KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS, WAS THE GUEST ON THIS WEEK’S NASCAR WEEKLY TELECONFERENCE.
BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT:
JENNIE LONG: Good afternoon, everyone. We are joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Harvick is currently 6th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with two wins and seven top 5 finishes this season. He has scored top 10 finishes in four of the last five races at Dover, the site of Sunday’s AAA 400. This weekend seems like the perfect time to make a charge towards the top of the standings. What’s your outlook heading into Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it’s been a good racetrack for us as we’ve gone to Dover the last few years, so obviously we’re looking forward to going back, and hopefully matching that success this weekend. We didn’t run so well at Loudon last weekend, so we need a good weekend going to Dover this week.
Q. I actually kind of had a big‑picture question for you. I wondered if you could just talk a little bit about Richard Childress Racing today as you are getting ready to leave versus when you came in, how the team will be structured beginning next year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think as you look at how I started at RCR, obviously I came in in the year 2000, actually at the end of 1999 to run some ARCA races and started off with a brand new Nationwide program that we put together and won the Rookie of the Year, won the championship in the next two years, and that Nationwide program has gone on to have a lot of success.
I think the Cup side of it came in under obviously distressed circumstances with everything that had happened to Dale, and for us we had already laid out a plan of what we were going to do for the next four years, and obviously that changed. So the first few years at RCR were a little bit confusing just for the fact that we were basically just running the 29 car, which was the 3, to keep the company going and try to establish some groundwork as to what we were going to do in the future.
Luckily that all played out, and for me it was an opportunity to come in and race as a young racer from the west coast who was just looking for an opportunity, and Richard gave me that, and now the sport is a lot different than what it was in those days with multi‑car teams and the state of our economy has changed the way that the sport operates and functions.
A lot of things are different now than what they were then. There was a lot of sponsorship and a lot of things were a little more fly by the seat of your pants then than they are now. It’s definitely a different landscape than what it used to be.
Q. If I recall correctly, 2006 New York, when they used to bring the Chase drivers there before the Chase began, talking to you in one of the press sessions, and I think I asked you what your approach would be in the Chase, and this was your first Chase, and you said you just thought you would do things as you normally would and then you kind of smiled and said, well, maybe I’ll be surprised. I’m just curious, you’ve had several Chases since then. What have you learned? Can you just race the way you normally do or do you have to change your approach?
KEVIN HARVICK: We just do things the same way, and obviously that hasn’t exactly won us a championship, but I don’t know of anybody else who does it any differently. You just have to go out and drive your car as fast as it’ll go, and the guys on the team are going to try to change the tires and make the right decisions just as they would every other week.
A lot of people think that we change our strategy, but our strategy is to try to win every week, and obviously you can’t do that every week, and you have to try to pull the best finish that you can from that particular weekend.
Really that’s our strategy is to go out and try to perform the best that you can, and if you’re having a good day, capitalize on it. If you’re having a bad day, try to figure out how to create a decent finish for it and gain maximum points. It’s really the same strategy, Chase or no Chase.
Q. Considering where you’re at in the points and the season that you’ve had, how feasible do you see being able to put together a string of some wins and top 5s to kind of get back into this thing?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, you know, right now I honestly hadn’t even really looked and seen the points deficit and paid attention to it. For us it’s really about just going out and doing what you can week in and week out, and where you fall is where you fall, and that’s the cards that you were dealt.
At one point we strung together nine weeks in a row there with top 10 finishes and some wins, and I think that’s what you need to do anyway to have a chance at winning the championship.
But if Matt keeps doing the things that he’s doing and winning every race, it’s going to be hard for anybody to make up points, and those guys have run well this year, and for us we ran well at Chicago and overcame a lot of mistakes. Last week we weren’t able to overcome an ill‑handling car and make something out of it.
I think at Dover, obviously you have to go up there and get your car handling well and do the things that you would normally do to try to have a good day. I think the capability is there for us as a team to string some finishes together, but it’s just a matter of putting the next eight weeks together, and we’ve done it before this season, so we’ve just got to do it quick.
Q. Ever since you announced that you were moving on, you haven’t exactly let up, obviously, and done really well. Could you talk a little bit about being able to have your sponsors go with you, what that means to you and how that’s going to help you going into next year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, for me it was an interesting period, for me to transition through this year and into next year. And part of the intrigue of the Stewart‑Haas situation was for me when I signed my contract, we had no sponsor, no team, no number, nothing, and from a contractual side, I couldn’t really be involved in any of the sponsorship stuff that was going on so that I could focus on the racing at hand this year.
