Interview With Kevin Harvick – Winner of The Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Race
Let’s talk about this race. It was quite a race here tonight. Had a little bit of everything in it. Just talk about how you were able to get that 29 Budweiser into Victory Lane.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, coming into this particular race, it’s going to be a long night, you’re going to have to survive. We had some strange circumstances with the cable. With this particular car, obviously you don’t know where the balance is going to start with the temperature being a little bit lower this week. I think the swing was a little bit less than what it normally is.
Just a great night. Gil made a great call at the end, we were able to put ourselves in position and survive until the point of when it was time to go.
Q : Gil Martin, a big call there that last caution going down pit road. Talk about the thought process and maybe how the 29 seemed to get better and better as the race went along.
GIL MARTIN: At the end of the race we probably had 12 different scenarios that we were trying to play out. Everybody started getting on a different sync as far as we were going to have to pit around the 368 mark. Cautions kept happening, we new some were going to be able to go later. We had scenarios for that trying to get two.
When the final caution came out, I thought we needed to come. It was a no-brainer. I know Kevin did, too, because of the fact that the cars were going to be better on the restart, especially getting through the first couple corners, being able to run wide open with cold tires. It worked out good.
Q: Richard, certainly this race team has put on a great show here today for one of our biggest races, Memorial Day weekend. I know how much the military means to your organization. But talk about winning this race.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Gil said it. He made a great call there at the end. Kevin was really digging all day long. This is a grueling race. That’s what it’s meant to be. He set there and just dug and dug and dug and come through. To win this race on a special weekend like this, Memorial Day weekend, is very special for all of our troops, all of their families.
Today I texted Jim Campbell and congratulated him for a Chevy winning at Indy, having a great day. I texted him back and said, We’ll win for you tonight. We kept our word.
Q. Kevin, the bizarre TV cable thing, did you see that? How does that mess up your momentum?
KEVIN HARVICK: Hell, the first time I drove by I said, Hell, my career is over, my eyes have taken a crap. I saw this streak go by me. What in the hell was that?
I always have this thing with my eyes. It’s one of the biggest things we have as drivers. You got to believe in your eyes. I tell myself, You got to believe what you saw.
I got to the start/finish line, I eased off the gas, I knew what I had seen the lap before, I was hoping it wasn’t my last race, I was hoping what I saw was right. I let off at the start/finish line, there was that black streak again. I was looking for it. You could see the cable hanging down.
Strange. Hope everybody is okay. We all wrecked in 2001 going into turn one at the All-Star Race and unloaded our backup car. We’ve been in a couple strange instances here at Charlotte. You just want to get everything fixed.
I’m glad that NASCAR was able to let the guys fix their cars that were involved in it to try to get back to where they were to be competitive.
Q. Kevin, other than the cable incident, talk about the craziness of the night with all the accidents.
KEVIN HARVICK: This is one of those nights you just know going into it you got to grind away lap after lap, just keep yourself on the lead lap, not make any mistakes. As you get towards the end of the race, you want to be more aggressive as you get onto pit road, get into your pit box.
Early in the race, a pit road penalty, a mistake in general, is going to cost you and you’re going to be trying to catch up all night. The more you can keep yourself in position to not make a mistake, maybe give up a spot or two here or there to keep your position is okay.
As we came down to the end, it came down to a restart. We had the track position when the 78 had their problem. We were the leader. We saw that the 5 was able to really go on the restarts. We were tight. Gil made a good adjustment on the car. We were better. I wish we would have had one more stab at it to make it even better yet.
In the end it was good enough to win the race. That’s all that matters.
Q. I think it was 18 laps to go, Kahne passed you. He looked strong. Did you think it was over at that point or…
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, we all pitted there probably about that same time, about 20 laps to go. I could see him. Heck, the last race we won here, we came off of turn two in third. By the time we got back to the start/finish line, we had won the race.
It’s never over until it’s over. You just have to keep driving the car as hard as you can. When we had the caution come out, that’s a whole different ballgame with a short run like that. Obviously the best car didn’t put tires on, and we were able to capitalize on that.
I felt when we came out second, everybody had done their job. They were all like five-year-old kids looking at me as a snack. It’s like, Don’t screw this up, Bud. You’re in control of this race. Don’t let somebody get under you, because at that point we were in complete control.
Q. You’ve won two of the last four races. Stewart-Haas is running like a bag of ass. Are you regretting the decision you made?
KEVIN HARVICK: You look at what we’re doing and we’re focused on this year. We go out and race week-to-week, do the things that we do to try to win races, win a championship. Whatever happens in the future, we’ll work on some other time. Right now we’re working on winning next week’s race, no matter who is running like a bag of ass (smiling).
