NASCAR Media Conference
February 20, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Welcome to this first NASCAR teleconference of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season. Our guest today, none other than Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet. Kevin also won this past Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series season opener at Daytona, the Orbitz 300. As a result, he leads both the Nextel Cup and Busch series points standings this week.
Kevin, now this week you're going on to California Speedway, Sunday's Auto Club 500, back to your home state, from Bakersfield. This has really been an exciting couple weeks for you, I got to think.
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah, it's been as exciting as you can get. To win the Daytona 500 and the Busch race in the same weekend, get those first Superspeedway wins down is a lot of fun. Now we get to go home and see my family and friends. It will be that much more exciting in California.
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to go to questions from the media for the 2007 Daytona 500 champion, Kevin Harvick.
Q. How does it feel when you hear the sentence, "Kevin Harvick, Daytona 500 champion"?
KEVIN HARVICK: It feels really good. Just to be able to put your name on that trophy next to all the 500 winners that have come before us, just know how much it means to the sport, our whole race team, it's quite an honor.
Q. I was there and watched all the excitement at Talladega when you unveiled the new car with the Pennzoil and Shell sponsorship. First time out of the box at Daytona, bringing home a win for them, how big is that in developing the new footprint for Richard Childress Racing?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's important. This is obviously a new chapter in our book. Things change. Things move forward. To have Shell and Pennzoil be involved is very exciting for us. It's a huge global company. To see the way they support everything is a lot of fun.
They had hundreds of people at the race, their president, John Hoffmeister, all the different people involved in the program were there. It was a lot of fun to win for them first time out.
Q. Could you talk about anything you may have summoned up from your experience in Bakersfield to help you either Sunday or in the Nextel Cup in general? Was there anything that your upbringing that prepared you for what you're going through now with Letterman, Kimmel, Regis and Kelly, all that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know that there's a whole lot that can prepare you for the media side of it. You don't really understand how big it is until you actually get involved in it, have to do the things week in and week out. On that side of it, it's just kind of trial and error. We've been able to do it for a few years now.
Racing in Bakersfield is something where I got my start in go-karts, stock cars, were able to race week in, week out. The Collins family were a big part of my career, giving us somewhere to race, being supportive of my racing career. Just being able to learn how to race, get my career started, was a big part of what we get to do today just because Bakersfield was such a huge racing town.
Q. You've had a couple days to look at the replay of the race. Looking back, you probably feel NASCAR made the right call letting you race to the finish, but how did you view the replay?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, it was pretty cool. We won the race. After the caution, when the first car spins, we're still ahead. It's a hard call to make, just for the fact you don't throw the caution, you're in hot water, you do throw the caution, you're in hot water. There's really no right or wrong answer.
I don't know that we've ever actually come off of turn four and had the circumstances be that way before. I know we've wrecked on the 'green-white-checkered's before, the caution has come out on the backstretch or something like that the lap before. It's a hard spot to be in. I'm glad I don't have to make those calls.
Q. Does that overshadow the fact you were sixth going into the final lap?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think so. I think everybody who's watched the race and understands racing really likes the fact that the race came down to everything that it did. It was a close finish. We were able to make a little bit of a comeback there.
I think most people know where we came from, I think.
Q. With all the PR and the attention you're getting from your win at Daytona, how hard has it been for you to be able to move forward and focus yourself on California?
KEVIN HARVICK: California has been a little bit of a struggle for us as a race team the last couple years. It's probably been one of our worst racetracks, to be honest with you, going in there. We want to go in there and have a solid weekend and see where we fall with everything.
It doesn't get any bigger than the Daytona week. Finding the focus to race the car is usually not a problem for us.
Q. With the past struggles you've had, does that make it more important for you to focus on what you have coming up this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's something where you learn how to juggle everything. Last week we did more at the racetrack than we ever have done before. I think this week going into California, I don't think it's any more important than any other week. When it comes time to be in the car, as a team, we'll be as focused as we always are.
Q. Jimmie Johnson earlier today talked about putting the bad start to the season behind him, focusing on the rest of the year. From your perspective, do you make sure you don't get too high from the win and focus on the rest of the year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you really can't. You have to kind of keep yourself even-keeled across the board to really focus on racing for the championship. No matter how high it gets, how bad it gets, you have to forget what happened last week and concentrate on the week at hand.
Q. Can you talk about the track at California, why it seems to be one of your worst tracks?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know. It just seems like it's hit-and-miss. Atlanta has become our worst track for some reason. Just one of those places where I can't seem to get the car like I need it to, just struggle finding the right feel for the particular race.
Just something that I need to get better at and really focus on getting my car right and knowing how I need it to drive in practice to focus over on the race.
Q. Everybody talks about how Daytona is such an anomaly, but this is where the season really starts. Do you feel that way?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I do. We approach Daytona as it's almost a separate season. We go down there knowing there's going to be a couple long weeks. There's going to be some ups and downs. There's going to be some things that are unexpected. Daytona is kind of its own beast, and California is really where the week-to-week grind starts.
