NASCAR Media Conference
March 3, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to this week's video teleconference in advance of this weekend's event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which includes Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500, the 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the storied history of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Our guest today, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He joins us from the RCR headquarters. Kevin comes into Atlanta 11th in the series standings. Atlanta Motor Speedway, that's the place where Kevin Harvick got his very first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series back in the spring of 2001.
Kevin, RCR comes off a good run at Vegas. Three drivers finishing in the top 12. Going into Atlanta, what's the outlook for RCR overall and you specifically?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think for us on our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team, I think the first three weeks have been really pretty good for us. We obviously finished second at Daytona. We ran really well at California. We had the problem there at the end of the race, but performance was good. Performance was good last week. Just kind of got caught there with the caution coming out while we were on pit road. We were able to come back and finish 12th. Wasn't a bad day.
Our cars have been performing well. I was glad to see the other cars ran well this weekend. So far so good. We ran well in both races last year at Atlanta. Coming off a couple good weeks performance-wise, I think we'll be okay.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media for questions.
Q. The intensity level seems to be much higher at the beginning part of this season than in years past. We're seeing intense racing, engines blowing, mistakes on pit road. Do you see it that way?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think from my standpoint, I don't think that the intensity is any higher than it has been in the past. I think there's a lot of things happening. I think everybody's obviously ready to go and ready to race and there's a lot of new situations. I think the intensity is as high as it usually is.
So from my standpoint, I don't see that. Maybe from the outside looking in, I haven't watched any of the races, so I'm sure it's a different perspective coming from what you guys see, and I just see what we do.
From our standpoint, we're kind of that 'Steady Eddie' team that has been together for several years. Our guys are doing a good job on pit road. Things are just going along for us.
Q. I can't believe it's been eight years since the first win in 2001. Can you look back and talk about that day, your emotions from where you sit in 2009.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think for us it's obviously something that you can't do twice. To win your first race is something that's pretty cool. To do it in our third start, with everything that was going on, you can really look back on it now and reflect on those types of things.
At that particular moment, I don't remember a whole lot from that particular day. There's just so many emotions that were running through your mind - good emotions, bad emotions, everything that was happening. It was a little bit confusing, to be honest with you.
Going back now, you look at where the sport was, everything that did for the sport, and the racing is always really good at Atlanta, so that's fun to be part of a finish like that.
For several years it was kind of our Achilles' heel. Then we came back last year and ran really well. So that felt good to run good at the racetrack where you got your first win.
Q. When you see Kyle Busch come from the back of the field to win at Vegas, how concerned are you that this is the start of what he did last year during the first 26 races?
KEVIN HARVICK: I hope it goes just like it did last year for him. I hope he runs good for 26 and falls off in the last 10. If it repeats itself, that would be good.
Those guys are on top of their game. Kyle does a good job. They're carrying that momentum over from what they did last year. That's pretty cool he got to win in his home state.
Those guys are doing exactly what they did in the first part of last year. They'll be hard to guard for the whole year.
Q. Kevin, I was interested in finding out how you would assess Ricky Carmichael's success after just a couple starts?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think Ricky has exceeded everything that we've kind of expected out of him. We've kind of thrown him into the fire at Talladega in the ARCA race, then the Daytona in the ARCA race, thrown him straight in into the truck race at Daytona. He's handled all the situations very well.
He wasn't actually scheduled to race in Atlanta this week, but we're going go ahead and race him. I was scheduled to run the 4 truck and we're going to move that to the 2 truck, let him keep going.
It's kind of a week-to-week deal right now. Obviously his schedule is set. We'll see how it goes after this week. If we can find somebody to pay for Martinsville, we'll throw him in there, too.
That just kind of shows you the expectations have been exceeded. I was a little bit nervous going into the deal because you don't know how somebody's going to react. So far he's done a really good job. Hopefully we can keep it going.
Q. Obviously he had a lot of success in motorcross. Besides just the impressive statistics, what else was it about Ricky that made you want to sort of bring him into the fold?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, for me, with the truck team where it was, we were just going to kind of have fun with it and put some different Cup drivers in there. We'll still do that whether it's in the 2 or the 4 truck, depending on where the sponsorship stuff falls.
For me, more than anything, Ricky is just a good guy. He works hard. That's what got him to where he was at in his motorcross career, was working harder than everybody else. Maybe he wasn't the most God-gifted motorcycle rider, but he exceeded that by working harder than everybody else. Those championships and race wins and things came with all the hard work.
Just getting to talk to him, getting to know him, that was really the reason that we did the thing, was just because of the type of person he was, knowing that he was going to work hard at it, and knowing the fact he really wanted to come in and make a career out of stock car racing.
Seeing the crew he had, there's a lot of things you don't have to teach him. You don't have to teach him about how to save his money, the nightlife that comes with our sport. If you're 18 and 25, if that's what you want. He's married, got two kids. You don't have to worry about anything but teaching him how to drive, getting him on the racetracks and the things that come with that. It's been a nice transition to put him in there.
