NASCAR Winston Cup Series: Brickyard 400
Topics: Brickyard 400
THE MODERATOR: Joining us in the MCI press side conference room, winner of the 10th running of the Brickyard 400, Kevin Harvick, and winning car owner, Richard Childress. Kevin, we'll start with you. Your comments on winning.
KEVIN HARVICK: Right now, it's like, "Whoa, what just happened?" We kept ourselves in contention all day. Our car started off really tight. We made just subtle adjustments every pit stop. They were all right. When I saw we were at the end of the race, our car was really good on the restarts and we could really make up some ground on new tires and we kind of would fade at the very, very end of a run. There at the end, once we got out in clean air, and got under Jamie, and got out by ourselves, I think we ran, what, half a second faster than we had run all day? Once I got out there and saw that Robby was doing what he had to do to keep them back there, it was just put it in cruise control and don't make any mistakes at that point.
THE MODERATOR: Richard, your second trip to Victory Lane for the Brickyard 400. Talk about this win.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I mean, it's great. Any time you win at the Brickyard, it's special. You know, with all the history, tradition, and everything that's went on up here, have your name on that trophy, seeing Kevin's name on that, it's going to be special. We one it with Dale in '95. We look back, that was one of the most special things that we done, winning the 500 and championships. But the Brickyard fits right in there with it. Kevin, in our career, we'll look back someday and say, this will be one of the most special wins that he'll have in his career. But I'm just thrilled. I think the pass he made over there on Jamie was the winning move. Once he got out front, it was -- I knew if nothing went wrong or nothing broke, he was going to be hard to beat.
KEVIN HARVICK: Or wreck (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Talking about that move, obviously a 400-mile race can come down to one corner. That was certainly the case. Can you talk us through what happened, what you saw? Could you tell why Jamie checked up?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, he chose to go around the outside. But on the restart, there were six cars that were on the tail of the lead lap, three went low, three went high. Then it was Kenny Wallace, Jamie and me. I cleared Kenny. I think Jamie thought, like on all the other restarts, you were just going to drive around all those devise. They pretty much stayed side by side. I figured if I was on the bottom, I had at least more control over my own destiny than I would if I had just followed him. I cleared Kenny, just dove down there. It was like the sea just parted. Off through the traffic we went. That was it. I think Robby came with us on that one, didn't he?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yes.
Q. Kevin, on that cold day in 2001 when you took over this ride, you said nobody would ever replace Dale Earnhardt. Today you joined him as a winner here. Talk about being able to do something that he had done in his career.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, like I've said to a lot of people today, anything we can join him in doing is an accomplishment because everything he did in his career was pretty much a positive and pretty much guided this race team and organization to where it is today. So to win as he did in '95 here at the Brickyard is something that is an accomplishment for me, an accomplishment for Richard, just to put this team back to where it was in '95 and '96 and every year that Dale drove it, is just a great feat for the whole organization. I know it feels good for me. I know, Richard, how many times we've talked about what we need to do to make it better. Here we are. We've had a great couple months, been close to winning not only here, but, you know, five or six times.
Q. Racing is a cruel sport. They judge you on your last win. I hate to remind you of the drought. Can both of you talk about what you do in a drought to keep the spirits up and keep performing to get to a day like today?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think, you know, this sport has the highest and lowest of any sport that I've ever known. You know, you can go to the bottom real quick. You can't figure it out. You know, we kind of got behind with our organization. Kevin was driving. We just kept telling these drivers, "Believe in us, we're going to get it back." The last several months we've worked with our fab shop. We've really put our engineering group good and solid together. The engine shop, you know, I'm down there at least once a week to tell them we got to have more power, talking to Kevin. I think that's the thing, is having faith. And you look at -- you know, in my career, I've seen the best go here and come back. It's tougher to get back up there. You know, you can get behind in one day, but it may take you months to ever catch that one day up. That's the way this sport is. It's a tough sport.
