NASCAR Media Conference
March 27, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Hi, everybody, thanks for joining us today. This marks the sixth year we've been able to bring you this monthly west region call, sponsored by Auto Club Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NASCAR and Phoenix International Raceway. Today's guest is Kevin Harvick driver of the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet. Kevin is ranked third in Sprint Cup points and he's earned four top-10 finishes, in five races so far this season, including a second place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. Thank you for joining us, Kevin.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you for having me.
THE MODERATOR: I can start with a question. Kevin, you're originally from Bakersfield out here in central California, and you grew up racing all along the west coast. With the Sprint Cup series are there particular races on the west coast you look forward to every year?
KEVIN HARVICK: I enjoy coming to the west coast, especially Sonoma, California Speedway, Phoenix. All those places are places that I raced, and a lot of my family and friends come to those races. So it's nice to come out there and as I come out I'll go home and eat dinner with my family and sister and relax for a few hours with them. As busy as our schedule is you don't get to catch up as often as you would like in person, usually it's over the phone. So those are good times of the year for us to go out and visit.
Q. A question about the COT. What do you think about the full schedule this season?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, the COT was a full schedule. This season has been a lot better for the teams just for the fact that we can concentrate on one car, and really just work on developing that car and make it go better week in and week out. Last year it was tough because basically we were running two teams inside of one team full of people, so that made it tough. But I think as we've gone through the season I think our cars are advancing every week. Still a lot of work for the guys to keep up with, just for the fact that things are constantly changing and you wind up having to update your fleets, and as we go through the road race we're building new cars and don't know where the chassis need to be as far as height of the clip and things like that.
So it's a constant evolution of the cars getting better and better, and it's a lot of work and the cars are in evolution. But they're driving good and we're trying to stay ahead.
Q. We're five races into the season and I was just wondering if there is anything so far this year that has surprised you with regard to the competition, the car, the team, or things unfolding more or less as you expected?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think anybody really knew how the season was going to unfold with the mile and a half race tracks with the new car. Really it seems like the competition is kinda wide open. I think all teams have a car that has struggled at some point and all teams have a car that has run good at some point. If seems like if you hit on something in that particular weekend, you have that weekend to bask in the sun and run well. But as we've gone through the season, I mean, for me it's seems like a typical year, all the hype and expectations of the people that are supposed to run good coming into the year, and people that are not supposed to run good, and then you have your surprises and people that aren't surprising.
For me as I've gone through my career, I've learned the first part of the year, you can make yourself think things are going really good by surviving some races, or you can go through the first part of year and, you know, when people are having trouble surviving those races, or you can go through the first part of the year and run well and finish up front and that's what we've done this year. So for me it's all about trying to pace ourselves and really keep up with trying to stay ahead with the car. I think there has been a lot of surprises as far as who has been running good and who has not been running good, but that's the great thing about our sport is nobody can really anticipate what's going to happen this year -- or anytime you change something in our sport it affects a lot of things, whether it's a spring rule, a tire rule, whatever the case may be, you just never know how it's going to affect you or how you're going to react as a driver to those changes.
It's always interesting to see, and the first part of the year is always fun because you have a lot of people that don't expect you to do good or do expect you to do good and it's always a lot of mixed feelings on who should be doing what.
Q. Kevin, I know you've been on the series for a while now. Do you ever reach a point during the year or anytime where you think maybe the season is a little bit too long? You would like a shorter season to be able to be at home and race on the local short tracks that you grew up with? Does that ever come into mind at anytime?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think it would hurt anything for the season to be a little bit shorter. I think there is a couple of weeks where we don't get points. You put the same effort into those particular races and maybe you could add -- you're going to be gone those weeks, you could add another points-paying race to those particular weekends, and I would be all for that.
To me as we've gone through the years and you see a lot of people jump out there and want to race this and race that and be in the car all the time at the beginning of the year. Right now it's easy, the weather is good, the cars aren't hot inside but the tale-tell months are when that takes effect, when it's taking its toll is when you get to June, July, August, those months. So I've learned to pace myself.
I know the season is long, I kinda know what it entails to get through the season and you never know what's coming around the next corner to throw you for a loop. We've tried to manage our time very well, take our off-weeks as we can and I think that's the biggest part of our sport is to be in the hunt when it comes October, November, to be racing for that championship.
