- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BLACKSBURG, VA. (AP) - Three days after securing a share of the lead heading into NASCAR’s playoffs, Kevin Harvick paid a visit to Virginia Tech and avid stock car fan Frank Beamer.

Harvick toured the No. 13 Hokies’ facilities Tuesday, popped into a coaches meeting, distributed hats to the coaching staff and had lunch with several Hokies. He also sat through their media interviews, at one point saying he felt sorry for the way one player was being grilled.

“There’s a lot of similarities about what it takes to make a race team go around and what makes a football team or any other business for that matter,” Harvick said. “It takes good people, it takes dedication and it takes determination to do what you have to do.”

When the Sprint Cup Series moves to Chicago this weekend, Harvick and Kyle Busch will share the points lead, although Harvick is technically the No. 2 seed based on the regular season.

The driver also presented Beamer with a replica helmet and received a Hokies jersey _ No. 29, like his Sprint Cup car _ with his name on the back. Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway, gave Beamer two lifetime tickets to Campbell’s suite at the track.

Beamer, who has served as the grand marshal for a race at Martinsville, recalled his own visit to Bristol Motor Speedway, where he and five other celebrities took part in a 15-lap race.

“I really was nervous about running into the wall with people looking,” he said, adding that he tried to make a deal with the other drivers beforehand to ensure they all remained safe.

“I said, `Look, none of us know how to race cars, and so why don’t we all just drive down on the lower part of the track and if we want to pass, just pass on the outside and that way we don’t run into each other,’ and these guys didn’t want to do it,” Beamer said, laughing.

One of the other racers was kicker David Akers, who Beamer said wants to race cars.

“I noticed a lot of people were going by me,” Beamer said, “but I was just trying not to run into the wall. So I got through the race and was happy as heck I didn’t run into the wall.”

When it was finished, he asked his daughter, Casey, if everyone had passed him.

“And she said, `I don’t know if everybody passed you, but Akers passed you twice.’”

Put on the spot and asked whom he liked in the Chase, Beamer said “Kevin Harvick,” but quickly added he also roots for Virginia drivers, including contender Denny Hamlin.

Unlike previous seasons, when five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson seemed like the favorite to win the championship again, Harvick said the race is wide open.

“I tell you, with so many different people winning this year, I think it shows how competitive the series is right now,” Harvick said. “It seems like everybody’s been through a certain period of struggles and I always tell everybody that each Chase takes on its own characteristic, and it will be interesting to see if this is going to be a consistent one, one where you have to win or one where you have to make the best out of your bad days. It will be interesting.”

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