NASCAR Media Conference
June 29, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We are in advance of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. That's the second race in the race to the Chase which is the ten races which precede the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Our guest today, the current series points leader, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Kevin is a former Dayton 500 champion, won it in 2007. He won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona the last few years.
We would like to start off the call today, we have a question from our Twitter account from a fan, Kelly in Mansfield, Ohio and she wants to ask: How proud are you of your team this year, the way you've come out of the box after last year's somewhat disappointing effort, and what's been the big difference that's made your team so much better this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it would be -- we have to sit here for a while to say everything that we have changed to make everything better but in the end I think, you know, it's awesome to see the 180-degree turn that the whole organization has taken.
And that credit has to go to Richard for making the management changes and the structure changes throughout the organization to use the tools that we have correctly. And he kind of stepped back and really just let everybody do their job, let Scott Miller and Kent Day and all of the crew chiefs really work on the competition side of it, and do what they need to do from a daily standpoint and giving us the money and the resources to do that.
Really, it's just Richard making the key moves towards the end of last year to get everybody headed in the right direction.
Q. This will be the last race on the old pavement at Daytona. How pleased were you to hear that he were going to push up the repaving project and how confident are you that the temporary fixes they made to the track are going to hold up for this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, honestly, I wasn't real pleased at all to hear that the racetrack was going to have to be repaved, but you know, the time has just taken its toll on the racetrack and some things you just have to do. I don't think anybody would repave the racetrack if it just didn't absolutely have to be done.
You know, I feel pretty confident with everything that everybody said from the racetrack that the repairs are good and have tested the Nationwide car there, you know, with the new patch in the corner. Couldn't even tell it was there. So did a good job with that.
It will be totally different when we go back in February. Obviously it will be warm and slick, and tires will be at a premium and the handling will be at a premium this week in both races.
You just have to -- you know, we'll go back and it will be a lot like Talladega, a whole lot narrower racetrack and you'll have the big chess match that you have to play at Talladega and it will come into effect at Daytona too. The handling will go out the window and it will be all-out speed.
Q. Can you talk about the new car, what you think about it for the Nationwide Series, and do you think this is the first step of eventually Sprint Cup cars going into the direction where they will look more like the Chevron cars?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think there's definitely some changes coming, some for changes coming on the Cup car. I think you've seen NASCAR take a lot of steps to put the spoiler back on the car and I think you'll see the front of the are can a going in a different direction somewhere in the future.
The new Nationwide car, I mean, it's really a neat looking race car. Climbing in and out of it, you realize how much more comfortable it is from a driver's standpoint to have more room in the safety aspects of it.
I think it's going to race -- it's going to be a pretty neat race this weekend. The cars move around and slide around a lot. I'm really excited about the new car. The best part about it is that 18 car won't have those cars to race any more, so hopefully we can close that competition gap on the Nationwide side and close that up a little bit and I'm looking forward to the race this week end, so it should be fun.
Q. Is it important from an owner's perspective, too, that the car looked more like the Chevron, that that will get the fans more interested in it?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it's awesome that the cars look more like the Chevron cars. All of the cars look pretty sporty, and I think any time we can involve the manufacturers more and give them more of an identity on the racetrack, it's going to be better for the manufacturers, it's going to be better for the race fans and in the end, it's better for eastbound.
I think everybody is going to be really pleased with the way that the car has turned out and I think that the race is going to be good, as well.
Q. In the trucks, Ron always talks about having a new truck every couple of weeks, do you plan on doing the same thing on the Nationwide side?
KEVIN HARVICK: Right now it's just a matter of getting our own stuff built right offhand. We have built all the 70 cars and we have to make sure that they are up to par, as well, and next year we just have to decide how many teams we are going to have and what direction that will take on the Nationwide side.
We have built a couple of -- probably a handful of cars for other teams for the up-and-coming races this year. But it's just going to be -- the Nationwide stuff is -- they run so many more races and I guess the competition is a little bit closer, so it takes so much more time just because there are so many more races and you don't have the budget to hire more people like you do on the Cup side.
So it just takes more time because you have to prepare the cars on a weekly basis. I don't know that it will ever get to the depth and magnitude of the truck stuff, but we will be very select in what we do, and obviously with RCR building chassis and things now on the Nationwide side, you know, it's not just us that have to, you know, deal with the capacity level of how many things you build, but we have to deal with what the capacity levels are of RCR, as well.