Q. What do you think about the cup car on the short track as opposed to the big track? And the adjustments that you make from the longer tracks to, like, the short ones? Is that any easier with the car of tomorrow, the COT car?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's definitely not easier. These cars with the bump stops and things are sensitive to the right heights, and where you have your car, you know, spinning attitude-wise. It seems they're sensitive to the quarter inch here, eighth of an inch here.
On the mile and a half track I've been pleased. That's where we had our biggest struggle, the mile and a half high-bank race tracks and those have been good for us so far, but we seem to run really well on the high-bank mile and a halves this year, and that was one of our goals coming in this year. Obviously Atlanta, everybody had issues, everybody was fighting the same thing, but as far as Vegas and those things go, the cars have driven better than what everybody anticipated.
Q. So you think they're better mile and a half than a super Speedway car? What do you think about that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's too early to tell what the car is good at, the car is still in it's infancy and evolving so fast. The main goal of the car was to make sure that the drivers were safer, the racing comes second, and I think the racing has been very good. I think, you know, there is obviously some hiccups that you hit along way that you have to work through to make things better, but, you know, I think so far with the car being in such a young stage of its life, I think it's hard to tell what track it's good on. It drives good at Talladega, and it drives good at Martinsville. The speeds are slower, which is good, and the speeds will escalate as we learn more about the cars and that will all evolve and come back.
Q. Do you think the car is more suitable right now, at least in the development process, to a guy who likes a loose race car than a person who likes more of a tight race car, the way it runs?
KEVIN HARVICK: We can make our cars be loose or tight. But you definitely have to slide 'em around a lot more than the other cars, and I think this would be a fair assessment to say if you like your car looser. But I've always been somebody who liked my car to be on the tight side and manage it. But for some reason it seems like everybody we've got going right now fits my driving style when what we've been doing, so I don't know if you can put it one way or the other, but car control is definitely something that helps.
Q. You said that just finite adjustments make a big difference with this car, what about crash damage? Does that make a big difference, more of a difference than the old Cup car?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah, when these cars crash, I think this was evident the other day when Jeff Gordon hit the wall and things flew out of the front of it. But this car was built to crash better than our old car, I guess you could say, with the car being built to be a little safer, but when you wreck this car, usually it folds it up a little bit better than the old car did.
Q. Brushing the wall would have more of an impact on the handling of this car than it would the old car?
KEVIN HARVICK: I wouldn't say "brushing the wall." These cars are durable as far as contact and as far as scraping the wall and things on the side and bump drafting a little here and there. The bumpers lineup, so a hard impact when the car hits the wall hard enough to crush the front clip or the rear clip, it seems like they crush up a little better than the old car. But as far as minor contact like that, I would say this car is definitely more durable than our old car.
Q. What about on the road course? Is this car better on a road course than the old cars? You got a chance to run it on both of the road courses last year?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm totally out of the whole mind-set of this car is better than the old car. The old car doesn't exist to me. This is the car that we race, and this is the car we go with week to week, and we involved as drivers on the R & D side of it to help make the cars better week in and week out. There is no comparison as far as old car and new car. The new car it drives better on the race tracks. The speeds are down a little bit, which I think is a good thing through the corners, the car drives well on the road courses, you know, from Watkins Glen to Sears Point. So it's just going to be a constant evolution of keep making the cars better.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, speak of road courses, this year actually marks the 20th anniversary of NASCAR coming to Sonoma, when you guys come out later in June. You had some success here and won a West Series race here in 1998. Are there any things that you think about when getting ready to go out to Sonoma or anything you remember from here?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah, I remember my first race from there, Sears Point is one of those places where I kinda learned how to road race. We took our Southwest Tour car, what the series was called at the time, which doesn't exist anymore, but we took our first car out there and we learned -- it was my father's car and my car that we built on our own. We had all kinds of problems. I think we blew up two motors and didn't make it very far through the weekend. So that weekend was a nightmare, and we learned a lot about going both directions that weekend. But the second race there was the Winston Cup Series and I broke the rear-end gear a couple times, and the transmission a couple of times, and I'll never forget Mike Powell being in the back of our trailer and he finally set up shop, and kept rebuilding things. And my race ended that day going into turn 11 with the rear springs falling out from wheel-hopping it so bad. So I've had a lot of learning experiences to say the least there.
THE MODERATOR: Is the road course something you look forward to now? Is it a strength to you?
