|Kevin Harvick has finished 1st or 2nd in his past six Sprint Cup starts|
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RUN OF SUCCESS THAT YOU ARE HAVING? WHAT HAS BEEN THE SECRET TO THAT SUCCESS OVER THE LAST SIX RACES?
“I think that just comes down to the guys on my race team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for just bringing really good cars to the race track. Particularly the No. 4 team and being able to capitalize and manage the weekends, races and keep the cars together, as well as, doing all the things that it takes to just make laps and keep yourself in contention. Just really proud of everybody on my team for everything that they have done. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We will try to ride the wave as long as we can.”
NOT JUST THE FACT YOU ARE ON A ROLL IN THE LAST SIX RACES, BUT HERE AT THIS RACE TRACK SIX WINS, WINNING THREE OF THE LAST FOUR RACES. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY THAT SUITS YOUR DRIVING STYLE?
“I was so mad at Bryan (Sperber, Phoenix International Raceway track President) when he told me they were going to repave the race track. In hindsight I guess you could look back on it and say it’s probably been better for us than the old style Phoenix International Raceway. It’s just a place that I really enjoy. I think (Turns) 3 and 4 still have a lot of the same characteristics that the old track did. We were fortunate to be able to come and test here several years ago, when they repaved the track and for whatever reason just fit everything that we were doing.
“Last year was as good of a year as you can have here. I look forward to coming to this race track every year. Like I said last week in Las Vegas, these are places for me that I have raced at since the mid ‘90s. To come and race in front of these race fans and be able to hear stories about people that watched you race in the Southwest Tour, Winston West or the Truck Series through the years it’s a lot of fun for me. Just to see old faces and friends and also get to race on a race track that used to be probably, between the Copper World Classic and the 300 mile race that we used to have here, at the end of the year for the Southwest Tour cars, this was our biggest race. To grow up racing and come here was our Daytona 500 every year and to be able to come back and do that now as part of your job is something that for me is a lot of fun.”
YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH A LOT OF CREW CHIEFS OVER YOUR CAREER AND HIRED CREW CHIEFS FOR YOUR TEAM WHERE DO YOU RANK, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP THAT YOU AND RODNEY (CHILDERS) HAVE?
“I don’t know where it compares to anything else, but I can tell you that Rodney and I get along like we are long lost brothers. Sometimes you get in situations where you are talking about the car and you will type things at the exact same time. We have a very similar background of how we grew up. His demeanor is a little bit different than mine. Obviously, we are different ends of the spectrum as far as he is about as laid-back as you could possibly be and still be awake. I can get pretty wound up. I think that balance is good for both of us, to push each other and kind of find that middle road. I think the other thing is just, I know a lot of you guys have heard me talk about it before, but we are very similar in age. We have a lot of the same interests in life in general. I can’t tell you a day that has gone by over the past year and a half for sure, that we haven’t spoken in a text or conversation about something to do with the race cars. On occasion when he doesn’t have anything going on, which is very race, it will just be ‘hey how are you doing today’. That communication has carried over into the rest of the team.
“I think that when you look at our race team everybody was assembled, after we put Rodney in place. Everybody was assembled to come to the race team to race with us. Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) gave us the ability to go out and buy race cars and trucks and trailers and pit boxes and everything was just kind of custom built I guess you could say to what Rodney wanted to put into the team. All of those guys have the same goal and they knew what they were getting into. It wasn’t like people were placed on the team because they didn’t have somewhere else in the company or ran out of guys to interview. Everybody wants to be here for the exact same reason that we are experiencing right now. We are just fortunate to have the resources and the money and the assets, as well as, the people to be in this position. We don’t like to talk about it much, just for the fact that you don’t want to jinx yourself and you just want to continue doing the things that you are doing. Because we are having a lot of fun at it, but I can tell you that the guys will come into the garage this week and they will most likely have forgotten about winning last week and worry about where we are with practice for this week and what is going on.”
IS YOUR TEAM OUT ON AN ISLAND OR ARE YOU TRANSFERRING ANY INFORMATION? WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO THE DISPARITY IN FINISHES BETWEEN YOUR TEAM AND THE REST OF STEWART-HAAS RACING? WILL KURT (BUSCH) BE ABLE TO HELP NOW THAT HE IS BACK?
“I think there are a lot of questions to form into one answer. I think when you look at the changes that we made at SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) this year I thought on paper they would be really good changes. I think they have been really good changes. I know that the No. 4 and the No. 14, all those cars are built side-by-side and put together by most of the same people. I know that all of our notes are live when we are in the garage and everybody shares information. But there are different characteristics of driving styles and interpretation of what you think you need and things like that. I think the No. 41 car ran well at the end of last year. I think that you will see that car run well immediately this weekend and have a good weekend. I think Danica last year I thought she had, until the very end of the year, had a really good year.
