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Daytona 500 2012 Preview: Kevin Harvick Looks To Improve Upon 2011 Sprint Cup Chase

Bakersfield native Kyle Harvick is preparing for the 2012 Daytona 500. The NASCAR driver is looking to do better than his back-to-back third-place Sprint Cup finishes in 2010 and 2011.

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The 2012 Daytona 500 will take place on Sunday, February 26. It will be the start of the 2012 Sprint Cup season and will be the first event in which drivers can earn points toward the Cup at year's end. Before that gets underway, the Daytona 500 Qualifying will take place on Sunday, February 19.

Kevin Harvick likely remembers last year's event very well. He qualified for the No. 7 grid but finished with just two points on 22 laps when his engine failed. In spite of the dismal finish, the Bakersfield native had a tremendous year and finished third in the final Sprint Cup standings. It marked back-to-back years of finishing in the No. 3 spot.

Harvick is hoping that this will be his year. He'll certainly be thinking of a top-three finish once again, but his goal is, of course, to win the whole thing. That long road will begin on Sunday as he tries to qualify for the best grid at the 2012 Daytona 500.

Harvick does have one checkered flag at the Daytona 500, when he won the race just .02 seconds ahead of Mark Martin. It was the closest finish at the race since the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.

For more on the Great American Race, check out SB Nation NASCAR's Daytona 500 stream, as well as NASCAR Ranting & Raving.