Q. Kevin, can you tell the story about the autograph that you received from Rick Mears when you were a kid? How old were you?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't remember exactly when I got it because it was probably in the early '80s. I believe it's '79 when he and Tom Sneva and Roberto Guerrero, those three were on the front row. It just says, "Good luck, hope to see you here someday." Man, I didn't know I'd be sitting in Victory Lane and be getting to do all this here at the Brickyard. It means a lot to me. I've looked at that picture for a long time. When I finally got the opportunity to race here a few years ago, I mean, you know, it was pretty much a dream come true for me. I really can't put it all into words. I really don't know how I feel yet. But I know I feel good, I can tell you that much. But it's hard to explain how good I feel.
Q. Kevin, did you sleep last night after learning that no one from the pole had ever won the race?
KEVIN HARVICK: No. The last time I was in this room, you guys were viciously reminding me of that (laughter). You know, you also said records were meant to be broken, too. Last night the only thing I didn't sleep -- the only reason I didn't sleep was because I thought we had the wrong shocks on the back of the car. That was why I didn't sleep. The first thing I did this morning when I woke up was call Todd and Bill and tell them we need to put the shocks back.
Q. With the track position and everything else at the end, you got to kind of walk a tightrope, maybe skip a stop like you did, get back to the front, just hope a caution does come out. Describe how that worked last two or three stops.
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, the strategy really played right into our hands for us. I thought we were going to run third there for a while. The 20 car pitted, I don't know why. I mean, we were well within our fuel. We were done pitting. At that point we had pretty much made our bed and had to lay in it. When we had that restart, I always look forward to restarts because I usually make up a lot of positions on the restarts. You know, Jamie went high, I went low. Robby followed me, we went by. That was pretty much the key to the whole race. Basically there was a lot of green flag runs today, and we ran through fuel stops. I'm glad it didn't have a lot of cautions because when you have a lot of cautions, repeatedly in a row, what happens is you have a lot of guys that just don't put any tires on or two tires and wind up in the front. Your car's good, so you put four tires on, then you come out 20th. It played into our hands pretty good.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about kissing the bricks, what that was like, when you saw that being done before, climbing the fence, Richard, the guys climbing the fence. They planned it, right?
KEVIN HARVICK: We had actually talked about kissing the bricks this morning. You know, everybody was just really positive and really up beat. You know, the first thing he said this morning, "It's going to be an awesome day." We were running late. We fell into a police escort and made it to the track in seven minutes. He said, "I promise you, everything's going our way today." It's hard to describe. I mean, knowing the history and prestige of everything that's run on top of those bricks, that's why I wanted to stop and leave our own rubber mark across the bricks. If I didn't climb the fence, Helio would be mad at me. I figured I better go out there and do it.
Q. Kevin, back to the Rick Mears photograph. Where were you in your career at the time that he would say to you, "Hope to see you here someday"?
KEVIN HARVICK: Probably pretty early in my go-kart days. Probably 10 or 11 years old. So four or five years into my go-kart career.
Q. What kind of previous advice did RC give you that he came on post race and said, "I told you if I told you listen, we would get there"?
KEVIN HARVICK: That wasn't him, was it?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We got her guessing (laughter).
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't remember who it was. It wasn't Richard.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I was up there breathing hard.
KEVIN HARVICK: He was hiding (laughter).
Q. Could both of you talk about last year when you won Chicago, you'd had something of a drought. You talked that y'all went down on Richard's farm down by the river, had a talk. He said, "Look, everything's going to be all right." A long drought again. Any more of those conversations, did they happen? Did you know without saying it or did you talk about it some more during this last drought?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, I think last year I learned a lot, and Richard taught me how to get through a lot of different situations. That river trip was probably the most important thing that happened between the two of us. I think he drug me out of the river. It was one of those deals where I didn't know how to handle any of it and was pretty much at the point where I was just, you know, ready to quit and just go do something else. But Richard has a good way of talking to all of us, all of our employees at RCR, to make it all positive, it's going to be okay. He's been here and done that several times. Most of the time, if you just be -- if you're part of the solution, you're going to be more of a help than you are if you are going to make the problem worse. Last year taught me a lot. I think this season, it's paid dividends in a lot of different ways.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I just think that, you know, it's tough for what Kevin was put into in 2001, to go through that. I think RCR got behind. Our drivers didn't get behind as much as we got behind. You know, I just think it was us growing together, knowing what we want to do. You know, our goal someday is to be on the stage at New York. That's what I want to do. Kevin has all the talent, all the ability. We got to do our job. As you seen today, under pressure, whatever, he can handle his-self. He handled his-self under the pressure of 2001, he can handle a championship. Won the championship in the Busch with him. Just excited about the years ahead of us.
