NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Auto Club 400
Topics: Auto Club 400
March 27, 2011
THE MODERATOR: At this time we welcome into the media room Kevin Harvick, winner of today's race.
Kevin, this is your first Cup win at Auto Club Speedway. You just led one lap. Tell us a little bit about that.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we led the right one, that's for sure. But our car was really fast all day on the long runs. The restarts weren't exactly what we needed to have.
But as everybody started to stay out those last two times, at least the guys we were racing, our car was able to get some air pressure built up in the tires and we were able to really fire off there right off the bat up top.
We were able to keep pace with them for a few laps. When they started racing side-by-side, we made up the ground. Kyle started to get loose. Drove around him. Everything worked out going into turn three and four. A good day for us.
THE MODERATOR: We also welcome Richard Childress, car owner. This is also your first win here. An interesting stat, so far this season in the competition, first time since 2005 we've had five different winners in the first five races.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: That just tells you about the competition of NASCAR.
I felt good about the restart with Kevin because I knew his car was fast on the long runs. I knew if they didn't get too far out in front of us, we'd have a shot. All we needed was for him to get side-by-side, start racing. He just made the right move going into three up there. Jimmie gave him enough room, he took advantage of it, won the race on that last lap.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up now for questions.
Q. Kevin, you talked many times about the lessons you learned here last year trying to chase Jimmie down at the end. How did that help you today?
KEVIN HARVICK: I knew I had a little left in the tank on the last restart. I didn't want the fenders to be knocked in and not have a chance. There were several times where I was probably a little too conservative, but with the high line up there, you don't have much room for air.
I knew if I was going to hit the wall today, it wasn't going to be till turn four coming to the checkered. It was tight, but it was the right time to go. We were able to keep pace. I really had a good run coming off of turn two, and he rolled up in front of me, so I just laid on the back bumper all the way down the back straightaway, gave him a couple seconds to think about what was going to happen going into turn three. The reason I did that, I just needed the one lane up top. I knew what I was going to do. I was hoping he would just roll through the middle of the racetrack or on the bottom or something. So it all worked out.
Q. Does what happened last year and/or what happened yesterday make this win any sweeter?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'll take third on Saturday and first on Sunday any day, I can tell you that for sure (smiling).
Last year I made a mistake and gave the race away with two laps to go. I was able to not make any mistakes. They didn't make any mistakes on the car all weekend long. I was at least going to get to the white flag lap this year and make sure we had something left.
Q. Richard, you have some rare engine problems the last couple races. Today Kevin was so stout. Did you find out what had happened last couple of races? How confident now after today's race are you?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We did have a problem with a couple of our engines, which is the same thing we're running. Trust me, I told Kevin in here, If I have to worry about it, you guys have to worry about it. I told them at the driver's meeting I was concerned. I was more worried about that than how the cars were going to run. I knew the cars would run real well.
We're running what we had last year. There's some changes. We think we know what it is. Whatever we can do, I know Gibbs has had a similar problem, we'll be working with them, try to tell them what we think our problem was, maybe it will help them as well.
Q. In the past you mentioned that Jimmie had a horseshoe somewhere. This time he had a bumper somewhere. Was the car getting better on the pit stops or was it a good car to begin with? How do you account for this gradual progression?
KEVIN HARVICK: We knew our car was good yesterday. Really we only made one adjustment today on the car. I think it was the second pit stop. It was just a matter of it all playing out correctly for us as far as not coming down to a four- or five-lap restart. Luckily we had a couple cycles on the tire and that helped us as we got going.
Q. Kevin, if there hadn't have been the last caution where you were able to make up ground, do you have a lucky horseshoe up your ass now?
KEVIN HARVICK: I hope it stays right on up there. I'll be more than happy to go ahead and tote the thing along (laughter).
Anyway, it's just one of those things: when things are going your way, we've had four weeks that we hadn't exactly had everything go right, but our cars have been fast. Today we had everything go right and our car was fast again.
As long as we keep our cars running the way that they are, we can overcome things and we can hopefully capitalize on days when our car is fast enough to win.
Q. It's become sort of almost your signature of not leading 10 laps but being in position to go for the win at the right time. Why is that? Is it just sort of a coincidence or is that kind of your style?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know. I wish you could tell me. I wish we could go out there and wear them out one day and not have to worry about waiting till the last lap. Does seem we kind of wait till the end to really get going.
I think, you know, for me, I always was taught to race, just go fast enough to put yourself in position to be around at the end and make sure your car still has all the fenders and tires and everything still underneath it. When it's time to go, you have a little something left, your car is hopefully fresher than the guys around you.
Probably somewhat of a bad habit that I have, but I guess it works out.
