NASCAR Media Conference
January 31, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kevin Harvick.
Kevin, could you start off, give us an overview of how your morning has gone so far.
KEVIN HARVICK: It's gone really well. I think everybody in the garage is pleasantly surprised with how well the cars drive on the bigger racetracks. I think, as we've talked about before, I think as we are able to focus on one particular car, I think the cars, the handling, will get better and better.
So far everything has gone really good, no issues. Everything seems to be fine.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Some of the races here haven't been the most exciting. When Kyle was here, he said he thinks the COT was made for a track like this. From what you've seen so far this morning, will the racing improve?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think as these type of cars -- as the tire run goes on, the cars seem to fall off a lot. That's going to require you to move around the racetrack. I think you're going to see a variety of grooves.
I agree with him on that. I think the racing is going to be better on these types of racetracks for sure because the speeds are a little bit slower and the fall-off is still going to be there.
Q. Of all the testing you've done so far, what is the most difficult about the car of today now to handle?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think as we went to Las Vegas, I think everybody was surprised just how well the cars unloaded. I think the most difficult thing we've experienced probably over the last few days is just the different mindsets coming into the different styles of racetracks.
Las Vegas is very wide open, lots of grip. Here you slide around and there's a lot of fall-off on the tires. So just trying to understand the difference from the setup that you're going to take from Las Vegas to here was a good experience for us. But just the mindset just going into the two different types of racetracks.
Plus I think everybody has figured out why everybody likes to live in California: because the weather today. That's probably been the biggest obstacle for all of us over the past few days. It's been very cold and very windy in Las Vegas. It's nice to come here and get a little bit of sunshine.
Q. Is there anything about the Car of Tomorrow that has you longing for the old Cup cars as far as driving, performance, setup, anything in particular?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think so. I think everybody's focused on - we call them Impalas now. We don't know how we're going to get rid of that COT thing. We have to call them Impalas at some point.
I think everybody is pretty focused on just getting the cars to drive better and understanding the package as we go forward to really make strides on that. When you get in and out of these cars you understand the biggest reason that we did all this car swap stuff was for safety. You can get in and out of the cars no problem with your helmet on. You've got plenty of room. Your head's not resting against the window net. You don't have any problems getting the seats mounted in the cars.
It has to be applauded just for the fact that the safety side of it is tremendously better just because the drivers are more comfortable in the cars, able to get in and out of them easier.
I mean, obviously, it's a different beast, but I don't think anybody is worried about what we did in the past. We're all looking to go forward.
Q. Given that, with you being the defending champion of the Daytona 500, how is the complexion of that race going to be different in the Impala compared to the other ones? During testing, there weren't a lot of big-pack drafts going on that we could really ascertain what to expect in two weeks.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, last year I was part of a three-car pack that was the breakaway pack for three fuel runs. I think if you're looking for a big pack racing at Daytona, it's probably not going to be there unless you have a caution.
There's going to be packs, but I don't think it's going to be much different. The cars didn't drive that bad. They haven't driven bad anywhere.
I think that the racetrack kind of dictates the type of racing that it is because it's a superspeedway, but it also is very rough and the asphalt's wore out. In the past, you know, we really haven't had those big packs at Daytona. We've had them at Talladega.
I think the handling comes into effect. I think that's what you have to concentrate on at Daytona. You're still going to have the packs. The way that the cars draft, there is more pushing and shoving than there probably has been at Daytona in the past. It's always been at Talladega.
The car, it's a lot easier to push the guy in front of you. You're going to be more dependent on who's behind you.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie last year did so well. Do a lot of you guys feel like you're trying to play catch-up with Hendrick?
KEVIN HARVICK: If you go back and look at the sport, we had this conversation this morning, there's always been teams that go through years of things that are going well. Right now they're definitely the team that we're all trying to catch up to and make things better.
They definitely kind of set the bar. I feel like at RCR we've made strides to close that gap. I feel pretty confident that we've done that. You just have to see where you fall when the green flag drops here in a couple weeks and go from there.
But I feel like concentrating on one program is going to help us as much as anything.
Q. You pretty much had this race won last year until your problems. Talk about what happened the last part of the race.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, if you go back and look at it now, it kind of set the tone for the whole year. I think we had like nine or ten flat tires in races last year. We just ran over a piece of debris under the caution.
I think with four or five laps to go, I felt like we were going to win the race, carry that momentum into the next week. The momentum from the week before stalled. It kind of set the tone for the whole year.
We always seem to run really well here in the first race of the year. We're hoping to do that. We unloaded well today. Just see where it all falls when we come back
Q. What type of racing do you think we'll see when we come back here?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you're going to see a lot of people moving around. I think this car, even at Las Vegas last week, you could move around and make time. You're just going to see a lot of different grooves develop as the race goes on. The high groove will come in at some point, as it has in the past.
There's still going to be that little bit of an element of surprise as we get into the races of things that you didn't run across at the test. But the only way you can do that is to put all 43 of them out there and drop the flag.
Q. Back to Daytona. Do you think we'll see side-by-side racing there?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I mean the cars, they're very easy to drive side by side. I mean, the roughness of the racetrack is the only thing that makes them move around. At Talladega these things were like driving a Cadillac.
