Kevin is the first driver to win from the pole at Darlington since Dale Jarrett did it back in 1997. Kevin becomes the first double winner of the season, as well, so that’s a big deal. That’s going to pay dividends here later this fall. Congratulations to this race team.
Certainly you had a fast car from the time we started Friday, had a fast car tonight, led a lot of laps and made that move there at the end. Just talk about how that all played out. Certainly you were the class of the field. The drivers that were in here earlier tonight certainly testified to that. But just talk about how you had to get up through there. It wasn’t easy, was it?
KEVIN HARVICK: Made it a lot more stressful than we’d have liked it to have been. You know, honestly, I felt like we did everything right with putting the four tires on. I didn’t really expect four, five, six of those guys to put on two tires to tell you the truth, but all in all, I think it worked out really good the way the cautions fell, and we were able to just get ‑‑ our car was really good on the launch on restarts tonight and we were able to push the 88 to the lead that one time.
I felt that I had a little left in the bag down there in 3 and 4 on the top on the restarts, kind of learned that last night in the Nationwide race. But all in all, it was a good night and really a great weekend. Just proud of all my guys for everything that they’ve gone through over the last five or six weeks, and we’ve had cars this fast, and we just have had some things go wrong. But I think it says a lot about the character of the people and the things that happen within Stewart‑Haas Racing, to have everybody keep their head down and stay focused on what they need to be focused on is kind of like a big test to see if it would implode from inside out, and everybody just kept doing what they’re supposed to do, and everything went really well.
Q : Rodney, certainly a big win here, as Kevin alluded to, very, very big to win this race here at Darlington. Just talk about how things folded out there at the end, cautions came out, cars were spinning out, fluid on the track. You had to make a call there at the end. It was the right call. Talk about the thought that went into that.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, I thought we had a strong car all weekend, so when it comes down to the end like that, I thought the right thing for us was to put four tires on. I was sitting there thinking in my head there would be three or four that put two on, and we were right beside the 20 and the 24 on pit road, so I knew that’s what they were going to do. But I still thought four was the right thing. We got a little bit fortunate there with the caution coming out. If that wouldn’t have happened we probably wouldn’t have won the race. It’s hard to say. It’s always easy to go back and think about that stuff and what you should have done and shouldn’t have done. I think we could have won the race on two tires, and we still won it on four. Really all that goes down to Kevin and his determination at the end of the race and the guys building the strong race car, and like he said, keeping their heads down and just keep preparing for each weekend.
Q. I believe you tried to win here at Darlington on 18 different occasions. What’s it like to finally reach victory lane here?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, this is one of those places that I circle every year I come to Darlington, and most all of us know the history of this particular racetrack and what it means to our sport. To come here each year and know that now you only have one shot, but to win the Southern 500 and you look at the names and pictures on that trophy that they have out there is something that’s pretty phenomenal to be a part of. It’s the last crown jewel race I guess you could say that I wanted to ‑‑ I told him before the year even started, if we’re only going to win once this year, let’s win at Darlington because this is just the place that you want to race, and I love racing here. I think it’s like going to Bristol for me, for him here. He’s not as enthused about it as I was. But all in all, it’s a great place to race and means a lot to our sport.
Q : You certainly have completed now all of them, 500, 600, Brickyard, this one tonight, so congratulations.
Q. Rodney, inspections seemed to be a challenge for you guys this weekend. When you have to kind of tweak on the car to kind of get it through tech, does that mess up any of the setups? Are you sitting there wondering whether everything you had planned is now kind of out the window?
RODNEY CHILDERS: No. It was never an issue, really. I think everybody saw we did have a few problems getting through qualifying inspection. It really just comes down to hitting it right across the platform. It’s been a learning curve for everybody basically, and it seemed to change a little bit from the first time we went through until qualifying, and then of course in qualifying it didn’t hurt the car at all, and then we went back through today and had a similar issue.
We got in trouble a little bit because I was in chapel which I thought was kind of weird, but the guys aren’t allowed to mess with the car unless I tell them what to do, and I was in chapel. All in all, we got through there fine. It’s not an issue and never thought it was going to hurt the car one bit.
Q. Rodney, when you made the four‑tire call, did you have in mind that very likely at this place there were going to be more cautions and more restarts to make up for the four‑tire time?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Originally when I made the call, that’s not what was in my head. After we left pit road and I saw that many cars in front of us, I thought that was maybe our only shot. It worked out good for us. The thought process going in was maybe three cars would take two and we’d be able to drive by them before we got to the end of the race, and we were a little fortunate that things played out the way they did.
Q. And for Kevin, what did you think of that call after the 48 took four and jumped out there to that lead on that restart?
