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Interview With Race Winner – Kevin Harvick at Phoenix International Raceway

Q: Talk about the race out there today.

 

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, it’s always fun to come to Phoenix, and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success here in all the divisions, and today was no different.  We had a good car and really from the time we unloaded, we qualified well and were able to have three solid practices and a good qualifying session and a good race today.

 

With the way that the strategy and everything worked out today, you just had to play your cards right off the bat, and those guys got a little bit lucky with the way that the strategy worked out.  But our car was fast enough to work through traffic and keep ourselves in contention even with the other guys on the other side of that strategy, and we were able to be there at the end.  Everyone was able to put just enough gas in the cars to make it to the end, and our guys got it right and the other guys were a little short.

 

Q:  Also joining us is crew chief Gil Martin.  Talk a little bit about the strategy.  Obviously a lot of folks saying that everyone was on pins and needles throughout the entire race and it seemed to last forever.  Talk about your strategy and how you prepared Kevin for this race going into today.

 

GIL MARTIN:  I mean, it was such a tough race because track position was everything.  We took two tires several times.  Last time we took left‑side tires was on lap 100, so with 212 laps on the left‑side tires, that was pretty amazing for the car to be that fast and only have that many laps on the left sides.  But we elected to come in and pit right there, I can’t remember the lap number now, but we pitted early, came back to top 15, and we knew at that point we’re able to put in one can of gas in at the end and we wouldn’t have to shuffle cans at the end.  We knew that was going to cost us a couple of seconds shuffling cans under green, and as it turned out, you can just about gauge how much fuel you’re putting in when you’re emptying a can, you know the amount of time, instead of having to guess when you’re shuffling cans, because the longer you sit there, the more you are.  You’re wanting to send him quick, because you know that you can’t lose any time there.

 

Q:  Also up here with us, Richard Childress, owner of the 29 car.  Talk a little bit about how it feels to be sitting here. Anything can happen in a race.  I think we proved that today.  Kevin is only 34 points behind Jimmie Johnson.  Matt Kenseth is now just 28 points behind Jimmie Johnson.  He is definitely a contender for this championship.  Talk about how you’re feeling.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, we’ve been there, I think this is the third time we’ve been going to Homestead with Kevin and a couple times with Clint. Having the chance to win the championship, mathematically you never give up until it’s over.  For us to have a shot going in again this year, that’s all you can ask.  You’d ask to be out front like he is, but if you can’t you’ll take this.

Q.  For any of you, is it harder to race a strategy race like this where there’s so many ups and downs than just maybe a normal mile‑and‑a‑half race where you know you’re going to be wide open the whole way?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I’ll let him answer that question.  I know for me you just have to let it play out.  You just have to sit in the car, give him the feedback and just do the best that you can because they can see a lot more than I can.  He can tell you the stressful part of it.

 

GIL MARTIN:  The stressful part of it is we had dinner last night, the engineers and I, and we were sitting there trying to go over all the scenarios.  No matter how many you go over you don’t never go over the one you needed, and that’s the one today that we didn’t really go over last night about trying to make certain how much fuel we were going to put in at the end on a green‑flag run, and that made such a huge difference because when you’re trying to time how much gas you’re putting in by basically counting one‑1,000, when the fuel can is plugged up there’s a lot of variables you have there.  You’ve got the variable did the gas man get plugged up good enough?  Did he get it completely plugged up?  Is it flowing the right amount of gas?  We knew if we could time it out to where we were emptying one can of gas, we know exactly how long that takes, so we waited to pit until we got to that point, and then it worked out.  But when you run a race like this when the tires really aren’t an advantage, it comes down to the driver’s tenacity in the car.  It comes down to the fact of ‑‑ he has to give, not a 100 percent like they’ve asked, you have to give 110 percent every single lap because if you let up even one lap you lose too much time.  A tenth of a second here is a long way, and he didn’t do that today.

Q.  Richard, you’re standing right there when the 99 starts to slow down right in front of you.  What went through your mind?

