him he was clear, "so I'm going to use all the racetrack I can. We talked about it and, basically, Kyle was just frustrated. He felt like he had a really good car."
Hamlin and Busch met with J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing.
"This is a good problem to have on your team, two guys wanting to go for the win like [that]," Hamlin said. "Kyle was
fiery at the beginning, but he calmed down."
Busch left the track without meeting with the media. As they say, that's racin', folks. I have the feeling Busch would have done the same thing to Hamlin.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
When: Sunday, 5:45 p.m.
TV/Radio: Fox/WNPV (1440-AM), WDSD (94.7-FM)
Course: 1.5-mile quad oval
Distance: 400 laps/600 miles
2009 pole: Ryan Newman
2009 winner: David Reutimann
Qualifying record: Elliott Sadler, 193.216 mph, Oct. 13, 2005.
Track facts: Reutimann gained his first Sprint Cup victory when the race was shortened to 227 laps because of threatening weather. He led only in Laps 223-227. Talk about good timing. Newman was runner-up; Robby Gordon was third (his first top-five finish since 2007) . . . Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2008; Casey Mears won in '07 . . . Jimmie Johnson is tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for most wins (6) at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon is a five-time winner at the track; Mark Martin has four wins . . . The highest finish at Charlotte for Kurt Busch, winner of Saturday night's All-Star race, is ninth in 11 starts . . . As we always say, Sunday is the greatest day in sports: Indy 500 (1 p.m. Channel 6), followed by the Coca-Cola 600: 1,100 miles of racin'!
2010 wins: Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin (3 each); Kyle Busch, (2); Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, 1 each.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS: Through 12 of 36 races
1. Kevin Harvick 1768
2. Kyle Busch 1699
3. Matt Kenseth 1642
4. Jimmie Johnson 1637
5. Denny Hamlin 1618
6. Jeff Gordon 1605
7. Greg Biffle 1581
8. Jeff Burton 1569
9. Kurt Busch 1531
10. Carl Edwards 1487
11. Mark Martin 1475
12. Martin Truex Jr. 1434
13. Ryan Newman 1404
14. Tony Stewart 1397
15. Clint Bowyer 1392
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1391
17. Jamie McMurray 1346
18. Joey Logano 1332
19. Juan Montoya 1322
20. David Reutimann 1262