NASCAR Media Conference
October 2, 2007
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the NASCAR Nextel Cup teleconference. For those of you that are going to cover this weekend's events at Talladega Super Speedway, reigning series champion and current Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup points leader, Jimmie Johnson, will be the guest for the Nextel leader chat on site there. He will be there at 10:00 a.m. for those of you who wish to chat with Jimmie this week.
Our guest today ahead of Sunday's UAW Ford 500 at Talladega is Kevin Harvick, who is the driver of the #29 Shell Penzoil Chevrolet. Kevin is fifth in the Chase standings heading to Talladega, and as most of his Chase peers after the three events thus far, he has changed positions after every race.
Kevin, welcome. Some tight battles shaping up as you guys switch spots and fight for every point. That's been the norm so far during this.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it's been a fight so far. I think everybody has had trouble. We had trouble the first two weeks, and last week we finally got to finish where we ran most of the day, so that was nice for us. I think in the first two weeks we got three flat fires.
It was a good week for us; a bad week for a lot of the others. But we had a couple of those leading up to it, so it was nice to, like I say, finally finish where we ran.
DENISE MALOOF: Let's go to the media for questions for Kevin.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about just how unknown the Car of Tomorrow's going to be? For example, that huge run you were able to get to win the Daytona 500, the plate racing up on the outside, is that kind of thing, do you have any idea whether that's even possible anymore, or is all that out the window?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's less unknown than obviously before the Talladega test. Obviously the biggest unknown is putting all 43 cars on the track and seeing where everything's going to wind up. You don't want to fall too far behind.
If you get too far behind the pack it's substantially faster, as it was before, but it just seems a little bit harder to catch up because the cars are so draggy compared to what we used to run. They draft a little bit different.
At the test I got behind, I don't remember who it was, but we went from the back of the pack all the way to the front, and it's just a matter of getting in the right line and making the right decisions throughout the race and keeping the car from getting tore up.
So it's still going to be a lot of the same Talladega characteristics as we had before: Missing the wreck and trying to put yourself in the right spot at the end. I think you're still going to be able to get help and get runs and things like that.
Q. Can you clarify what the visibility limitations are in the Car of Tomorrow? Is it mainly not being to see through the back window with the wings? Are there other things? Some drivers have said they've been able to find a mirror that allows them to see underneath the wing.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know how you can see underneath a wing, but if there is I guess I need to get up on my mirror game here. The cars are a little bit harder to see through just because of the wing. You can't really cheat these cars out because the fenders are so big. You got to stay directly behind the car in front of you.
I think as you become used to driving these cars and really becoming accustomed to what you're looking for and where you're looking at I think you'll find other ways to make it work.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Jacques Villeneuve's debut at Talladega. Some are expressing some concerns about having a rookie, and he is a rookie in stock cars, debut at a race with the plates, the Car of Tomorrow, so many unknown. They think it may be somewhat risky, and I'd like to get your thoughts.
KEVIN HARVICK: I wouldn't pick it as my first race, I can tell that you much. It could be a bad move if things go wrong. But hopefully they go in with an agenda of just trying to survive and just really just making laps and not trying to do anything miraculous or heroic, I guess you could say.
It's probably definitely not the race that if I was a team owner or a driver coming for the first time to such an unknown that I would have picked.
Q. Rockingham is up for auction today, and I just wanted to know if you could go back to the day you made your debut there and talk about what that was like for you and if you have any special feelings for that place.
KEVIN HARVICK: For me personally I didn't really like Rockingham, to tell you the truth. It was one of those places we didn't run very good. Things didn't really ever go that well for us. Obviously that's where I made my first start, so that was a place that I'll always remember, and obviously it wasn't under the circumstances that any of us every anticipated.
So it was, you know, I think the first time we ever went there was the best time I had ever run there. So for me it wasn't something -- personally it's something that you remember for your first start, but never something that I really remembered for being very good there, for sure.
Q. I want to ask you whether you think Kansas was just as crazy as you've ever seen a race, that you would have ever predicted Kansas would be that insane? And if you think Talladega is going to be any crazier as a result of what you've seen so far in the Chase?
KEVIN HARVICK: I was in Montreal, so that one still takes the cake for me. You know, in Kansas I think the way that the race ended obviously was a little bit dramatic. People can read into it what they want to read into it, but the 16 still pretty much at that point all have to do is stay rolling and the field is a frozen. It's pretty simple to interpret the rules in my opinion anyway.
As far as all the Chase guys crashing and getting tore up, that has been that way every week seems like. It's just been unpredictable. And after the rain delay everybody knew it was going to get dark. We had the caution come out right in the middle of the second rain delay and you had a bunch of guys on the tail end of the lead lap and on the bottom a lap down, and everybody thought they could make some ground right there. Everybody just wound up getting tore up right there after the second delay.
So caution after caution it seemed like, and everybody was just racing hard and those things happen. You know, I've read some things this week of inconsistency. In my opinion I don't know think that the call was inconsistent. And everybody knows that I have a pretty fair opinion -- or pretty honest opinion. I don't know whether it's fair or not. I didn't think there was really any controversy of the results or the way that things finished.