Q. Another question about Ricky Carmichael. When you pull yourself out of the truck this weekend, is it also because the sponsor is willing to come in and be a part of it? It would be rare for you to drop back and let Ricky race, even though you want to keep the momentum going.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I'm actually racing this weekend. I just moved the sponsorship we had for the 4 truck to the 2 truck. We actually didn't have a sponsor for Ricky's race this weekend. But we did have Charter onboard for my race. We're just going to run three trucks this week and put him in there and see how he does.
Q. Kevin, last week there seemed to be a lot of drivers that kind of lost it through spinning out. There didn't seem to be a lot going on to cause that. Why do you think that might be happening?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the biggest thing is just Goodyear did a great job with the tires. Coming back, the cars had a lot of grip. Those types of racetracks where you have new asphalt, you have high speeds, you're so dependent upon aero, when you get side by side and the grip level goes away, it goes away instantly.
It's just one of those things where people are pushing to the limits and the speeds are so high that the fine line between going fast and wrecking is not very thick. It's a very, very thin line.
Q. Is that something that you guys aren't used to? For the experience out there, it would seem that might have been something you've been through before.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think if you go back and you look at a lot of the Charlotte race, they were very similar to what was happening in Las Vegas. It's just that new type of racetrack. When it hasn't aged and you wind up getting to the point of going fast and on the verge of spinning out, there's not a very wide margin in there to make a mistake. Very similar to what we had since they repaved Charlotte, just those types of racetracks.
Q. The last few weeks in Nationwide and Cup, there were a lot of mistakes on pit road. Why do you think that seems to be happening? Seems to be happening with a lot of veteran drivers, too.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think everybody's just trying to get everything they can. On Saturdays, you don't really have anything to lose, going out and trying to win a race. The competition has become so close that you want to gain everything that you can on pit road. You want to gain everything you can getting into the pits. You're just pushing as hard as you can.
I don't know if it's a coincidence. I think everybody's just trying to do everything they can to gain an advantage.
Q. When you make those mistakes on pit road, do you realize at that point how much it really can cost you in a race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, yeah. I mean, when you do make a mistake, it's just like our race at Las Vegas last week, we come in, the caution comes out, we ran solidly in the top 10, top five throughout the day, the next thing you know you're fighting for your life to get the Lucky Dog.
It just takes one mistake or one circumstance or whatever the case may be to change everything that you're doing today. All of a sudden you're trying to play catch-up instead of trying to keep your track position.
Q. Winning at Atlanta in 2001, winning this weekend would have to be excellent for you and your team because of it being the 50th anniversary for Atlanta, you'd go down in the record books.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think they all go in the record books. We've obviously started off the year with running the Bud Shootout, ran great in the 500, had a decent week in California, and had a little problem there at the end. We ran decent in Vegas.
I think winning is around the corner for us. Obviously we've done it already in the Shootout. I think we just got to keep the consistency level.
If it's the 50th anniversary, that will make it even better. It's good to win no matter what the anniversary is.
Q. With the testing ban, have you found yourselves thrashing more, trying to get through stuff, the practices on Friday or Saturday, or has it not changed your routine at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: Our routine has stayed pretty constant from what we did last year. Like I say, I mean, you look at the 33 car and the 07 car, they're trying to get accustomed to new crew chiefs, new things. They've probably done a couple different things.
The guys did a great job this week going out and changing some stuff over during the week on the Vegas cars from what we had at California. So they went out and changed a lot of stuff over on all four cars.
I don't know that that's any different than what we would have done in the past, other than if we would have tested at that one particular racetrack. There's just a lot of stuff we do that we can apply to the cars. You know how you can shift aero balance and things like that to make it different, better or worse, whatever the case may be.
I wouldn't call it a thrash. I think we have more prepared cars than we've ever had leading into the season because of the no-testing ban.
Q. Do you feel as comfortable on race day, on Sunday, without testing as much?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah. I think we all do this so many weekends of the year. When you only take a month and a half off, it's hard to get out of rhythm when you're only off for that much, and you drive for 10 months out of the year. Yeah, I mean, all of us have done this so long that it's no big deal without the testing.
Q. A lot of people were wondering how Richard Childress Racing would cope moving from three cars to four. How do you think the transition is going? Do you feel you're getting the benefits of a four-car team so early in the year?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know that you're going to see a benefit from it so early in the year. I think obviously we have more stuff, more notes to look at than what we had last year. You can make a little bit better decision by having the fourth team.
I definitely don't think it's hurting things. It hasn't changed one thing that we do on a day-to-day basis on the 29 car. I definitely don't think it's been a hindrance to us at all so far.
Q. Kevin, for you and your team, is it still one race at a time? With the Chase in mind, are you ever happy with the top-five finishes, happy without winning? Placing yourself in the Chase consistently, does that take the sting out of not winning?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think winning the Shootout was a good start to the season. That was good. Following up with a second at the 500, that was good. It's just one of those things where you race week to week and just go about your business.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to Kevin Harvick. Appreciate you taking the time out from this busy week as you get ready for Atlanta. Best of luck to you this weekend, pal.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you. Appreciate it.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media for joining us. Had a nice turnout today for Kevin Harvick. As always, we appreciate the coverage of our sport.
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