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NASCAR notebook: Harvick, RCR announce contract extension

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick has signed a multiyear contract extension with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick and team owner Richard Childress announced Saturday in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center.

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick has signed a multiyear contract extension with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick and team owner Richard Childress announced Saturday in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center.

Both parties declined to reveal the terms of the agreement that will keep Harvick behind the wheel of the No. 29 RCR Chevrolet. With primary sponsor Shell/Pennzoil leaving for Penske Racing and driver Kurt Busch next season, financial backing for the team beyond 2010 remains an issue.

Both Childress and Harvick, however, expressed confidence in the organization's ability to find sponsorship.

"We have three or four companies that we're dealing with right now, and hopefully, in the very near future, we'll have something to announce there," Childress said.

Budweiser, which currently sponsors Kasey Kahne's Ford at Richard Petty Motorsports, is considered the frontrunner for sponsorship of Harvick's car. Kahne has signed a multiyear deal with Hendrick Motorsports.

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"It's great to put all the questions to bed," said Harvick, who has routinely deflected questions about his contract status. "I've been pretty quiet about the way we've gone about everything, but I felt pretty good about the way everything has gone between Richard and myself."

Harvick has driven for Childress since 1999. He made his Sprint Cup debut at Rockingham in 2001, a week after Dale Earnhardt, who had won six championships with Childress, lost his life in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. Harvick won at Atlanta in his third Cup start with Childress.

"We're very excited to have Kevin back," Childress said. "He's written a lot of history for RCR. He stepped in the car when we lost Dale in 2001, and I don't know of any driver that could have stepped in there under the pressure and handled it the way he did."

LOOSE LUGS RAISE CONCERNS

Before Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte, polesitter Kyle Busch's crew discovered loose lug nuts on the wheels of Busch's No. 18 Toyota and tightened them. Busch subsequently won the race.

Austin Dillon wasn't as lucky. Dillon didn't realize the lugs on the left side of his No. 3 Chevrolet were loose until the race had started. When his left rear tire deflated on Lap 9, Dillon veered into the outside wall and severely damaged his truck.

Both teams believed their lugs were tight when the trucks went to impound after qualifying.

"We're 99 percent sure they were tight," Eric Phillips, Busch's crew chief, said after the race. "As loose as the wheel was, there was no way he would have qualified. What happened? I don't know. We fixed it, addressed it and it didn't hinder us on what we did tonight so that's the important part.

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"We'll just do a better job to make sure our guys are around our vehicles and keep an eye on things when they're sitting outside of the garage area."

Richard Childress, who owns the No. 3 Chevrolet driven by his grandson, said the team is looking into the matter. Childress indicated that his crew had torqued the lugs before Dillon posted the eighth-fastest time in qualifying for the race.

In NASCAR's view, the problem is a team issue. Crews are allowed to check the tightness of the lug nuts as part of their pre-race procedure. According to NASCAR, inspectors were on duty in the impound area at all times (despite heavy rains that delayed the start of the race), thus eliminating the possibility of sabotage.

SHORT STROKES

Jimmie Johnson, who is 0-for-7 since NASCAR replaced the rear wing with a spoiler on the Cup car, doesn't think the change has made a difference in his performance. Jeff Burton, on the other hand, thinks the spoiler has been a game-changer.

"I think it's been a big deal," Burton said. "I think the record books show it. If you look at what (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) has done, I don't think that's a coincidence. I think they have run better with the spoiler than they ran with the wing. The No. 11 car (Denny Hamlin) in particular, but even the No. 18 car (Kyle Busch)--they didn't exactly get off to the kind of start that they are having right now. I don't think you can dismiss the spoiler." ...

Autograph seekers routinely mob Tony Stewart at the racetrack. Now he's asking for their signatures. Sponsor Burger King is running a "BK Sign and Race" promotion where fans can submit their signatures for placement on the No. 14 Chevrolet that Stewart will race in the July 3 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Those interested can visit www.BKSignandRace.com .

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