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Well, I think I told him on that lap or a couple laps before that I thought the 99 was going to run out.  I didn’t think he had pitted.  I came on one time and told Kevin that he was racing the 5 and 48 for the win, and then when I saw the 99 had pitted, I didn’t think he could’ve got enough fuel in it, so it was close.  I knew that if he did, he wasn’t going to have enough fuel left to jump off his car.  He wouldn’t have made it back to the start/finish is what I was going to say.

Q.  Kevin, last December in Vegas you got asked how this final season with RCR would go and you said it would probably be your best season yet.  Now going into Homestead you’ve got a chance not just at the championship but to finish second in points.  Can you just talk about maybe this could be your best season at RCR kind of like what you were expecting, despite all the circumstances that you could finish second in points and go out on that kind of high with this team?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think he’d probably sit here and tell you that we’ve been good for each other because we challenge each other.  You know, I obviously handle a lot of situations wrong, but it pushes a lot of buttons to try to make things better.  There’s no better way to go out than to do what we’ve done this year. Obviously we went to Martinsville, and I said things that I shouldn’t have said and put everybody in a position that was not good, but I think we had conversations about things after that that probably made us closer as people, and I think as we move forward will probably make us closer as friends.

It was a tough week to handle, but I think that some of the conversations that we had were good for all of us and made us really understand just the fact that how successful we’ve been together and how successful we’ve been for each other as RCR, and for me it’s great to be able to ‑‑ I think that situation really put into perspective, just made you think about everything that we’ve been able to accomplish and the things that we’ve been through together.  It’s more of a family conversation than it probably was a racing conversation.

 

For me that was great as a person.  You don’t want to put yourself in those particular situations just for the fact that it makes you look dumb, first off, and you want to go out on top.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  We committed to each other early in the year that we’d give 100 percent, and we have, and Kevin has.  Just like we talked, we’ve had a great relationship, and when this race is over, I haven’t got a driver out there that’s driven for me or crew chief or anyone I can’t walk up and talk to, and that’s the way we want this to be.

 

We’re like family.  You spend a lot of time with each other at the track, so you’re going to have your spats and stuff, and just got to make it work.

Q.  Question for Richard Childress. Earlier it was announced that you’ll employ for next year Mike Coughlan from Formula 1 as technical director. What do you see as the benefit to employ somebody coming from a totally different environment?

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  He was in NASCAR with Michael Waltrip Racing for a year and a half and got their program really up going off the ground, and he’s going to be our technical director.  He’s going to bring a lot of design work, engineering work, and we’re really proud to have him there, and couldn’t be prouder for Eric Warren going out and putting together the people behind this race team that gives Gil and our crew chiefs what they really need to go out and win.

Q.  For Gil and maybe Richard, with everything that’s taken place this season and even as Kevin pointed out from earlier in the year, some people thought that just because he was leaving you guys would be overlooked.  How has it been being able to keep the team as a unit together and focused on the goal as you still have an opportunity, even if it’s slim, to win a championship or finish as high as second in points?

GIL MARTIN:  It’s funny you asked that question.  In our team meeting today before the race, after we talked about the things that we may do or not do during the course of this race, I told the guys on the team that very thing, that this garage is tough.  They look for any kind of flaw that you may have to drag you down because the competition is so close that they try to break your team down.  And that’s what I told these guys, that they have to be the toughest group that I’ve been around, just because of the simple reason of everybody has been expecting us to implode, everybody is expecting us to fail and not succeed, and with the rest of the garage trying to force some of that upon you, to not get distracted, whether it’s the team, whether it’s Kevin, whether it’s anybody involved with our organization, it just shows the quality of these guys because this is just a tough environment.  Nobody knows how tough this environment is until you live it every day.

 

But I can promise you, the guys that are next to us in the garage, if we find a chink in their armor, we’re going to get on it.  If it’s turning a radio up, like the 2 car tries to do to the 48 during the week to get under their skin or if it’s placing a fake camera on your pit box and trying to look like you’re recording what the guy next to you is doing and make him work undercover, we’re going to do it, because that’s just what’s going to happen in this garage area, the games that are played, and these guys are just tough.

Q.  Richard Childress, as you look back your entire history, compare if you will what you’ve got coming up in the next week to another time when you were going into a race and it was either going to be a championship or a second‑place finish.