Q. Kevin, in talking about the bumping, Jimmie said his goal going into three was he wanted to go down low, but by bumping him you gave him too much speed where he didn't feel he could make the corner. When you were talking earlier, you said he were trying to clear out a lane up high. You both had two different agendas but it worked out for you.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you know, I was after one thing and that was to run the very top of the racetrack. I was hoping that he thought he was going to be going too fast to run the top of the racetrack and get loose. I guess in hindsight he was looking for the bottom or the middle or whatever he was looking for.
I just wanted to roll in as easy as I could and lay back to the throttle, go into the center of the corner, hopefully be able to leave it down on the exit. It all played out okay.
Q. Did Gil make any changes to the car on the last stop, adjustments?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, we didn't make any adjustments all day except for the second pit stop.
Q. Kevin, you've been critical of the crowds here before. What did you think about the crowd today?
KEVIN HARVICK: The crowd looked pretty good. With the weather the way it was this morning, I thought it was great. Like I said on Friday, sometimes markets just seem that one race is what it's needed for. I'm pretty proud about the fact that they had a good crowd today. They did a good job this weekend.
Q. How much did yesterday's race play into the fact the top seven guys didn't come in on the last caution?
KEVIN HARVICK: A lot, yeah.
Q. How much did yesterday's finish play into any decision about not to pit on that last caution?
GIL MARTIN: It was looking a whole lot like what happened yesterday. I think one of the major things that made me feel reasonably confident about it was how Tony performed when everybody stayed out. He posted some of the best laps of the race out there, clean air. I think the tires being pumped up deserved a lot of speed there.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we would like to welcome Gil Martin, crew chief for the No. 29. We'll open it up for questions again.
GIL MARTIN: I can follow up on that, too. If we would have pitted, Richard would have killed me (laughter).
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I looked at what Tony did. Great call (smiling).
Q. Gil, last week in Bristol, a different speedway than here, was the tire problem any issue during the race or was everything on the safe side concerning the tire?
GIL MARTIN: The tires were perfect this week. It seemed like every set was balanced pretty well. There wasn't any issues as far as having a loose set or a tight set or anything like that. Goodyear did a really good job on this tire they brought here.
No issues like Bristol. We overcame what happened at Bristol pretty well. They brought a good tire here. There was no problem.
Q. Kevin, did anybody ask you if you could take us through that last lap and what was going on in your mind, especially when you were pushing Jimmie down the backstretch.
KEVIN HARVICK: For me coming to the white, I had a great run off of turn four and was able to get right on him. Rolling into one, my whole goal was to not give it away. If I could make the pass, fine. If not, just don't overdrive it getting into the corner, make sure you get the pedal down as soon as you can and roll through the middle, not get in the fence, not screw anything up.
I rolled through there really good, was able to get back to the throttle on the top and had a good run. He slid up in front of me. I knew if I went low that I was not going to be -- that was bad for me, the bottom was. So I just pushed him, hoping that I just needed that one lane to open up up top, and it opened up. We were able to roll through there.
My whole theory was not to drive it in again and get back to the throttle, so it all worked out.
Q. Heading into Martinsville next weekend, do you think this momentum is going to carry with you or do you still have to go back to the shop and work on a few things?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, our short track stuff was really good for Martinsville last year. A lot of that should carry over to this year. Momentum never hurts. I always tell people, you have to take the highs and lows, treat them pretty much the same.
Bottom line is, you can't ever shake off the confidence that winning gives you. Hopefully we can carry that over into Martinsville.
Q. Kevin, you talk about not wanting to make a mistake. I don't think any of the other guys made a mistake. Talk about what it's like to win a race, compared to the way with Kyle won yesterday?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, the 18, he got loose. He made a couple mistakes, took himself out of contention there at the end. That's what I didn't want to do. Maybe his car was just so loose that he was trying to do all he could do to stay up there.
Our scenario played out better than Jimmie's did with our car being able to run as high as it was and carry as much speed as it was. I just didn't want to be the one to screw it up like I did last year.
Q. Kevin, it's probably too easy to make too much of beating a guy like Jimmie Johnson at a place like this where he's been so good. Does it carry any more personal significance to you?
KEVIN HARVICK: It doesn't hurt, that's for sure (smiling).
But I keep going back to last year. Last year taught me a lot about what patience and the things I needed to do to beat a guy that doesn't make mistakes. In order to do that, you can't make mistakes yourself.
This race one year ago is what helped us win today, by being patient, not taking yourself out of the race, having something there at the end until it was time to go.
But, yeah, I mean, those guys are five-time champions, won a ton of races. We feel as a team we can race right with 'em, but so does everybody else. There's a lot of other guys that think the same thing, but nobody's beat them in five years. We've just got to keep chipping away at it.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
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