FEBRUARY 16, 2016
An interview with: KEVIN HARVICK
Q. How many times have you watched the replay of that last lap in 2007 when you won this race? What's it like to relive that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it still gives me goosebumps every time that I see it happen because it's one of those moments where you didn't really expect to be in that position with everything that had happened 12, 15 laps before that.
I think as you see everything unfold, you see it coming to the line, then win the race. When you go back to remembering what it was like inside of the car, how excited you were, all the things you got to do the next week, it was pretty neat.
It's hard to put any race together, let alone this one. There's just so many things that have to go your way. I think that year was probably a year that you didn't think you probably had the car to win. I can think of a few years where it felt like you had the car to win and you didn't win because of something going wrong.
You never know when it's all going to line up. You have to keep trying to plug away and keep yourself in contention.
Q. How many times will you watch that last lap?
KEVIN HARVICK: I've seen it a lot.
Q. Obviously your fans were excited. Did you get any hate mail from Mark Martin fans? Any reaction from his group?
KEVIN HARVICK: I get hate mail from just about everybody's fans (laughter). But that usually means that things are going okay. The more they're hating on you, probably the better that you're doing. I've definitely learned that over the last couple years.
You know, I'm a huge Mark Martin fan, too. Seeing him have the opportunity to win the Daytona 500, not have it all play out there in the last couple hundred yards, definitely could have been a life-altering moment for him. But it was for us, too.
Somebody has to be the bad guy. In the end it's still definitely the biggest race I've ever won, one single race that I've ever won in my career.
Q. When you and him talked after that...
KEVIN HARVICK: Look, I'm going to do the Mark Martin fan deal this year, too. It's not something that we don't talk about. I think as you look at Mark, Mark is one of those guys that probably doesn't get enough credit for what he has done for this sport. Just a lot of those guys don't because of the grind and the things they went through to make their racing career what it was.
Last time I talked to him was probably two weeks ago. I told him, I said, Dude, you need to come around more.
He was like, Sometimes I don't know if I'm wanted or if I'm not wanted.
I said, You call me any time because I'm always up for a conversation with you.
He's always got a great story, has great stories, has been a huge part of this sport.
Q. Do you remember any details about the first conversation after that race?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't remember exactly where the first conversation about that was. I'm sure in typical Mark Martin fashion, he just looked down and shook his head.
Q. Daytona and the championship, do you think winning one of them takes the pressure off, the need to win the other is not so great? Does it matter if you've won one what the other one means?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it probably won't matter when you haven't done them both. Now that you have won them both, you can for sure check those off your list. I think as a driver, not having won the championship or not having won the Daytona 500, you're telling a story if you don't want to win one or the other.
It's nice and fortunate to be in the position where we have won them both because they're both unique events to win. I think as a NASCAR racer, both things that you have on your checklist that you want to accomplish.
I think as you look at the championship, I'm not sure you would trade a championship for a Daytona 500 win, but I'd say that would be a good question for Tony. He's got three, so he's got one to spare. He might trade one of those championships for a Daytona 500 win.
Q. Do you get to experience by watching tape or whatever the moment of winning the 500? The championship is more difficult to do that, right? How do you reminisce about that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's definitely different than what it used to be. I think as you go through the old style, the original points system, even before the Chase, it was kind of a week-to-week thing. You built upon that.
Now over those last 10 weeks, every week is so intense because you know that any moment can end it, any moment can make it move forward. So every moment matters so much in the last 10 weeks of our season.
It's so hard to get to Homestead, and then to win the championship was very rewarding after going through those 10 weeks. I guess that's the new norm, with that intensity over the 10-week period, having going to Homestead and look like you're capable of winning the race, because that's the way it's happened over the last two years.
It's different to relate to those two scenarios, but it's an intense scenario now.
Q. (Question regarding the charter system.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I haven't personally been involved in that. I know our guys from our office and Stewart-Haas worked it out in a couple hours. It didn't seem like it was that big a deal.
I know there's a lot of guys that have expressed some concern on where they are with things. But for us, my team has kept me involved really throughout the whole process, how it was going to work.
I guess I should feel fortunate from that side of it. But there's definitely some things that have to be different from what they were, but as long as everybody was open with each other, it didn't seem like it was that big of a deal to work out.