“I thought she raced well, didn’t finish, some of the situations she was in to capitalize on a top-15. I think for her situation 10th to 15th are realistic goals and really trying to build on those finishes and get some top 10s along the way, which she did. At one of the toughest race tracks at the end of the year last year at Atlanta. Kansas she ran really well, so I think we are fortunate to have had a stable situation.
“I think when you look at the No. 14 they have had a lot of things to work through. They have had a lot of changes on their team this year and it’s just going to take some time to figure out exactly where they want their cars and what they need to do. I tell people all the time from when I owned race teams in the past, you can put an all-star group together and buy all the best parts and pieces. In the end it’s really about the details and the things that happen at the race track. And evolving that foundation of where you think you need to be in order to move forward and make it better every week. I don’t think that Tony’s team has really had time to really get into that situation yet. Like I say, that is a new group of people and kind of starting over. We are three weeks in, they have not had a great start and I think everybody is aware of that. I think as you look at everybody at SHR, they are doing everything they can do to try to make that as good as possible.”
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT BEING FAST OFF THE TRUCK GIVES OTHER TEAMS SOME ROOM TO MAKE SOME HEAD WAY? LIKE GUYS LIKE MARTIN TRUEX, JR.?
“I don’t know anything about anybody else’s situation, but I can tell you that I approach our team as I’m just a source of information. That is really how Rodney (Childers) and I had decided that needed to go in the beginning. I can help control the direction of a lot of things that are happening whether it be development or things that are wrong with the car and just push buttons. That is what I always tried to do as an owner was push buttons and try to trigger conversations that would hopefully maybe lead down a road of finding something better or solving a problem. In order to do that you just have to be in communication with the engineers and the team and everybody involved that is working on these cars on a day-to-day basis. I’m just a piece of the puzzle that tries to feed as much information and participate in as many things as I can to understand and be involved in what is going on. But this is a science project now-a-days with the engineering staff and the crew chief. That is really way out of my league as far as how to make the car even stay up off the ground. Or what springs you need to put in it. It’s way beyond me. I just try to be involved in it to try to keep pushing forward.”
EDDIE GOSSAGE (TRACK PRESIDENT AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY) ASKED ME TO REMIND YOU THAT THEY HAVE VICTORY LANE AFTER THE CUP RACES ALSO. I GUESS THAT IS AN INSIDE JOKE BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU. IS WINNING AT TEXAS AT SOME POINT IN YOUR CAREER ON YOUR TO DO LIST?
“Yeah it’s definitely on the to-do list. But just in case Eddie doesn’t know, there are a lot of other race tracks that we can win at. So maybe there is something wrong with his track (laughs). No, it’s just been a place where we have run well, we just haven’t been able to put together a weekend. Eddie gives me a lot of grief because we have had a lot of success in the Truck Series Victory Lane. And I would see him a lot on Saturday’s with the Xfinity car, so he gives me a lot of grief about Sunday. We came close there in the last race last year. It’s definitely something you definitely want to check off the list and I feel like we have run well enough there in the past to get to Victory Lane. I’m sure he will continue poking fun at me.”
I CAN REMEMBER A 7-TIME CHAMPION IN THIS SPORT IN GREAT BELIEF OF YOU AS YOU MOVED UP IN YOUR CAREER. DO YOU EVER SPEND TIME THINKING ABOUT HIM WHEN YOU HAVE SUCH GREAT FINISHES AND HOW HIS BELIEVE WAS THAT THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE YOU WOULD BE?
“I don’t know that is 100 percent true. I think obviously Richard (Childress) hired me and we had some success the first year. And I’d been a part of the conversations between Richard and Dale (Earnhardt, Sr.) that were really just about not racing on Saturday and racing on Sunday because there was a lot more to achieve. There was a lot more financial gain on Sunday’s; especially at that particular time. Dale would prod at Richard on occasion to make it happen but that was really only one year. There wasn’t a lot of interaction with Dale. I think as we went through 2000 we did a lot of the testing for his car. But, other than that, those guys were always pretty busy and we were pretty green and scared to death to walk up there and go in the lounge and talk to him, first off. But it was definitely an interesting time in the sport that I think you’ll see again in six to 10 years just for the fact that there’s going to be a lot of open seats.”
