NASCAR Media Conference
August 19, 2008
ASHLEY JONES: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR Cam video teleconference in advance of Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Sharpie 500. Saturday will be the eighth event in the Race to the Chase, the ten-race stretch that precedes NASCAR's playoff for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Today from Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, North Carolina, we are joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet.
Kevin has one win, eight top fives and ten top ten finishes at Bristol. He also has an impressive average finish of 9.9. In the March Bristol race, Kevin finished second as part of a one, two, three sweep by Richard Childress Racing. Kevin is also currently eighth in the points standings.
An opening question for you. Considering the amount of success that you've had at Bristol, what is your outlook for this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think based on our first race that we had there this year, I think obviously we have high expectations going into Bristol. It'll be the first time I've gone to Bristol and not run the Nationwide race this week, so that'll be interesting watching that for the first time in my career.
But we always look forward to going to Bristol and really just kind of getting into the Bristol groove there and just trying to make something happen. We came up one spot short the last time, probably by fault of the driver for sure, but cars are usually good, and looking forward to this weekend.
Q. Kevin, did you like the racing better at Bristol when it was more bumping and grinding out there, or do you like it better now that there are multiple grooves and you guys can pass a whole lot more?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think they've done a great job with the racetrack and just making some of the grooves. The first time we went there, I think the tires were a little bit too hard and you could run all the way up at the wall. The last time we went there, it was more like the old Bristol, but you still had a couple options from the bottom to the middle. I think once they got the tires squared away, the racetrack kind of came back around and the racing was a lot more normal the last time.
Q. That's a place where tempers normally flare. Do you go there thinking that will happen now that there's more passing and not so much knocking the guys away?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I mean, you definitely have options to go there. We were fortunate to always be able to run there and really didn't have to knock a lot of people out of the way because our cars were always usually pretty good there. It's just one of those places where things happen, and you just go race hard.
Q. Kevin, just kind of along those same lines, some people might suggest that the Bristol night race is maybe a little bit more tamer in the sense of you don't have the multiple grooves and its positioning so close to the Chase cutoff. Do you see that type of aggressiveness you've seen in the past? And if not, if that's been lost, what do you feel like has been gained with these changes?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think everybody reads a lot more into it than there actually is. We go to a racetrack to race as hard as we can every time, and you have things happen at Daytona, you have things happen at Bristol, and I think there's a lot read into that question as far as, you know, being a tamer race at Bristol. That's almost funny to hear somebody say that because I don't know that there is a tame race at Bristol.
You know, I think if everybody is running over the top of each other, people are going to complain about that. Now that there's places to pass, people are going to complain about that. Let's write a happy story about it. They did a hell of a job on the racetrack, and I think they should be commended for that, and I think the racing is good and it was really good at the first race this year. Just because you don't have 20 cautions in one race doesn't make it an abnormal Bristol.
Q. They're expected to announce today that the Fontana race is moving out to Labor Day. You've been a little critical of the heat. What do you think about the new October date?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think obviously the California market is a tough market for -- in the particular dates that we have right now. The first race is probably enough for that particular market. There's probably a better market that we could go to the second time of the year just because there doesn't seem like there's as much participation at that particular venue as there are in some other venues. Hopefully the date change makes it better. I haven't seen a schedule yet, so I don't know if that's true or not.
If the date changes, I think it will definitely be better if it's cooler and it's not on a holiday where there's so much to do out there.
Q. You're from this area. What do you think they have to do to promote or to make the second race successful?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the first race has to be full first. I think in that particular area, I think there's just so much to do and there's so many things happening. I think there's just a -- there's just not as big a market as some of the markets that we go to as far as racing is concerned. Hopefully if they do change the date, that'll help things a little bit. But if it's 100 degrees, I wouldn't want to sit in the grandstands, either.
Q. 75 percent of the drivers we've talked to say that driving at Bristol is actually scary. Well, heck, evidently you don't think so, but can you name one thing that would make the drivers so worried about racing at Bristol, one main point?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think there's just a lot of things happening at Bristol, and obviously you can get caught up in somebody else's mess pretty fast and not make a mistake. I don't know that I would categorize it as scary, but it's just a pretty fast short track that things happen pretty fast. The biggest thing you worry about is getting caught up in something that you really aren't a part of.
Q. If you don't mind, another schedule question for you. Word has it that Chicagoland is going to gain a Craftsman Truck Series date, and as a team owner during the Truck Series, I was wondering how you would feel about that.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, like I say, I haven't seen a schedule yet, an official schedule of everything that's happening. Obviously Chicago market would be really good for the Truck Series. It's a big race for a lot of companies that are involved in our sport and would be a great market for us to venture into.
Q. And just sort of an unrelated follow-up, you've been particularly strong on the last few weeks, appear to be hitting your stride sort of at the right time. What do you attribute the improvements to?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we've been running really well for at least two and a half months now. We didn't have the finishes to show for everything that had been turned around the last probably three months, really. You know, there's just better cars, better engines, better everything. Everything just seems to be going our way now, and we're getting some breaks and doing things right in the shop. Not that we were doing them wrong before, it just seems like everything is transferring over to finishes now.
Hopefully, like you say, we're hitting our stride at the right time and we can carry that into the next three weeks and hopefully onto the Chase.