Q. (Another question regarding the charter system.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I think everybody knew there was going to be some contractual stuff that we had to work through. For me, I wanted it to happen as openly and as quick as possible because I didn't want it to linger and have things be brought up that really didn't need to be brought up and cause tension between teams.
That was my ultimate goal. I'm not going to sit around and pinch pennies just because of the fact I think I'm being treated unfairly. I want to just be treated fairly. That was really all that I was looking for. I felt like our team did that.
I think the biggest thing throughout this whole process is seeing some stability for the team owners. I think as a sport, you look at where the TV contract put the racetracks and it put NASCAR, in general, from a stability standpoint. To see the team owners kind of get left out of that was a little bit disheartening, I guess you could say, just for the fact that I feel that's probably the most important part of this thing, is the team owners and stability, putting cars on the racetrack.
As you look at this whole process, you see some of the things that has come out of this, now the charter system, giving those owners to have something that's worth something, it's important for our sport.
Q. Do the drivers feel like they're next to be taken care of? Are you happy collectively with your position in the sport or do you think there need to be more changes to happen?
KEVIN HARVICK: Let's put it this way. I've been in this sport for a long time now. I feel like I went through it right at the tail end of its peak. I think there's a lot of challenges for the youngest generation of our sport coming through as a driver.
But I also feel like, you know, our generation of drivers has to help pave that road as to how it's going to function and how it's going to move forward. So I think there's a lot of things that have to be passed down the ladder, I guess you could say, to make sure those guys understand what they're dealing with.
Dealing from an agency side of things and seeing other sports and seeing these young athletes, seeing agents and people take advantage of people that just want to be in a position, sometimes it can ruin their career, can put them in a bad spot. I just think there's a lot of the younger guys that are in that position because they can be held over a fence I guess you could say. If you want to drive, you need to sign this.
I think there's a lot of things that need to be cleared up so that those guys don't get put in those positions moving forward.
Q. (Question regarding paying it forward.)
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think hopefully as some of those guys go through their career, they want to take charge a little bit more. It just seems like our generation of guys has had to take charge of their career, has had to take charge of how things were working, understand how they were working.
Now you have this really young generation of drivers that have come in that don't really understand a lot of that. I think you can very easily be taken advantage of, so you need to understand what's going on. Some of that responsibility is going to fall on that generation's responsibility to understand what's going on. Hopefully they can receive some of that information and start to have the people around them to help them understand it so that they don't get taken advantage of.
Q. Before you got started, Dale Earnhardt was pretty much the voice of the garage. He could walk into NASCAR. Later it became Jeff Gordon. Do you feel that's your role now?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know that I'm 'that guy'. I think there's definitely some guys that can go in and voice their opinion. I would walk in and voice my opinion. I feel like this is as open of a sport as it's ever been with the NASCAR folks and the drivers and the communication and things that are going on.
It used to just be one guy here or there. I think that has changed. I think the landscape of that has changed a little bit with NASCAR creating the council and the drivers going in and talking about things.
The restart rule is a great example of something that evolved from a council meeting through NASCAR. I think there's a number of things that you look at. I think, heck, just something as simple as that Daytona picture out there. I don't think a lot of people even realize that that picture wasn't being taken anymore.
How are you going to relate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016, what his car looked like at the Daytona 500 compared to his dad's in 1993. You don't even have those references anymore. Just little things like that can go a long ways. I think there's a collaboration among everybody to make the sport better.
Q. Who do you feel is 'that guy'?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you're going to be stronger if it's not just one guy. I think the days of having one guy is probably not there anymore.
Q. Do you think in Dale's day, a lot of it was for the betterment of the garage area, but also for the betterment of Dale Earnhardt?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, but I mean, when you look at a deal, let's just take the Chase authentics group of drivers, he was stronger with everybody. Drivers are stronger with a core group of drivers that is helping push things forward, but it's also stronger with a whole group of drivers to help push the sport forward.
You can say that Dale wanted to make himself better, but Dale also wanted to make everybody better because in the end, if he made everybody better, he was going to be stronger, too.
One person isn't going to keep this thing standing up.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: Keelan's go-kart kind of goes in spurts. You never know what day he's going to ask to take it outside. He definitely goes out and rides it on occasion still.
Q. Who are you looking forward to hooking up with during the race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Whoever can push me the fastest (laughter).
