Author: Jeff Gluck
Date: July 13, 2016
Q: What is an errand or chore in your daily life people might be surprised to learn you do yourself?
A: I don’t know if it’s a chore, but if I’m home, the thing I do every day is wake up my son (Keelan) and get him out of bed and change his diaper. He comes downstairs and we fix breakfast. I feel like it’s important to get him out of bed.
The changing diaper part definitely qualifies as a chore.
Yeah. He still sleeps in a diaper.
Q: If you could do any race over again, which race would you choose?
A: I’d say the 2001 Martinsville race, when I spun Bobby Hamilton (Sr.) out (while battling for the lead). I actually became really good friends with him later. But it was so blatant, trying to hack away and thinking that was the right thing to do when you were 25 years old. Knowing what you know now and getting to know Bobby so well, he would never have raced me like that. And to not even try to race him was disrespectful to him with a car that was capable of winning on that particular day. That’s one that has always stuck out in my mind after I got to become friends with him through the years.
Did he give you any crap about it?
We did talk about it once and that was really about it. He was just a really good person.
Q: The longest race of the year is 600 miles. How long of a race could you physically handle without a driver change?
A: The older I get, the harder it becomes to go farther. (Laughs) But I’d say physically, you could probably go farther than the engines and things right now. Six hundred miles is a long time, and at some point, you’ve got to get out and move because you’d become so stiff. I think you’d have to change the style of engine and parts and pieces that are built to go 700 miles for that one particular weekend, but I know we could go farther.
Q: Let’s say president of NASCAR was an elected position voted on by the drivers – and you decided to run. What would one of your campaign promises be?
A: The first promise would be to shorten the schedule. With the current TV contracts, I understand we have three publicly traded companies that make it really hard to change the things we need to change without going through lawsuits. But we could keep the same number of races and work on some midweek races and incorporate all-star races into race weeks, and you could get six weeks back pretty quickly if you really wanted to.
It’s really not about the drivers – it’s more about the team guys and just letting them live a life. Those guys work pretty much seven days a week and it would be more about taking care of the team guys and getting them to have some quality time at home.
Getting six weeks back sounds pretty nice.
Yeah, and I’d take it all off the end of the season. Start in February if that’s the tradition – that’s fine – but you need to end it earlier to get out of the guts of the NFL season. And it’s just so long.
Q: At the start of this year, exactly 2,900 drivers had ever raced in the Sprint Cup Series. Where do you rank among those 2,900?
A: I don’t know that I should rank myself yet, because I still feel like I have things to accomplish and things to do. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the sport and be successful. But when you start looking at the numbers of the people who have won championships and been fortunate to accomplish things in the sport, it’s a pretty narrow list. So I don't know that I should rank myself.
Q: What do you think your reputation is – and is that reputation accurate?
A: It depends on how well you know me. I have a very select group of people I like to share things with and explain why we do certain things, and some people may take that as standoffish ... whatever you want to call it. Really, when I roll through that tunnel, it’s all business for me. We get paid a lot of money to do what we do and there’s a lot of people who are dependent upon that car running well and us getting everything out of it as a team. So I’m very, very loyal to my team and the company.
I don’t ever leave my garage stall during practice. I don’t want to know what other people are doing. I don’t look at the scoreboard. When we’re outside of the racetrack and in our team meetings, you need to communicate with your teammates and do what’s best for the company in order to give the people that work there the best opportunity to succeed and maximize the potential of their job. So I guess if I’m on your team, I’m going to be a good teammate. If I’m not on your team, you probably don’t like me.
Q: A famous chef wants you to invest in the new restaurant he’s opening, but he wants you to pick the cuisine. What type of food would your restaurant serve?
A: Oh, I’d go straight to Mexican food. That’s by far my favorite. We’d have to have some really simple plates. I like straightforward Mexican food – not all fancied up. If I know where they are when I go home (to Bakersfield, Calif.) sometimes, we’ll still eat off the same taco trucks. But if my wife (DeLana) is with me, she’s pretty much out.
So Food Truck Friday with Kevin Harvick's Mexican restaurant?
That’s right. If we can get some paper plates and serve the food off the truck – that’s what we should do, and we’ll have the chef inside.
Q: What is the most daring thing you’ve done outside of racing?
A: This still revolves around racing, but the most daring thing we’ve ever done is own those damn race teams (at Kevin Harvick Inc.). That was probably the thing you didn’t realize what you were getting into. Owning those teams was – whew – a lot of work. From a financial standpoint, you had to fill a lot of the gaps when the sponsorship wasn’t there or when you needed to catch up. It was a lot of risk that luckily we don’t have now.
People don’t realize that no matter how much money you have, this is a big risk game that requires a big pile of money. We weren’t at the level a lot of these Cup owners are at, but it’s a risky business. (Harvick got out of race team ownership after the 2011 season).
Q: In a move to generate more excitement, NASCAR decides in an upcoming race they’re going to require every driver to have a passenger in the car. You get to pick the passenger. Who do you choose?
A: I’d start in the (NASCAR scoring) tower and pick (David) Hoots or some of those guys up there so they can understand a bit more about certain situations. For example: When they throw a red flag and we sit in the car not moving and it’s like 100 degrees outside, you’re sweating to death in what feels like an oven.
It would be great for any of those guys to experience some of those situations.
Like is there oil on the track? Did the Speedy Dry actually pick up the oil, or is there still oil? They do a great job, but in the car it’s just a different perspective because you have to drive it down in there and trust that it’s going to work.
Q: How often do you talk inside the car without hitting the radio button?
A: A lot more than I used to. (Laughs) My radio is very quiet nowadays, just because I’ve gotten in so much trouble through the years. I don’t know why I had to push the button back then. Now I just sit in there and talk to myself and shake my head and pound on the steering wheel. There’s really nothing good that can come over the radio when you’re frustrated. It’s better if you just scream to yourself.
Q: Who will win the Sprint Cup in 2021?
A: It all depends on when everybody decides to retire. There’s a time gap in talent that was allowed to make its way into Cup because a bunch of us have been here a long time. I’ve been here since I was 25. You have Jimmie Johnson, Kurt (Busch), a whole bunch of people that locked a whole generation out. Now you have this younger crop of guys who are going to be here longer. It really just depends, but I hope it’s us.
Q: That leads me into the next question. I’ve been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. The last interview was with Jamie McMurray, and he wanted to know how much longer you think you’ll race (Harvick is 40).
A: Well, we do everything
in five-year chunks. We planned it for another five years to be in the car and drive (in a contract extension announced in May). When you get to that particular point, we’ll evaluate it again. It depends where my personal life is, with Keelan in school, how he’s doing in school, where you think he’s going as a person. I don’t know that I’ve actually ever been home on his birthday (Keelan turned 4 last week).
You look at the way racing is now, and it’s still very dangerous, but it’s much different than it was back when you had (Dale) Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and all those guys who were right around 50. I think you could go into your 50s, it’s just a matter of where you feel like you’re at with accepting the grind. Because the grind is a really big part of when and why you retire.
I don’t have a 100% answer on that. You hear some of these guys who have retired talk about missing the competition and they retired when they were still performing well. But the evaluation for my personal life will be different when Keelan is 9, too. So you have to balance all that.
And do you have a question for the next interview? It’s with Darrell Wallace Jr.
I want to know what he’s scared of. Ask him if he’s scared of the dark.
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