Q. After leading early in the race, then when Tony kind of took over and started running away, were you content to stay up in the Top 5 just so that you would be in a position later to make a move rather than burn it up like maybe Tony did on his setup?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I wasn't going to fight him too hard because the more you fight him at the beginning of the race, the more people you get involved in the race, the further you get behind. With Ryan and Tony and Bill there at the beginning, I was content to do what I had to do to think about what we needed to do to our car to make it better. We've said all weekend that we need to make sure that we put ourselves in position and have our car the best we've had it all weekend on the last run. Fortunately, our car was by far the best it had been all day. And the weather was cooling down, pretty much played how we needed it to play. Track position worked itself out perfect. All the pit stops were good, came at the right time with the yellows. So it was just -- everything just clicked.
Q. Ricky Rudd in '97, you don't just show up at this place and get lucky and win. It takes almost like a planning. What all went into this winning this race, RC?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think a lot of testing, a lot of development in our engine shop. Todd Berrier, he's just a brilliant young man, working with our engineering group, our fab shop. You know, if you have a driver that can get the job done like Kevin, we got to do our job. Took a lot of hard work just to get us back to where we've been the last, like Kevin said earlier, we've been in contention to win for the last seven or eight weeks. If you stay in contention to win, you're going to win a race. We kept saying, "We know if we can stay in contention." That's the key. If you can stay there and get the consistency, you're going to win your share of races. And this won't be the last one he'll win either.
Q. Was this a particular goal you set in May?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's a goal every year.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: To come here and to win this race or the Daytona 500, that's probably the two biggest races in all of motorsports, especially in NASCAR. And to win one of these events, been fortunate to win them, this will go down as one of our special wins forever in our careers.
KEVIN HARVICK: Not going to take our car?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: No, we're going to keep racing that baby.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the tire did that (laughter).
Q. Along that line, Kevin, after you left your mark literally on the track out there, what happened with the tire and the fender? What was the push like afterward?
KEVIN HARVICK: I would have just drove it down Victory Lane, but they had it all blocked -- I mean, pit lane to Victory Lane, but they had it all blocked. Heck, man, if you're going to win here, you might as well leave your mark. You might not every get another chance. I said, "I need to leave some rubber on the bricks, make sure everybody leaves here happy with a little tire smoke in their hair." Just a lot of fun. I tried not to tear it up too bad.
Q. Kevin, you said you were surprised that the 20 car had to pit again. When he led all those laps in the beginning, did you think it was going to come down to you and him at the end?
KEVIN HARVICK: I really thought the 42 and the 20 were the cars to beat. You never know where your car's going to be after you make a pit stop. Our car, like I say, we made it better every run, every time we got an opportunity to adjust on it, it was a positive. I mean, my jaw just hit the floor when I saw the 20. I'm positive that he didn't need to pit. So, I mean, they pretty much gave all the chances they had away, and that was it.
Q. In the grand scheme of things, you talked about the picture that you got of Rick Mears, 10, 11-year-old kid. You go from there to what you had to go through when you took over this ride, now you've won at the Brickyard. Is this one of your pinch yourself kind of moments where you have to look at the whole scope of your life and say, "How did I get here?"
KEVIN HARVICK: That's for sure. I mean, how did I get here? I wish somebody could tell me. I mean, it's just really hard to put into words, I mean. I know how much it means to me. I know it means a lot to these guys, too. But just growing up, you know, obviously an open-wheel fan, to know what it meant to win this race, Indy 500, in an IndyCar, you know, means a lot to me. It means a lot to this race team. But I think for me personally, it's something that you put a star beside this one every year, and you put a star beside the Daytona 500, a bigger star than you would on the rest of the races, just for the fact that it's bigger. It's bigger, it's just bigger in all ways. There's nothing that's not bigger about even just racing at the Brickyard. You know, if we'd have finished third, heck, it would have still been a great weekend. We sat on the pole at the Brickyard. To come back and win the race is just unbelievable.