Q. The last I checked you were racing in all three events this weekend at California Speedway. With your schedule after winning at Daytona, having any second thoughts? Would you rather be on the racetrack more than anywhere else this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I'd definitely rather be on the racetrack. It's something to where this week, you get to celebrate winning the Daytona 500. They've been very organized with everything, really making things go really smoothly. We've been able to rest at night and have somewhere nice to sleep, too. It's really not been much worse than being at home.
Still going to race all three races. We planned on doing that from the beginning. Just trying to get the truck program started off on the right foot. Be in the Busch car this week, too. When you're in the car at the track, you can kind of get away from the rest of it.
Q. You have the Busch Series team and Truck Series team. Have you had any thoughts about moving up to Cup? Any timetable to move into a Cup team?
KEVIN HARVICK: We don't have any plans right now. DeLana and I are really trying to get our arms around what we do need to do, don't need to do in the Busch and Truck Series, really try to focus on that. The Cup car, there's so much involved. I see how much time it takes from Richard. We can still enjoy being the driver and being a team owner with the Busch and Truck, where I don't think we could do both if we owned the Cup car.
Q. Getting a lot of emails about how comfortable you looked on Regis and Kelly, also with Letterman. Seems like you've been doing this forever. I know you've made those appearances before. Can you tell us more about how it went? You looked so calm there.
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know why I've been so calm for the last couple weeks, to tell you the truth. Everything has just been very to the point. Just relaxed with all my surroundings. This hasn't been different. We've been able to win the race and do all the shows. It helps when you have people like Letterman, Regis and Kelly, who understand the sport, have been paying attention to what goes on. That makes it a lot easier as well.
Q. We think that Letterman even got your sense of humor. It was pretty cool.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah. I got to make a couple jokes on there. That was kind of fun.
Q. You've been now involved with that very close finish at Atlanta and the very close finish at Daytona. Did you take anything from the first finish to the second finish? Can you talk a little bit about what is inside you as a racer that helps you thrive in those situations?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think any time you get that taste of victory and you really want to go after winning everything that you can. If you can get yourself in position, you know how hard the races are to win, you want to capitalize while you're in that particular moment.
When they come down to as close as they were Sunday and you have the finishes like we did, there's no way that you could ever even plan any of that out or try anything different. You race as hard as you can to try to capitalize on the moment and hope it comes out your way.
Q. Drivers were comparing Daytona to Darlington with the tire situation, slipping and sliding. How were you able to overcome that situation?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the first part of the race, during the sunlight, the cars were moving around a lot, kind of pushing a little bit as you would get into the run. As the sun went down, everybody's car gained a little bit more grip it seemed like and we were able to race two- and three-wide. There with the last 50 laps or so, it was pretty wild.
We got a little bit of experience the day before in the Busch race with the car's handling characteristics and were hopefully able to carry that -- we did carry a little bit of that over to Sunday.
I enjoy the fact that we didn't have any tire problems. I would rather slip and slide around than worrying about my right front tire blowing out.
Q. Can you compare winning at the Brickyard 400 and winning the Daytona 500? Not a whole lot of guys can say they have both trophies in their case.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it's pretty neat to have been able to win both races. I grew up an IndyCar fan. Just being from Bakersfield, we all wanted to be like Rick Mears and got to grow up with Clint and Casey and those guys racing go-karts.
Personally to win the Brickyard 400 was really cool. In the end, there's nothing bigger in this country to win than the Daytona 500. To be able to look at that trophy and see your name up there next to a lot of the guys that have won the Daytona 500 before, it's definitely the biggest thing that you can do in the United States in racing.
Q. When did you realize that your teammate Clint Bowyer had flipped like that? What was your reaction?
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn't really know he had flipped until the race was well over into the night. I got to go back and watch it a little bit later that night, realized that he turned over. I talked to him yesterday. He's fine. That's the main thing is everybody's fine. We can build new cars.
Q. Have you talked to Mark Martin yet?
KEVIN HARVICK: I congratulated him in the media center. I got to see him, do some of my interviews next to him. Mark is a big part of what NASCAR racing is today. He's one of the most fierce competitors in the garage. I've been fortunate to get to know Mark a little better over the last couple years, just understand that he is one of the hardest racers that ever took behind the wheel of NASCAR racing.
It's really neat to be able to race against guys like that and especially against Mark.
HERB BRANHAM: Kevin, thank you for taking time out. I know you're up doing a little media blitz in the New York City area. I hear that's going great. We appreciate you taking time out from the busy schedule. Congratulations again.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
HERB BRANHAM: Sincere thanks to all the media getting on the call today to talk to our Daytona 500 champion. Great way to start the year. As always, from everyone at NASCAR, we appreciate the coverage.
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