Q. Gil, you talked about there was probably a dozen different scenarios you were thinking about at the end. Was one of them actually the leader stay out and everyone else decides to pit, including the people who had just pitted a couple laps previously?
GIL MARTIN: Well, no. I really think we had to have our own strategy because we were in a different fuel window. There were four or five of us in the same fuel window. The guys behind us were in a completely different deal.
We needed to get those two tires because I think heads up our car wasn’t as good as the 5 car. We definitely needed to get tires at that point. When they didn’t brake to come down pit road, I felt like that gave us a chance to have equal cars with them because they were very strong all night long.
Q. Richard, separation in this business isn’t always an easy thing. You have to be impressed with Kevin’s dedication, the way he’s come out even with the impending change.
KEVIN HARVICK: I want to answer that first.
It’s not just “Kevin.” This is something that he and I sat down and talked about as men and just have really focused on what’s most important for our sponsors and the guys on this team and this organization. That’s the most important thing.
It’s too important to the people that put in hours and hours and hours, the people that put in millions and millions of dollars.
Sorry to interrupt.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, we’re in a business world. In a business world things happen, changes happen. You do everything you can in the business world. Like I told Kevin, I wish him the best of luck at the end of the year, but right now we got a job in front of us.
I honestly think RCR is ready to contend for the championship this year. We have Kevin and Paul both up there. We’re getting better. Eric Warren has come along and put together a great group of people. Our engine shop keeps getting better and better.
I really feel that we got a chance to contend for the championship.
Q. Kevin, I’m assuming you knew when you came off of pit lane that Kasey didn’t have tires. Did you just have to put yourself in that frame of mind?
KEVIN HARVICK: The only frame of mind I was in was, Don’t screw up. I knew they put me in the best position to win the race. You don’t want to make a mistake on the restart.
I knew the biggest mistake I was going to make on that restart was the same mistake, I don’t remember who, but they were trying to time it to the restart lines. Kasey was having a tough time getting going on the restarts. I needed to time it to the start/finish line so I could carry the momentum into turn one, not put three-wide, we could keep the guy on the outside at bay by being fast enough into turn one.
Kasey was having a lot of trouble on the restarts, spinning the tires. That was the thing I didn’t want to do, was time it to the restart line, have to check up, have the guys behind me get a run. That was really the most important thing.
Q. Kevin, you’ve won this race two out of the last three years, not really dominating the race. Can you philosophically talk about that? Things have worked for you here.
KEVIN HARVICK: We backed into 21 of them, so things are looking up.
GIL MARTIN: He just likes that parking spot he gets for his motorhome. That’s why he wants to keep winning.
KEVIN HARVICK: It’s free water (smiling).
It’s not any fault of these guys. It’s kind of the nature of who is sitting in the seat. I like to just take my time and put myself in a position at the end of the race. I think a lot of that comes from growing up, and when we raced, because you had to race next week. The only way to race the next week was to win enough prize money the week before so you could buy tires, whatever the case may be, to race.
My dad, anybody I ever drove for before, would probably tell you the same thing. I’m not going to burn my car up in the first half of the race, go out and show off basically. That’s what happens at the beginning of the race.
Obviously you want to run as fast as you can, but it really doesn’t matter until the end. We backed into a few of them.
Q. Richard, that 78 group has really run well the last three or four weeks. Can you relate to their frustrations of getting close and not winning?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I was listening to Kurt tonight. They put together, Barney, a great team. They were right there all night long. He ran in the top five.
The battery cable came off, is what I understand happened. He came unplugged. Unfortunate. But they did a great job. We’re all working really close together. Our engines are running really well. I couldn’t be more proud of our whole organization and what the 78 brings to the table. They also bring something to the table, as well.
KEVIN HARVICK: To follow up on that a little bit.
Listening to Kurt Busch in the meetings is something that adds to our team. Not taking anything away from Todd, all the guys working on the car. But the way that Kurt drives, hard, he has good feedback. To me that’s been the thing that really has helped the 78 car become relevant for RCR and myself, is you can go over and talk to him and look at his data, and it’s real and it’s fast. It has really helped what we’ve been doing.
Q. Richard, you’ve now won the Coca-Cola 600 five times. This victory comes on the 20th anniversary of your last win with Dale here when y’all swept the All-Star Race and the 600. What does that mean to you?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It’s special. I didn’t realize it was the 20th anniversary. But we had some great wins with Dale Earnhardt here, Winston back in the day, the shootout, the night races under the lights.
Any time you win at Charlotte, you win a grueling 4 hour, 30 minute race, it’s special. I can still today remember the races we won with Dale. Every one of them was special. The night that Kevin won over here, that was special.
The day that you quit thinking that a race is special to win, you better go home and pack it up.