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, I mean, you just give it everything you’ve got.  We’ve been in that situation in trucks and Nationwide and Sprint Cup and the old Winston cup, and you just go give it everything you’ve got, do what got you where you’re at, and that’s race as hard as you can.

 

It’s great to ‑‑ you know, this is a long season.  Everybody goes through a lot of stuff, and you start to tire down, but it’s all about commitment and your employees and sponsors and everybody makes the commitment to start the year out, and your commitment is to go give 100 percent every weekend, and that’s what we try to do.

 

KEVIN HARVICK:  And Saturday I’m going to stand beside him and lock his radio out.  (Laughter.)

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, I don’t need to be on it.

 

KEVIN HARVICK:  We’ll be fine on Sunday but Saturday we’re going to have the defibrillator really close and we’re going to have his radio on easily to override.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, keep me quiet.

 

 

Q.  You guys have known for quite a long time that you’re going in different directions next year, but for each of you, for Kevin and for Richard, how important is it that you’re going to finish strong this year no matter what, looking ahead to 2014?  How important is this finish?  What does this mean to you?

 

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, I think as we talk and as we’ve gone through the year, we’ve been successful.  We’ve been able to win four points races, two non‑points races, and so we’ve been successful on the racetrack.  Obviously you wish you could have raced ‑‑ for myself I wish I could have raced Martinsville, but I think as you move forward, you look at ‑‑ you have to take those life lessons.  We’ve had a lot of life lessons together, and it started in 1999.  So we’ve had life lessons, and you try to become a better person, and I think as I’ve been at RCR, you learn from situations, whether it be just starting my job or last week at Martinsville or Dale’s situation in 2001 or the situation we went through with Gil and the things that we’ve done there.  So you always try to take those situations, and it’s not just really about ‑‑ you want to make your race team better, but in the end you want to be a better person, and you try to take those situations and apply them to what you’re doing and make yourself better.

 

I think we’ve been through a lot of the situations.  He’s taught me a lot about being a dad (tearing up).

Q.  Richard, how important is a strong finish?

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  It’s great.  You look at life, I’m sure y’all have heard that old song, don’t blink, 100 years goes by fast, and this is just another chapter in life that we’re all living, so it’s really.  You’ve got to be tough to hang in there and make it, and we’ve did a lot together.  We’ve won a lot.  We’ve been through some tough times.  But at the end of the day, 100 years go by awful fast.

 

GIL MARTIN:  And if you want to make some really good press, next week lock Jimmie in a Port‑a‑Potty so this can really look good.  It would be a Cinderella story.  It would be a good thing to write about.  (Laughter).

Q.  What’s that emotion I just saw? Where did that come from?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think as you go through time, you look at situations as life, not about racing, and that’s a good thing.  Life is a good thing, and you want to be a good person.

Q.  Now on to what I was going to ask, and it’s on a similar note, what is it about you guys and controversy?  I think that some of the things you’ve faced over your lifespan together as teammates would completely disintegrate a lot of programs, but any time that happens, whether it was you and Richard fighting or Gil moving on to a different job and coming back and all those things, you end up winning.  How is that?  What is it about your personality types that allows that to happen because it wouldn’t work most places?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I know he might not want to hear this, but I always tell people it’s a generation gap.  So you have his generation, and then you have my generation, and then you have the guys that are stuck in between.  Then you have Gil and you have Mike and Dillon, and even Austin now as we go through time are kind of stuck in the middle.  It’s not that ‑‑ I don’t want to ‑‑ we want the same things.  We want to be successful and we want to win races, and I think we have a different approach of how you approach things and how you talk about things and how you move through things.  So these guys have done a good job of kind of being that glue, the glue that kind of holds it all together even when he and I are mad at each other.

 

So in the end you want to respect each other, and these guys do a good job of explaining that and really keeping it all together.

Q.  How would you describe the opponent you face next weekend?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Which one?

Q.  The 48.

KEVIN HARVICK:  We’re talking about locking him in the Port‑a‑Potty, so that should sum it up.  (Laughter.)