Q. Obviously two very different kinds of race cars, but still a track that's very contrary for any crew and team. Rick was very regular around here. He said you spend the first half of the 500 getting your car right, and the second half you go on and try to win the race. When you decided to settle in right after the start today, was it just a natural way of doing things or did Rick Mears' overall thoughts about this place kind of help you to be patient?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think our game plan from the beginning was, you know, we needed to lead a lap, we needed the five points. If our car was really good at the beginning, we needed to lead all we could. Once Tony and those guys came up to challenge us, there's just not any reason to fight them at that stage in the race because you know you can make your car better. There's no reason to get yourself eight or 10 seconds further behind than you need to be. Just let them go and do what you need to do to make your car right. You can race the hell out of them at the end. That's what we wanted to do. Like I say, the biggest thing we did today was make our car better on every pit stop. That's what did the most for us once we got out in the front. Like I say, I mean, I ran the first 10 laps as hard as I could -- seven laps as hard as I could run. The last five, I just put it on cruise control and just kind of did what we had to do.
Q. Kevin, you said yesterday that you wanted to be an open-wheel driver, but your dad forced you into stock cars. Talk about that decision now and what it means, I guess.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it means I never got to do what I wanted to do (laughter). But I didn't know what was right or wrong at that point in my life. Still don't for that matter. You know, my dad was smart enough to understand that at that point in time stock car racing was going up, and open-wheel racing was kind of hitting a plateau and settling down, and didn't really know where it was going. He just didn't want me to get hurt was probably the biggest reason. He didn't want me to drive midgets, he didn't want me to drive Formula Fords or anything like that. We didn't have any money to do anything, and basically he spent a year and a half building my first car from all the pieces and parts that everybody else didn't want. We still managed to figure out how to win with that. Scraped and scrounged through the years in late model cars, up through the southwest tour, things like that. Right now I'd say it was probably a good decision on his part.
Q. The teamwork, unknowingly really Robby kind of helped. I don't know if that was planned teamwork, but it worked out that way, that he held off some people behind him. Earlier I asked Richard to also say your thoughts when you started kissing the bricks, jumping on the fence.
KEVIN HARVICK: She asked you about the bricks. I think the part about Robby, you know, I was mad after Sears Point. But you still have to understand, and I think the main thing that he and I understood was, you know, we can be mad at each other because we're racers. Both of us race very hard and want to win every time we go out on the racetrack. You know, for the most part, I'll get over it. He won Sears Point. That really brought the morale of all three race teams up, the whole company up. Today he came back and helped me. So, you know, for the most part, on my end, you just have to be done and over with it and just really understand that he did all he could for the company and myself today, and I need to remember that the next time he's out there winning a race. It's all about what's the best for all those people working on the cars because they are the heartbeat of what happens. If they're fussing and fighting over something that he and I did, it won't work. So we got to make sure that all those guys are getting along and trading notes and doing the things they need to do in the shop.
Q. Richard, watching the guys kissing the bricks, they jump up and climb on the fence, what were y'all thinking?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I thought it was great. I've never had a cold kiss like that that felt so good (laughter). And I did it three times - even three times better. It was special to see those guys. I mean, I know you guys are around the racetrack, but the sacrifice that these crew members and the sacrifice that everybody makes in this sport, from their family, to their wives, to theirself, that's what it's all about, was watching those guys jump up there today and get on that fence and just getting the calls we've had this evening, be able to go back and see the families, everybody at work, from the guy that sweeps the floors to the guys that are in our engineering group, whoever, you know. It's just special. It takes special people in a sport to do it. I'm fortunate to be surrounded with so many special people.
THE MODERATOR: Hard to top that quote. Richard, Kevin, congratulations.
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