Q. Can you talk about what you're doing Thursday morning and was there something about why you wanted to work with the Boys & Girls Club in the Daytona area?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we work with the Boys and Girls Clubs before, all over the country, really. We are going to have the volleyball event that Rheem and WileyX are putting on on the beach. That will be fun to see some of the people in our sport, in shorts, first of all, including myself, and playing volleyball, second of all will be pretty entertaining in itself. It's for a good cause.
Everything will benefit the Kevin Harvick Foundation, and it's open to the public at the beach; and so it will be a lot of fun and to see all of the kids from the Boys & Girls Club out there having a good time is really what it's all about.
Q. You were talking about the 18 and new cars coming out for Nationwide and how it will equalize things. How much of a difference do you think that will make? How far ahead was that 18?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, they have been pretty dominant over the last three years, the 18 and the 20, and obviously everybody, the rest of us have been playing catch-up and I feel like we have closed the gap but now we have the opportunity to close the gap all at once.
They are still going to win races and be just as competitive as they are now, but I feel like we have been playing catch up and this is our chance to take advantage of the opportunity, whether we do that or not is yet to be seen but it at least gives us an opportunity to have that opportunity to catch up.
Q. And what kind of a race do you think we'll see at Daytona? The fans were pretty jacked about the race last weekend, I think it was the passes and people going after each own on the track that maybe had an issue earlier the previous week and for some reason the fans really like seeing all of that going on and of course you have the end of the race. What do you think we are going to see now as we head into the race at Daytona?
KEVIN HARVICK: Obviously Daytona is a little bit different than Loudon as far as the way that you race. You know, Daytona, the cars are going to move around a lot. The cars are going to slide and you're going to see a lot of people handle really good in the beginning and not handle so good halfway through the run.
So you'll see a lot of cars coming and going, a lot of passing and pushes and shoving with the new plate, and I think our sport has just become a lot more aggressive because the competition is so much closer, and you know, I think with the leash let off everybody, everybody wants to gain that position and you have to get aggressive to pass because the competition is so close. Sometimes you make mistakes and you run into guys and people get mad and things escalate from there.
It seems to get more exciting every week and it seems like we come home with more bent fenders every week, so that's okay. As long as it's good to watch and everybody is racing hard, that's what it's all about.
Q. How would you rate your season so far across the board? Are you where you want to be or how would you assess things?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think coming off last year it's probably an A Plus after this point. I think were like 26th or 27th in the points last year, I don't know exactly where that was. But obviously it was in victory lane in the Shootout at the start of the year and Talladega, had a chance to win a couple other races. And we have run consistently in the Top-5 and when we have had a bad day, we have been right around the Top-10.
Those are the things that you have to do. And I keep hearing everybody talk about; you've got to win more races and you've got to do this. We'll win a couple more races and that's what we have got to do. But the consistency is really what we are looking for; if you're consistently in the Top-5, those will be championship numbers and you'll at least have a chance.
So last I checked, the points system in the last ten races is the same points system that we are under now, and so far, everything has gone pretty good. So unless somebody has changed the points system, winning races is good, but you have to be consistent, as well.
Q. There's always a lot of talk about peaking; do you feel like your team is on track to peak?
KEVIN HARVICK: This is the best opportunity that we've ever had to win a championship. This is the best opportunity we've ever had to prepare for a championship because of where we are in the points.
I feel like the ball is in our court. Obviously you're going to have to knock off the 48. Those are the guys that have made it happen in the Chase and been consistent and won races and done what they have had to do over the last ten weeks. Until somebody proves they can do that, those are the guys that you have to beat and they have done that the last couple of weeks.
I think for us, the ball is in our hands, and what direction we take it and run with it from here is up to us so we have plenty of time to prepare for it and hopefully we do a good job as we have done to this point and we can step it up and do what we have to do in the last ten weeks.
Q. You said a few minutes ago that you still think you can win a couple more races this season, and you would like to get the bonus points. Are there two or three tracks you have circled coming up that you think you have a good shot at winning at those facilities?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we are going to a lot of racetracks where we have had a lot of success. Obviously everybody circles Indianapolis and we have Atlanta and California and we ran great at Pocono, Watkins Glen, Richmond. There's a number of racetracks that we have run at and been competitive at this year.
You know, right now, I feel confident that we can be competitive any week. The only place that we really struggled this year has been Michigan, and we were off there. Luckily that's not a track in the Chase, but we have to go back there in a few weeks.