WHEN YOU’RE ON A ROLL LIKE THIS, WHAT ROLE DOES PATIENCE PLAY ON YOUR END IN LETTING THE RACE OR THE CAR COME TO YOU? CAN YOU AFFORD TO HAVE PATIENCE AT THIS LEVEL?
“I think you just have to try to balance everything and really just approach it like you do every other week and not get caught-up in a lot of the things that are surrounding the events and the attention and all the things that come with everything we’ve been able to accomplish. For us, it will just kind of be the same approach that we take in order to go out and practice the car and try to get the balance right and try to go as fast as you can and like I said, there’s not going to be anybody on our team that’s walking around beating their chest. It’s just going to be a normal approach to going out on the track and doing the same things to show up for another race and try to do the same things again. So, it’s a pretty simple approach that fortunately I’ve been able to be around a lot of situations and experienced enough to have been to a lot of these race tracks that you just take that approach and try not to worry about the rest of it.”
WHAT TYPE OF VIBE IS THERE AROUND THE ORGANIZATION TO HAVE KURT BUSCH BACK AND HAVE HIM ELIGIBLE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I think everybody is just excited that we’re able to just kind of put it all behind us. I don’t really know much about it other than it seems like it’s on its way to being over. And to have Kurt back in the car is an asset to everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and from a performance side; and everything that he does inside that race car is a benefit to us. So, we’re definitely looking forward to just worrying about racing the car.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS RACE TRACK?
“A lot of the same characteristics exist in (Turns) 3 and 4 that used to exist with the apron and up the race track and through the middle of the race track and the options that you have down there, and Turn 1; there’s a lot of little things that help get the car turned to the center of the corner. And for me, one of the things I liked about this race track is just being able to pick out really simple markers; things to aim for and things to let off at. For me, any time I can have good reference points, it’s easier to repeat what you’re doing. And that’s really one of the things that we concentrate on is just trying to get our car to drive as good as possible so that you can be consistent and run the same lap times lap after lap.”
BACK WHEN YOU WERE MORE THE ‘FRUSTRATED’ KEVIN HARVICK….
“I only got frustrated because things weren’t going like they are right now.”
EXACTLY. BACK WHEN IT WAS THAT WAY, YOU KNEW YOU COULD BE A CHAMPION AND KNEW YOU COULD HAVE TIMES LIKE THIS. DID YOU KNOW OR NOT KNOW WHAT IT WAS THAT YOU NEEDED TO GET HERE?
“Well, I always pushed. And sometimes I think that was interpreted as being a jerk or being in a bad mood. But, it’s just not accepting the fact that we weren’t running like we wanted to run. And asking questions and pointing things out can be received as being a jerk, I guess. For me, I come to the race track and want to be competitive and that what drives me is to be competitive and race up in the front of the pack and try to make your car as good or better than the guys next to you. But it’s like I’ve always said in the past. If that’s how I was perceived I think in the past we got the most out of whether it was owning our own teams or driving at RCR, I felt like we got the most out of the people; and there were a lot of them that didn’t like me and I still don’t care because we were winning races and running well and I think that was just an approach that we took to try to be the best that we could. That’s just how I am. I like to try to push buttons and try to get the most out of a situation and out of people. And even when it’s good, it can be better. I’m not just going to sit on my hands and accept anything that you have. You have to constantly keep pushing forward.”
DID YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEEDED?
‘I don’t think you ever really know; but I know that we had won at everything that I’d ever raced and for the most part, won races and championships whether it was owner or driver, and the Cup stuff was kind of that piece that you wanted to achieve. So, yeah, it was frustrating and I think everybody around me was frustrated as well. But you can’t be scared to be the guy who speaks up and says this is not right or that’s not right. You have to be willing to point things out. And that’s usually what pushes a conversation into a direction to make something better.”
AFTER WINNING LAST WEEK IN LAS VEGAS, HOW MUCH DOES THAT OPEN UP THE PLAY BOOK FOR STRATEGY THIS WEEKEND AND FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?
“It’s not like you’re going to do a lot different. But, I think you’re willing to step out of the box and try some things during practice. But as far as the race goes, you still want to win as many races as you can to try to keep other people from winning and to gain bonus points in case something happens in the first round. And it’s just good for the morale of your team to continue that momentum and try to keep winning. For us, it’s going to be the same approach and we were fortunate to win the second race last year and really work through a lot of problems. Hopefully we don’t have those durability issues like we had last year because everything was so new. Hopefully this year we can just work on making the race cars faster and really have a good plan when we head to Chicago for the first race of the Chase.”
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.8 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive & active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.
- Team Chevy