It’s been an interesting time for me because in the past we have been so involved in the things that are going on. But to see Budweiser and Jimmy John’s and to have Outback come on board next year is pretty satisfying for me, and just for the fact that the sponsors have enough value in the things that we’ve done on and off the racetrack from the past to carry that forward, and to be able to represent the brands Budweiser and Jimmy John’s that we’ve represented in the past is obviously something that I’m used to and I’ll be able to see familiar faces and brands going forward as I go into my new position at Stewart‑Haas Racing.
I’m excited about that. Everybody over there has obviously done a good job. It’s going to be great getting to finally know those guys once I’m done with my work at RCR. It’s been an interesting transition, and obviously things seem to be working out well.
Q. This is kind of a follow‑up. Heading into the Chase was there a certain number, whether it’s top 10s, top 5s, average finish, or number of points that you couldn’t allow yourself to fall behind as we go into the Chase?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, honestly we don’t sit and figure those things out. We just try to go out and do the best job that we can. I’ve been involved in this Chase and had high single‑digit average finis
hes through the whole Chase and not won. You can go through these Chase races and you see Carl lost it with I think a high‑five average, to Tony who won five races. So you just never know who’s going to be on a hot streak and who’s not, and it’s really a one‑week‑at‑a‑time battle to put yourself in the best position that you can, and if you make a mistake and don’t run well like we did last week, you have to be able to rebound the next week or your gap gets a little bit further and further apart every week.
It’s just a matter of overcoming a bad day this week with a good finish, and that’s really what it all boils down to. There’s no magic number. There’s no thought process. There’s no average finish. There’s really no rhyme or reason to how the 10 races are going to work out, so you just have to go out and do your thing. It’s something that for me works well is to shut off the media and the fans to a certain extent and what their opinions are, and you go out as a team and try to do the best you can.
Q. And on a similar note, does the fast start that Matt has got off to change the way that you approach the final eight races?
KEVIN HARVICK: No. I mean, there is no different approach. You go out and run your car as fast as it’ll go and you try to put yourself in a position to win every week, and when you can’t win you try to take the best finish that you can out of every week. If you’re in a position to do that, then that’s what you do every week. It’s all about capitalizing on the moments and making a bad day into a better day and trying to make as few mistakes as possible. There’s really no change. Everybody thinks that you change the way that you race; well, that’s really not possible because you have to race as hard as you can to get through the first 26 weeks and then you’ve got to do the same thing in the last 10. There’s no change of what you do.
Q. Once a driver makes the Chase, what are some of the basic ideas that you bring up to a crew chief or a crew on how to improve in the last 10 races of the season?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, really everything has to get better. You have to have a little bit better in each department. It’s really not one particular thing. It’s really not a conversation that you have to sit down and have. I think everybody on our team has been around it long enough to know that in order to do better than what we’ve done in the past, we have to get better in every spot, whether it’s the driver, the crew chief, the pit crew, and everything that goes with it.
With the experienced teams, I don’t think there’s a conversation that needs to be had. I think everybody just knows they have to get better, and you have to minimize the mistakes that you make in all positions and try to capitalize on the things that you’re doing well and get results out of them.
Q. Do you almost have to kind of roll your eyes and shake your head because it seems like it happens all the time when you hear these are the only guys that are going to win or stand a chance to win? How do you go about that? Surely you’re looking ahead and you’re seeing Talladega, what could happen there, but do you just not let that get to you at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, from a media standpoint or a fan’s perspective, if you look and read and listen to the things that they said at the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t even be sitting in this chair right now in the Chase because everybody had kind of written us off at the beginning of the year waiting for our team to implode from within and not even having a chance to race for the championship.
For me it’s really something that I don’t even pay attention to. I know a lot of people say that, but you really just turn the media and the opinions of the fans, you have to turn those away to stay focused on your team and the things that you do. It’s really a simple process and how you do that. It’s hard to make yourself do that, but through the years you learn that it’s way easier just to focus on the guys around you and not get caught up in the mixture of opinions and how things are going to work out because nobody really knows how it’s going to work out until we run the race and all the circumstances and different racetracks and things play out through the end.
JENNIE LONG: Kevin, thanks for joining us, and best of luck this weekend at Dover.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS, WAS THE GUEST ON THIS WEEK’S NASCAR WEEKLY TELECONFERENCE.