Still, like I just said, it's hard to simulate how the racing is actually going to be until you put all 43 cars out there and everybody starts pushing and shoving to get the lines going. But side by side doesn't seem to be a big issue with these cars so far.
Q. A question about your truck team. When you started KHI, did you of imagine you'd have the two best drivers in series history driving under your name? What are your expectations for this season?
KEVIN HARVICK: The expectations are to contend for the championship. Obviously there's a lot of teams that can do that, but it's pretty neat to have Jack and Ron both on the same team. I think a lot of people thought that might not ever happen 10 years ago.
Coming up through the Truck Series and being able to race against those guys when I first started, it's pretty neat now to have them driving our stuff.
The expectations are to go out and do the same thing they did last year and hopefully the 2 truck comes along fast. There will be some bumps in the road for that team as we get it started up. Hopefully we can adjust and keep them both in contention.
Q. You're well accustomed to new seasons. What excites you most now as you look at a long schedule?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't know that -- I'm kind of a week-to-week guy. I like to look to things as they come up during the week. We're pretty well I guess managed as far as schedule-wise. You know, you're kind of dictated of where you go and when you go. You try to put everything else in between.
I think the greatest thing about our sport is you start the season and everybody has high expectations. Some people have new sponsors. You have new uniforms, new cars. Everything is new and the optimism is high.
That's what makes the first week of the Daytona 500 so great, is everybody has a chance at the championship. Everybody is rejuvenated and refreshed from the year before. That's why it's the Super Bowl of our sport.
You can't have every team in the NFL hyped and excited that they can win the Super Bowl when the Super Bowl only has two teams in it. Our sport is unique in the fact that our first race is the Daytona 500 and everybody has a chance of winning the championship. Your biggest race on the first week. There's a lot of hype. That's what I look forward to getting it all started off.
Q. I believe Texas is going to be the first track that you get to where you haven't had either a race experience or a test in the COT. Is that going to be particularly challenging to get ready for that race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. We had the 07 do the tire test there a couple weeks ago. Maybe we'll be on the fortunate side of that.
I think Las Vegas put a lot of questions behind everybody as far as how the cars were going to react on those types of racetracks. The cars drove really good at Texas with the 07 and the 42, and I can't remember who the other car was. All those cars drove well there, too.
Q. Do you feel more prepared for the Daytona blitz? How did that affect you all last year, or did it change?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the biggest thing it changed, you always hear people talk about the magnitude of winning the Daytona 500 and how it's the biggest race in our sport. I don't think you can really understand that until you get to experience that firsthand.
The week after the race was pretty crazy. That's all anybody ever really wants to talk about is the Daytona 500.
We've been fortunate to win a lot of the big races in our sport. That one takes the cake by a long ways. I think to be able to experience that and be a part of that, put your name next to those guys that have won the 500 before, is pretty special.
I don't think it affects anything during the year. I think that stuff's all going to happen how it's going to happen.
Q. Five years ago did you ever think you'd be in a spot where you could contend for the truck championship as an owner, Nationwide and Cup?
KEVIN HARVICK: I've been fortunate to have progressed a fair amount as the years have gone by. On the ownership side of it, I never really had any intentions of doing that. As we got the opportunity to put the financial backing behind the truck team, start that up, really experience that as an owner/driver, I guess that was neat.
To have Hornaday win the championship last year was pretty special. To have that personal side of it, be a part of that championship, was neat for me, really made it all make sense.
He's been the backbone of our team. He helped build it into what it is today. To be able to compete competitively in both series is something that a lot of people spend a lot of time and don't get to do that. We've been fortunate to have good drivers and good people in place.
So, yeah, five years ago it would have been hard to imagine we would have been competitive in all threes of those series. I don't really have any aspirations to do it on the Cup side. I leave that to Richard. As long as we're competitive week in and week out in all the series, that's all you can ask for really.
Q. With the rules being so strict at Daytona on the Car of Tomorrow, or Impala, what are some of the changes you can make between that track and here at California for testing?
KEVIN HARVICK: The cars, they're still a little bit different. You can still tweak on them thousandths of an inch here and there. But setup-wise, they're substantially different from there to here. You're doing all you can for speed at Daytona, a little bit of handling.
Here it's all about handling, making max downforce, everything you can on the car. It's quite a bit different from one track to the other still. Still have different cars that you race there than you do here.
Q. You brought the same cars from Vegas that you brought here. How interchangeable has that been, and how have you adjusted from Vegas to here?
KEVIN HARVICK: Before you could still race the same cars from Martinsville to Las Vegas. You can still do that. Setup-wise, it's a little bit different package than what we had at Las Vegas here. I think it's going to be the same kind of thing. You can race the cars here. You can race them here. You can race them at Bristol.
I think that's one thing that all the cars in the shop aren't going to be different. But you're still going to have your road race cars, you're still going to have your Speedway cars.
In fact, one of the particular cars we have here is the center section from one of our road course cars last year with a different front clip and rear clip on it. I mean, you can change the cars up a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot for coming in, Kevin.
KEVIN HARVICK: No problem.
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