Q. I wanted to see if I can get a report card of sorts on your KHI teams for this year, both the Truck and the Nationwide Series.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think there's probably a lot of different ways you could look at it. Obviously the 33 Camping World Truck team has done a great job with Hornaday, and they're right in the middle of the championship chase. I think the 2 Truck has not achieved what we expected it to achieve this year. So they're probably getting a C on their report card, I guess, if you want to put a letter next to it.
But the Nationwide team we knew was going to be a challenge to get it where we wanted it to be. They've had some great runs over the last couple months since we made a crew chief change and feel like that team is running well right now. We've just got to get that 2 Truck up where it needs to be consistently every week and feel like we're on pace with probably where we thought we would be with the Nationwide team.
Q. And what's the reason you're not in the Nationwide car this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's too hot.
Q. Love that answer, too hot. I've got a quick question for you. As everybody left the racetrack this weekend, there were a stack of people not happy. Because of the Chase and all of the pressure of the Chase, you had Kasey Kahne not happy, Denny Hamlin said his team didn't deserve to be in this, you didn't really want to say too much. When you look ahead after this weekend into the Chase, put your analyst's hat on, what do you see?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't remember not wanting to say too much, but I think going from the way that we've run the last few weeks, going to a couple of our favorite tracks, Richmond and Bristol, we're looking to continue that streak going forward. Hopefully we run at California as we did at Michigan and Pocono and everything should be okay.
But you just -- there's so much pressure on everybody right now, and there's a few more people involved in trying to get in the Chase than there probably has been in the past, and there's a lot of us that are really close, from 6th to 14th. One mistake can lead to pretty big failure in the next three weeks.
Q. Maybe you didn't even know it; it was in -- actually where I found out about it, the Detroit News front page, Angelique Chengelis, and it said that "Kevin Harvick who finished eighth got out of his car, took a cold drink from a bagful of ice, set his jaw and blew past reporters." You might have just been focused and not even known that.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it was probably one reporter. That was the only one that I saw. It's amazing how people can make a story out of something.
Q. Last question then, and the deal is as you look ahead to the Chase for others, what kind of a Chase do you think it's going to be, because Carl Edwards said he thinks it's going to be probably pretty intense and not just he and Kyle Busch as some think.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it seems like everybody has closed the gap on the 18. Obviously they've been running really good every week, but it seems like the 99 has been running really well all year. I feel like we've closed up the gap. We've got a little bit more work to do to get to where we need to be. But hopefully over the next three weeks we can get everything done that we need to get done on the racetrack and then really throw everything at it for the Chase. Hopefully in an underdog role you don't really have anything to lose, so that's hopefully what we're looking forward to.
Q. Speaking of the Chase, we're coming up, obviously Loudon will be the first race. Just wondering, how important is it? Do the drivers look at that race as being important to get a good start? Do you want to come out of there having momentum, or is it okay if maybe you get behind there but you know you've got strong tracks coming ahead?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think as drivers we don't pick one particular race and say, man, we have to do good here or we have to do good there. We want to do good every week. We go out and race as hard as we can. I know it's the start of the Chase, but you don't do anything different from week to week. No matter what position you're in, you go out and run as fast as you can and try to win the race, and if you can't do that, then you go out and you try to finish as best that you can week in and week out.
For us we approach every week the same, and I think if you get involved in the Chase and you have a bad first week or a good first week, you either feel really good when you leave Loudon or you feel really bad and then you get over it and you go in the same mode next week. You just go about your business. We have a very experienced team that have been through a lot of different situations and we're really even-keeled as far as how we approach things.
Q. I think there's at least two tracks coming up in the Chase, Kansas and Miami would be the others, that this will be the first time the new car has been on those tracks. Is that something to think about, as well? You've got two tracks in the Chase with these new cars running on them.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we've been to a lot of new tracks this year, and I think obviously Kansas is similar to quite a few of the racetracks that we go to. Homestead is kind of a unique racetrack, so that could throw an interesting twist in there. But it's just something that we've approached at different styles of racetrack the first time we went there. And you kind of learn as you go through the race and you come back -- I know for us we come back, and the second time we've been a lot better at most of the racetracks we've gone to. It's just one of those deals where the tracks are similar and you use the best notes that you can and the past history, and with the simulation and the seven-posts and all the things that we have now, it seems like the guys usually get everything pretty close by the time we get there with all the tools that they have to use at the shop.
Q. Has your athletic ability from sports as a youth transferred to driving cars? And do you believe other NASCAR drivers are athletes before they start driving, or does driving to this level bring it out?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think everybody has a pretty competitive spirit once you get to this point. There's so many drivers from so many different parts of the country, and everybody has a competitive background, whether it's in sports or driving or whatever the case may be. I still say the four years of wrestling that I did in high school helped as much as anything as far as a mental standpoint, especially as long as our year is now. You learn a lot about what your body is telling you and what you need to take care of and what you don't need to take care of and when you need rest and when you don't need rest, and that has a lot to do with getting into this time of the year where it's hot and things are kind of starting to wear down in your body, and you've got to take care of yourself.
I think there's some people that do a better job of taking care of themselves. Obviously Carl does a good job at taking care of himself and has a good training routine, but we don't quite approach it that vigorously, I guess you could say, as he does. But we train two or three days a week for the most part, and I try to take care of myself as much as I can.
ASHLEY JONES: Thank you guys for joining us today. Thank you, Kevin, for joining us, and we appreciate the media's participation today.
KEVIN HARVICK: No problem. Thanks for having me.
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