Q. You're there at the end of every race, led the most laps, amazing season last year. How do you convert those second-place finishes to wins?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think there's anything missing. I think all that stuff goes in cycles. I think Phoenix is a great example. The only thing that beat us there was the rain. Can't control the rain. Knocked two valve stems off of wheels last year leading races. Blew up two motors leading races. That's six or seven races right there.
I think circumstances, there's a lot of things you can't control. We have very short memories. That's been one thing that we've preached for a long time. No matter what happened on Sunday, win or lose, we do not dwell on things at all. We're very short-term thinkers.
I think for us it's really just continuing to put yourself in position. I use this as an example. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race in Phoenix because it rained. We dominated the race all day. He was leading the Coke 600 in 2013 or '14, ran out of gas coming out of turn four and we won the race.
Those things go in cycles. You're going to have things work out, you're not going to have things work out. You're going to win races that you shouldn't win. If you can capitalize, they're almost harder when you're in position to win them all day, which is something I hadn't really learned a lot about till the last couple years because they're hard to manage. You have 42 other cars that are going to gamble to do anything they can to try to win the race.
It's really just narrow-minded, short-term thinking, move yourself ahead and try to keep putting yourself in position.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: It's been a culture change, for sure, at Stewart-Haas Racing. I think as you look at Billy, Buga, Dax coming in to be our engineers, some of the engineers coming in to work within the organization, we have crew chiefs sitting in a circle, we have engineers sitting in a circle communicating with each other. I think that's only going to be for the betterment of the whole company, which in turn, just like the sport, you're not going to stand strong on your own. If you make everybody else around you better, it's going to make you better, as well.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I think when you look at that particular story, him breaking his foot, his leg, everything that happened, to come back and be competitive, have the championship work out the way that it did, I think it's obviously a hell of an accomplishment. You have to respect that and you have to look at what they did, look at that as a good story.
I think Kyle has always had the capability. I think in the past Kyle probably got in the way of Kyle. I think for all of us, we can all say that about ourselves. I think as life goes on, you mature as a person. Talent itself doesn't carry you. You have to have it all in the right place.
Q. Do you think he's more mature now?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think we all mature with age. I think kids have a funny way of maturing you. I think you can still have that competitive spirit and handle situations better than you probably have in the past. It makes you not only a better person, but also it makes you a better racer, because when you get all those things in balance, you start thinking about things, not putting your team in those positions to have to answer questions that are something to do with anything besides racing, those questions aren't beneficial.
You got to minimize the noise because nine times out of ten you can probably handle the noise, but it's affecting your team in a lot of different ways than it affects you.
Q. Are you still on the drivers council?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think so (laughter).
Q. How important is it for you to be on it? How important is it for the rest of the drivers that somebody like you is in it?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's hard to understand the value that you have in yourself and being in a position.
Q. What do you feel like you can add?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think when you're talking about the younger guys, I think it's different because of the fact that, I mean, Kyle Larson is probably the only guy that's been around anything council-wise or anything like that.
I think the more communication that there is for the younger generation or even the guys that aren't in the clique as far as one of the core teams that are performing well, if we can elevate the process of making those guys aware of what's going on or knowing what's going on or how to handle things or how you handled things, it's going to make everybody better in a more stable position.
I think just relating to some of the issues that you've heard about or seen as you've gone through the last 15 years, there's just certain fights that you don't want to pick with certain things because those battles have been long fought a long time ago.
There's a lot of enthusiasm, but sometimes there's not a lot of realistic expectation of making things happen in people that have been here for a while.
Q. (Question about having a consistent team and how difficult it is.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the thing about the last two years, it's made me recognize just how important team chemistry is and getting the right people in the right places. It's not that we never had the money or the parts and pieces to go be competitive, but seeing the people that I have on my team and the details that they can get out of every corner of that car, everything that we have access to, has been pretty eye-opening.
I think having a group of people that all wanted to be on the No. 4 team at SHR for me has been probably the biggest eye-opener, seeing how important it was. I knew the people were important, but seeing the chemistry in people is something you'll maybe never be able to do this again as a group of people for me and my race team, but every person there was hired by Rodney, interviewed by Rodney and Greg, and put on that team for a specific reason, and wanted to be there.
Usually you get put into somebody else's team with their people, but not in this situation. It was all built around what we wanted to build with the No. 4 car.
Q. How impressed are you with Chase Elliott?
KEVIN HARVICK: He's done a good job.