 

You know, we’ve stumbled ‑‑ I don’t know what the average finish is for us in the last nine weeks, but it hasn’t been too bad.  We’ve stumbled once at Loudon with a 20th place finish, and we’ve won a couple races, and here we are 34 points behind the 48.  So those guys are ‑‑ they’re good at what they do and they’re good at every track, and obviously Chad and Rick do a good job of keeping the next good thing coming.

But I feel like we’ve probably had the best Chase that we’ve ever had, and you go to Homestead 34 points behind.  They’re just good.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, I’ll add something to that.  Those guys, you look back at the history, and some of you guys that know all the numbers about the sport, Jimmie Johnson and those guys and the Hendricks, they’ve just had phenomenal years.  Our average finish, we’ve been right there for a championship five out of the last 10 or 11 years, and counting Clint’s couple of runs and Kevin’s two runs and then this run, and to be able to be there and be beat by that same team says something to how strong they really are, and we’re going to go to Homestead and just try to win the race, and if we go down there and win the race, we’ve done everything we can if we lose.

Q.  Kevin, my question for you is it took you seven starts to win your first Phoenix race on the old surface compared to three for the new surface.  Was there anything difficult for you on the old surface that is not showing as much on the new surface, or was it based just on experience level?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, I think the experience probably plays into that more than anything.  I think for us today, we found some good things that worked for us in practice with the grooves and the way that fit my driving style to get through Turns 3 and 4 that are very similar to the things that we used to do with the old surface.  So it just took me a while to adapt.  My first day here was I think 1995, and I wound up hitting the outside wall off of Turn 4, just trying to find that particular sweet spot that exists down there in Turn 4 that still exists there with this new surface.

 

It’s been a fun run at this particular track, old surface, new surface.  We’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success on this track.

Q.  As it winds down to only one week to go, is there a sense of, I guess, dread that the relationship is ending, the working relationship, and what will you guys miss most about each other?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I think just the fact that ‑‑ probably just the fact that he challenges me.  You talk about that generation gap, but when you make a mistake, he is not scared to just step up and say, this is the iron fist that’s running this show, and I think you have to have somebody that’s willing to put that iron fist down and say, this is the line, this is how it’s going to be, and if you don’t like it, get out.  And that’s really how we ran ‑‑ DeLana and I ran our race teams.  This is our way, and this is how we do it, and I think that came from him, was this is my way, and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.  That’s probably the part that I’ll miss.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Yeah, you know, I think just ‑‑ we’re going to see each other at the tracks a lot and everything, but we talk about a lot of other stuff, too.  Like he said, the generation gap is bigger than what it was with Dale and myself, and it was, but at the end of the day, the one thing that we both do have is a word called respect, and we’ll always have that.

Q.  Kevin, you’ve been racing here for a long time, and I would like to know your personal feelings about this facility.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, I have been racing here a long time, and I remember when I showed up at the first driver meeting and I used to pick on Rick Carelli.  I guess that would have been ’95.  He was the old guy at that particular time.  So you had Carelli and you had Mike Chase and you had Hornaday, and I went to the ‑‑ the truck race that I ran, obviously it’s known for a lot of different reasons, but the truck race that I ran in Martinsville, I went to driver intros and I’m like, alright, there’s Joe Nemechek’s kid, there’s Ty, and the average age was like 20 years old and I felt like I should be somebody’s dad, let alone grandpa.

 

It’s been fun, and you go through those times of really respecting the sport and those guys, especially at this particular racetrack.  I know Carelli has raced here for a long time, long before there was any of these grandstands sitting here and any of these buildings sitting here, and they used to run the open comp cars.  My dad would come over and work on the racetrack, and if you had a bad storm you couldn’t get to the track because the bridge was washed out.

 

So those were a lot of things that a lot of people don’t remember about this particular place, and this particular place is very special to me just for the fact that this was ‑‑ when you used to have the Copper Classic and the 300 lapper at the end of the year for the Southwest Tour cars, this was our Daytona 500.  So to be able to come back here and win races and be successful, means a lot to me, and you always come here with a lot of fans and a lot of friends so it’s fun.

 

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  We were here before the interstate.  Going to Riverside, I used to drive by here before the interstate.

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Posted by on November 11, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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