KEVIN HARVICK: I’m a four‑tire guy, so I would have probably argued a little bit if he’d have said two tires on the radio. It’s one of those places where the cars were so ill‑handling tonight as we went into the race. We never really saw how ill they were going to be in practice because they never really drove like that. Our car drove good for 20 laps. You get to lap 12 and 15 and the cars really started to go south pretty quick. But it was a lot of fun. You could use the whole racetrack top to bottom, and that made it a challenge to figure out where you needed to be and what you needed to do to your car. But all in all it was a very challenging race and a lot of fun to drive.
Q. I understand that racers in general measure things by how fast the car is and not necessarily the results, and you guys have still had fast cars even though you haven’t been able to close out some of the races, not by your own doing. Was there ever times over this kind of mini‑slump, I guess, where you guys looked at each other and you were like, geez, if we can’t finish some of these races we’re going to be in trouble long‑term? What was the conversation like?
KEVIN HARVICK: You look at all sports, and people go through ‑‑ I guess the classic example in today’s day and age would be the Indiana Pacers. You’ve seen them go through a slump, and they are imploding within as a team, and as players they’re just absolutely destroying each other. I think when you look at this team, you look at all the things that have happened, and the same thing could have happened, but everybody has patted each other on the back and said, look at the speed of our race cars and look at the things that we’ve been able to accomplish, and everybody just kept supporting each other.
Everybody is frustrated and everybody wanted to finish the deal on weekends where we felt like we could do exactly what we did here today and did at Phoenix, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, and you have to be able to put that behind you whether you win or lose. Monday morning we have to be able to put this win behind us and say, all right, what do we need to do to get better and how do we do that and where do we go and what do we do and where is the weak link. I’m just proud of all my guys, Rodney for keeping them all together and being a part of it, and seeing it not implode from within is pretty awesome.
Q. You alluded earlier to winning the 500, now you’ve added the Southern 500, you’ve got Daytona. Can you put into words the mindset of the drive and desire now to chase down a championship to sort of just put the bookend to your career and to your legacy in this sport?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I’m excited about it, and I think that’s why everybody on this team came here. We came here to race for wins, to be in a position to where we could contend for a championship, and felt like ‑‑ I really feel like everybody on this team felt like we all bettered ourselves in coming together and being a part of Stewart‑Haas Racing.
For us it’s a lot of fun just for the fact that you have so many resources, and it’s almost a challenge to figure out how to use them all. Gene has put in a major commitment from a financial standpoint, and I think that’s hard to get used to because it’s all about winning. It’s not about money, it’s not about resources, it’s all about what do you need and how are you going to achieve what you think you should achieve with the people around you.
In the end you’re as good as the people around you, and hopefully we can keep getting better. I feel like we have as an organization and team, we have a lot of room for improvement, and we just have to keep picking it apart one piece at a time.
Q. Kevin, when you think about you’ve won Daytona, Charlotte, the 600, the Brickyard and now here, kind of a NASCAR Slam, what does that mean being able to accomplish all those things in your career, all the way back from being on Ron Hornaday’s couch to doing that, and Rodney, can you talk about the fuel issue and did you almost feel like something bad had to happen tonight to overcome before you could win and that was kind of the obstacle you guys faced tonight?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think to be a part of the sport and be able to accomplish the race wins that we’ve been able to be a part of, I just feel lucky to tell you the truth, just to be a part of it. This is what I used to do for a hobby, and I’m sure Rodney will tell you the same thing, you used to do this as your hobby and pay to do it. We’re fortunate to be able to do this for a living, but to be able to have celebrated a lot of the race wins, whether it be Indy or Daytona or Charlotte or All‑Star Race or the Southern 500 now is something that some people don’t get to experience at all in their careers, but to celebrate them all is something that’s pretty phenomenal. I just feel lucky. I’m glad to be here. I love my job, and looking forward to racing every week.
RODNEY CHILDERS: I echo what Kevin said. As young as I am in my career, I’ve been really fortunate. That race in Charlotte for the coke 600, I was lucky it kept raining, and then this year I was lucky that Kevin Harvick wanted me to be his crew chief. This has been phenomenal for me, and it means a lot. But as far as the fuel issue, it really just came down to the can didn’t plug in right the first time, and once the can doesn’t plug in right the first time, it pretty much becomes a disaster, and panic mode sets in. It’s one of those deals where we’re a young team, but we made a mistake, and we switched gas men as soon as it happened. I was like, we’re not giving this away. We had somebody different the rest of the race and did an excellent job. But the person that made the mistake I support 100 percent. We’re still a young team and still learning, and that’s something that we’ve just got to work on.
Q. We see a little more gray on this racetrack every year we come back, four tires won tonight. Are we getting back to the point at Darlington where four tires is the only call here?