I definitely feel we are going to be competitive. The thing I have learned over the years is when you start trying to force the issue, and I learned this lesson the hard way this year at California. We had not won in a while, tried to force the issue, and made a mistake and cost ourselves a chance to win instead of being patient.
You can't force winning. You just have to run good, run consistent and run hard and put yourself in position to win, and, you know, we have won 13, 14 races in a year between the Nationwide car and the Cup car and some years you only win one or two so you have to be in position and how many you win is just how the cards fall.
Q. What about Chicago? You are a previous winner and you go there next week, what are your thoughts on getting back up there?
KEVIN HARVICK: That's a great racetrack for us. It's been a track we have run good on every year. Obviously we won the first couple of races there and have been in the Top-5 in a few since. It's a great racetrack for us, the mile-and-a-half stuff has been a strong point for us this year and we are looking forward to going.
Q. Do you bring the same car that you brought at Talladega or are the tracks too different for to you do that?
KEVIN HARVICK: We'll bring the same car that I believe we raced at the Daytona 500. I don't know, to be honest with you, but I assume that's the car that we are racing -- it is, okay. Yeah, that is the car that we are racing.
That's the car that has the most history and probably has a little bit more downforce than the Talladega car and for us, for me, I just quit asking about what car they are bringing and they have all run pretty good. So I've just tried to concentrate on what I was doing and they have done a good job with the cars that they have been bringing.
Q. And earlier you had talked about finishing a lot of races with a lot of fenders and everything, and I guess the concern on the Nationwide side is, for a lot of the smaller teams, getting those cars fixed to be able to pass the tight inspection process; do you have any concerns from your end as a team owner and for the series in general, trying to meet those tolerances week-in, week-out?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think once it gets going, I think people are really overthinking the process. The process is very simple once you get everything up and running. It's a little bit complicated to get it up and running but the cars are way simpler to build. You can buy pieces is of the fenders that are already built for you and put them on the car. And if you line everything up straight, you don't even have to have the wheels and tires on the car to put a body on the car anymore.
So the process, once you get it up and running, is very simple, and it shouldn't be that big of a problem to get the cars rebuilt. It should be a lot easier to be honest with you.
Q. What you said earlier about consistency and all, having said that, do you feel like still when you get inside the Chase, it's going to take winning one or maybe multiple races to actually win a championship?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I do. I think you're going to have to win one or two races in the Chase to be in contention, but you can't have those disasters. We had a 100-point disaster at Martinsville with a brake failure. Obviously you can see the DNFs that the 11 and 48 have had. You have to prevent those DNFs from happening, and you have to prevent those 35th to 40th place finishes. It used to be a 12th place finish would win; I think you have to be seventh or eighth, average, in the last ten races to make it happen.
Q. And as a competitor, you've got a substantial lead in the points, but you've got two guys that winning more races; does it irk you that you haven't won more races?
KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. When you follow the year that we have had compared to what we had last year, you learn not to get greedy. I've been around this deal long enough to know that we keep running like we are, we'll win our share of races.
You saw the 11 go through their streak; they won five out of 11 races; the 48 has gone through streaks and this is a very streaky sport. So when you get on that streak, you have to it ride that wave, and then you have to prevent when -- when that streak ends, you have to prevent the disaster from wrecks and parts failures and things.
But also, when you get to the last ten, you have got to push engines, cars, everything that you can to be taking everything that you can and what you can put on the racetrack.
It doesn't irk me at all. We have been fortunate to be where we are and, you know, five race wins and five DNFs won't win a championship.
Q. Who are you looking most forward to seeing on the beach?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think about half of us will look like we are riding around on a chicken, so we will see how that goes.
Q. How do you think having the spoiler on the COT for the first time at Daytona will shake things up?
KEVIN HARVICK: With the bigger plate and with the spoiler on the car, the cars are going to pull up faster than they did before, that's for sure. I think, you know, with the Nationwide cars being down there and testing those several weeks ago, I think that will give us a big indication of what we are going to have with the Cup car, and they pulled up really fast. You have to let off the throttle. And it's going to be a lot different to be honest because of the pull-up racing. We saw it was a lot faster at the Daytona 500, and now we have a bigger plate yet. It will be exciting and you will see a lot of cars passing and moving and going and doing what they did at the Daytona 500, just a little faster.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin Harvick, we appreciate it, best of luck this Saturday night at Daytona.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|