Kevin Harvick: After Super Bowl fun, time to return to racing


By: Kevin Harvick, Special for USA Today

I never attended a Super Bowl before this year because I always thought there were too many people, but it was actually a lot of fun. I had a slight advantage being a guest of Budweiser with seats 15 rows up on the 45-yard line. We definitely didn’t miss anything. The game was awesome, and the stadium was unbelievable, as far as the magnitude of having so many people in such a small place. It was definitely a good time. I’ll be back for Indianapolis next year.

We attended Budweiser’s concert and party the night before the game. I don’t get out to too many concerts, but it was a lot of fun watching Pitbull, Nelly and Ke$ha. Pitbull was by far the best, even though half of his songs weren’t in English. It was an enthusiastic show, and when you see somebody who really cares about what they’re doing, it keeps you entertained. He was a very good performer, and I enjoyed watching him.

Walking the red carpet for an interview on the Fox pregame show meant mingling with a lot of celebrities — Michael Douglas, Hugh Jackman and Harrison Ford, to name a few. It was just cool to attend an event that attracts that many people. It reminds me a lot of what we’re getting ready to do at the Daytona 500. It’s the same atmosphere. As athletes and drivers competing in those marquee events, it’s hard to explain our emotions during the game to people. Witnessing the fans’ enthusiasm from their side of the fence is something drivers don’t experience because it’s always about staying focused on the race. So when I go to a sporting event, I want to be in the crowd.

This trip was all about absorbing those sights and sounds. We stayed an hour after the game ended, and we got there two hours beforehand just to witness the anticipation and then the celebration and disappointment. The most exciting and best part of the game for me was buying programs and souvenirs while roaming around Cowboys Stadium. I bought several programs for guys at my shop, and I bought a hat for Chris Carrier, the crew chief for Nelson Piquet Jr. and a die-hard Packers fan.

We saw Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and some teammates the night before the game at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse. It was cool to see those guys just taking in a good meal. And it wasn’t that late at night! They were just eating a normal dinner, I promise. Sometimes that’s a good distraction. We sit around the racetrack a lot, and it’s hard to get your mind off things. So they were well-coached to just relax the night before the big game. As good as the food was, I don’t blame them.

The Packers also made me look good. Green Bay had been my pick to win the Super Bowl since before the playoffs began. It was great to see the football experts in my shop have to eat a little crow on the fact that the dummy who drives the car actually picked the right team.

Attending the Super Bowl was cool, but I’m ready to get back to my normal job. It’s just been a crazy January as far as all the sponsor appearances, photo and commercial shoots and testing we’ve had to do. I’m not complaining about it; it’s better to be busy. I think everyone is ready to go to the track and see how the biggest race of the year shakes out.

With the new surface at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout is going to be important with understanding how strategy will play out during the Daytona 500. There’s a lot of anticipation among drivers and crew chiefs about what we need to improve on. It’s exciting and fun.

I’m the two-time defending winner of the Bud Shootout, but that doesn’t mean as much at a restrictor-plate race as at another track. There are so many wild cards, especially in the Shootout. Everyone is going for broke because there are no points consequences.

We’ll approach it the same way as any other plate race. You try to position yourself at the front of the pack and keep track position all night. But there’s so many new unknowns with the new asphalt. I think the new self-venting gas cans are going to be a hot topic. It’s a little tougher to fuel the car because the gas doesn’t flow as fast as you can put the tires on. There’s going to be a lot of strategy and tight racing. We expect to be in the mix, but there are so many unknowns.

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