KEVIN HARVICK: You’ve got to love it, gray racetracks, you can almost see the sparkle of the rocks coming out in the asphalt. That’s so exciting. Maybe we need to spread the South Carolina sand on Kansas and Charlotte and all these other racetracks that haven’t aged as fast as this one. When you start to see that gray and you start to see the seams and you can see the sparkle of the small rocks in the asphalt, it just makes it fun. Darlington is what it was supposed to be tonight, the cars slipping and sliding and bouncing off the walls and hard to drive. That’s how you want every racetrack to be. You have Atlanta, you have Chicago, you have Richmond, a lot of these racetracks that are wore out. We need to go in there and maybe we need to take some of this sand and just spread it everywhere and just rub it in with something, I don’t know.
Q. What do you think is more ‑‑ do you consider more exciting, what you’ve already accomplished this season or ‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK: Wait a second, we’re talking about excitement? Have you seen how excited he gets? This is it. This is as excited as he gets. (Laughter.)
Q. What you’ve already accomplished together this season or the potential for what you still have to go the rest of the season?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think for me it’s the potential, just seeing what’s forward. I think you look at all the guys, and I’ve got to know them all pretty well now, so it’s a lot of fun to ‑‑ everybody has put the energy into work hard to be a team, and he pushes a lot of that. I feel like we have a great relationship, but I feel like all the guys on the team have a great relationship not only with him or myself but with each other, and that’s important.
I think as we go through time, there’s still a lot of growing pains that we have to work through as far as structure and things at Stewart‑Haas Racing and in general, just as you look at the four teams and how they flow and who does what and how things work. There’s a lot of things that still need to be worked on, but even on a good team. If you’re sitting on your hands, you’re getting ready to get passed because this is a competitive garage, and there’s a lot of competitive people that push things to the point where they get themselves into victory lane.
RODNEY CHILDERS: You know, for me everybody thinks I don’t get excited. I was as excited as anybody out there on that pit box. 10 minutes after the race I’m already thinking about everything that we did wrong. There’s stuff that we should have done better. Like he said, we’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to get better at, but like I said at Phoenix, I thought the day I walked in there it was going to be June or July before we could win a race, and we’re sitting here now, and without mechanical issues we could have won two or three races, maybe four races, maybe five races. We’ve had good cars every week.
But that’s part of the learning process, and like he said, we’ve had each other’s backs through all of it. There’s been other weeks that were tougher than others. But the thing that’s so great about the team so far is I struggled really bad one week, I’ll say Bristol I struggled to get over. It was something that we’ve always run good there, and that’s one of the ones I always wanted, and it ended up being a night race at Bristol and I wanted it pretty bad, and it took me until Wednesday to get over it, which is unacceptable. We need to put things behind us and move on.
Everybody patted me on the back, and we’ve done that every week. It’s been a lot of fun.
Q. Rodney, barring a tsunami or something, you guys are in the Chase. I know you still want to win every week, but how does that change what you can do? Can you experiment more, test differently, et cetera? Big changes there or not?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I talked to Clair about this in victory lane. For me it just doesn’t work that way, and anybody that knows me, if we’re not the fastest car in practice, I’m not happy. And if we don’t sit on the pole, I’m not happy, and if we don’t win the race, I’m not happy. We’ve just got to keep working to make our team better, and I think the way we’ve got to make our team better is to keep bringing good cars and keep trying to win races. We’ve got some things that we need to get better as far as an organization, but all in all, I think we’re just going to keep doing the things that we’ve been doing and focusing on what we can focus on and keep moving forward.
Q. Kevin, you talked about the resources that Gene brings to the table. On Monday he’s going to hold a press conference to talk about the Formula 1 reasons that he’s been granted, and that obviously is likewise a huge commitment in terms of time, resources and money. What sort of effect do you think that’s going to have on the Cup program?
KEVIN HARVICK: I have no idea. Obviously I think when you look at the things that it takes to ‑‑ I shouldn’t even comment because I don’t even know what it takes to start or where you even start to build a Formula 1 team. I guess we’ll have a great carbon fiber shop. That’s for sure, so that’ll be a good thing. But all in all, I think Gene loves racing, and I’ve learned that. He’s one of those guys that he has very few hobbies, and I’m still getting to know Gene and the people around him, but as I’ve gone through time, Gene likes to win races, Gene likes to be at the racetrack. He loves the challenge of doing things that other people don’t do, and he’s fortunate to be in a position financially to experience those things, and I’m excited to see how it all unfolds. I guess we’ll see what his plans are, and I’m excited to be watching it and see what it all ‑‑ how it all takes place.
Q. Rodney, you guys have had I would think kind of crazy things happen to you. Were they all just freak things, or was there anything that you felt was kind of a quality control thing on you guys’ end?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I think no matter what the situation, you could have done it better. We had a hub failure at Vegas, and it really comes down to some of it being a new team and not kind of going through the processes of what hub should we be running and stuff like that. Every single thing you learn from it, and it’s stuff you could have done different. None of it was really one person’s fault. We just had some really weird stuff happen. But we’ve took measures to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and that’ll pay dividends later in the season.