Maybe I interpret the rules wrong, but that's just the way I saw it.
Q. Due to the playoff nature of these last ten races, do you think that NASCAR should have tried to finish the race under the scheduled distance, whether that be on Monday or whatever?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think you have things that you can control and things that you can't control. Obviously the weather is something that we can't control. I think we could have just ended the race and been done with it after the second rain delay started and just everybody went home.
But I think with them waiting it out and letting the rain come through and getting as much of the race in as possible, I think with the logistics and where we are in our sport, I think sometimes you just have to do the best that you can. I think they did a good job doing the best that they could to get the race in.
You know, it's just to me it's unfortunate that we have to read so much into everything. The Chase means a lot but you can't control the weather. Just like every other race there's still 43 guys and the same schedule and everything that have to do next week.
Some things just aren't possible to do the like that. The rules are if you get halfway, and we were over halfway, and they did everything they could to get the race as far in as they could. So, you know, it's just unfortunate that everybody has to read so much into things and put things on our sport that aren't really necessary to put onto it to make it look worse than it really is.
Q. You're only 126 points out of the lead, which is a heck of a lot better than some the other guys in the Chase. Can you talk about your approach to the final seven races?
KEVIN HARVICK: Our approach hasn't changed. We go and try to be as aggressive as we can every week and make our cars run as fast as we can to make ourselves win. If you can't do that you have to make the best day possible out of the day that you're having.
The first two weeks we had some tire trouble, three different tire problems, just cut tires and had bad luck. We made decent days out of those particular days. That's what helped us keep us where we are in the points. We didn't give up. My team did a great job getting everything back together and making laps up and just putting ourselves in a position to finish races.
Other people have had trouble and finished in the high 30s and low 40s. So we've avoided those days. In order to win this thing you're going to have to be consistent and go out and run good every week. So when you have those bad days you have to prevent them from being disasters.
Q. Back to the Villeneuve question. You had 70 truck starts, 33 Busch starts, including one 16th place at Talladega and seven Cup starts going into your first Talladega race in a Cup car. Do you feel like you were prepared going into Talladega? Do you think that Villeneuve should maybe wait until a later date to go to Talladega?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think from an experience standpoint I don't think you can ever really prepare yourself for Talladega. Obviously he didn't do very well in his first truck race. I think going to Talladega there's a lot of things -- with a lot of things on the line and being one of our places where you know that you're going to have some trouble probably that you're going to have to avoid.
There probably could have been a better place for him to make his Cup debut. You know, the truck series and the Busch series are there to gather that knowledge and be able to race and under the cars, and Talladega is just a place that's so unpredictable. He is probably going to be able to do it and be fine, but the odds are definitely not in his favor.
Q. With Talladega usually being the place in the Chase that sort of makes a mess of things and scrambles up the standings and everything, do you see any particular irony this time that the thing's already been scrambled at Kansas City? Is it possible, or sort of like two wrongs that could make a right? Two messes might could even things out after ya'll get away from Talladega?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know. It just seems like last year to me things started off the same, way and as we went through the Chase they calmed down. I think every race is going to have its same little characteristics. Seems like a lot of the same guys have run good at the last restrictor plate tracks.
Obviously going in this time we have a lot more variables than what we have before. So I think Talladega is just Talladega. We could have the same mess at places like Kansas and tear up a lot of cars. Everybody is just being aggressive and trying to get everything they can.
Unfortunately everybody's kind of had some trouble in the first three races, and none of us have been able to put three weeks together. Heck, we could come out and it could be turned upside down again for sure.
Q. To follow-up on Rockingham, could you talk about how difficult of a day that was to make your debut there under those circumstances, and did you get the sense that that was the start of the kind of special career that you've ended up having?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we've moved on from a lot those things, and obviously that was a tough day for everybody. Really the only think I remember about that day was getting on the wrong helicopter, because DeLana and I were going to Vegas to get married. That was the biggest mix up that we had that day.
Obviously the emotions and everything were -- the week before and going forward, I mean, it was not a situation that everybody want to be in. We've come a long way since then and hopefully are looking forward to keeping everything going as it has been the last few years.
Q. What do you think about when you go to Talladega? Like what's on your mind about Talladega? How hard is it to keep that concentration up, and do you worry about people making mistakes, or do you just focus on your own game? What do you do to make it at all possible to go that fast and watch out for yourself?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think going into this race I think you want to -- when you go to Talladega it seems lately that you want to be up front and as close to the front as you can to avoid as many accidents as you can. Sometimes they start in the front and you're in it. You just go to Talladega with the mindset of going as hard as you can trying to put yourself in the right position that hopefully you can find the least amount of trouble that particular day.
So sometimes trouble finds you, and I've been there and made mistakes and caused trouble, too. It's just all about making the least amount of mistakes from your part and trying to dodge the rest of the mistakes that people make on their part. Everybody's going to make mistakes, and you just got to try to avoid it as best you can.
DENISE MALOOF: Kevin, we will let you go. We appreciate your time today. Good luck this weekend.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you.
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