KEVIN HARVICK: It definitely is a strength for us. I grew up racing go-carts on the road courses, and I have been fairly successful on the road race part of it. So I enjoy the two road races that we have a year. I wish we had a couple more to go to, but it's fun to mix it up and that's the cool part about our sport, is we go at all different types of race tracks and road racing is one aspect that we've been fortunate to have a fair amount of success at.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the incident with Juan Pablo Montoya. Is there still some bad blood between you and him?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think, you know, we try not to carry things from week to week, let alone from year to year. I think they intervened -- Chip and I are friends, and I obviously to want drive for him and he said, "You two have to get over this." And I have great respect for what Juan has done in his racing career.
And I think from the open-wheel side of it I think he showed why he was racing in Formula One, and why he's here today because he can be -- because he's good enough to do that. So we all have hot tempers, most of us do and don't like losing, and that time of the year is high emotions with the chase right around the corner, and I don't think there's any bad blood. I think we argued over that stuff and learned to go on with it.
Q. I was curious, with the Indycar season starting this weekend, do you enjoy watching other forms of auto racing like Indycars or Formula Ones in your free time?
KEVIN HARVICK: I love to watch Formula One racing. Hopefully the Indycar racing gets back to being able to understand it from a fan's perspective, which is what I call myself. I like to think of myself as a fan of other forms of racing, because that's what I like to do, I like to watch people race. Formula One is intriguing to me just for the fact that the cars are so mechanical and so technical to make 'em work. So I try to watch every week. I haven't been able to watch the first two weeks but as they get on the right time zones and we can watch them here in the States, I'll definitely watch then.
But the Indycar stuff, hopefully they can get everything situated and that's why everybody wanted to race was at the Indy 500, you know, back fifteen years ago, and it just kinda got away from that. Hopefully bringing those two series back together will be good for racing in the United States not just Indy cars.
Q. Would you enjoy an opportunity to take a Formula One car around for a spin?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I definitely would enjoy that. The stopping power and the power, enjoy the technical side of it. That would be something that would definitely be worth trying.
Q. Why do you think the open-wheel drivers are having as much difficulty as they seem to be having adjusting to NASCAR-style racing? Franchitti is struggling, Hornish is struggling, Carpentier. Montoya, he's doing all right but they're not really at the front of the pack.
KEVIN HARVICK: That's my point from the beginning, you're just not going to jump in. When everybody made a stink at Daytona that I was wrong, but it's not something that's so much different than the forms of racing that they did. You're not just going to come in here and jump in the car and hold the pedal down and go. It takes time to figure out where the car is going to go and anticipate it. You know, the driving style is -- I've never driven an Indycar, but from watching it, it's drastically different from the way they had to race. That's why, in my opinion, you need to come in. And I think Scott Speed is doing it the correct way, going through the ARCA stuff and running truck races and stuff, and most of us have raced these cars all of our life and to think that you're going to come over and be competitive right off the bat, somebody is feeding you a line, selling you a line that you probably shouldn't buy because it's just not going to happen.
Q. Looks like a steep learning curve.
KEVIN HARVICK: It's a very steep learning curve and all those guys are great drivers. It's just a very different type of form of racing than what they used to do and it's a lot easier to make mistakes that you make and get up to speed when you're in the nationwide series or the truck series or ARCA, it's just that you're out of the limelight. And Scott Speed has done it kind of low-key, but he's getting all the bumps and bruises out of the way before he steps into the biggest form of racing that there is in NASCAR, let alone our country. It's not easy.
Q. Seems like it's more complex and subtleties involved than people would think just looking at it. It's not just going round and round.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, yeah, it looks like that from the outside looking in, but once you step in, that's not how it works.
Q. In regards to what you and Dick were talking about with the open-wheel drivers, in your opinion, why do you think they're not pulling as many drivers from the NASCAR short track ranks of the Grand National and some of the other short track areas, and bring them up the ladders into NASCAR? What's your thoughts on that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's very simple, it boils down to sponsorship dollars. These guys bring in a name, you know, from the open-wheel side of it and, you know, going and selling Juan Montoya compared to a Cale Gale is -- I mean it's just not even a contest. These companies and these team owners would rather take a chance on, you know, somebody who has a name that comes with money than pour all of their own money into developing a driver to take the four or five years that it takes to develop that driver into what they need to be. It's just a way of getting the sponsorship dollars easier because those guys have established their name on the open-wheel side and people are willing to take that chance more than they would be from a guy who is racing at South Boston.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin thanks for joining us today and best of luck this weekend.
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