NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 20, 2016
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUSCH LIGHT CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the impact of the Driver Council, his contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing, new rules changes, future plans, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND
‘We’re obviously excited to be in the All-Star race. I think when you look at this particular weekend, there’s obviously a lot on the line, but there really isn’t. It’s really just a race to go out and try to perform well and try to win a race. It’s a lot of fun to see the changes in the format and the way that things have evolved and changed and I think we’re all excited to see how it pans out. I’m looking forward to hopefully being on the race track at some point, but I’m just excited about the weekend.”
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE STRATEGY FOR THE RACE? HOW DO YOU SEE THAT FINAL SEGMENT UNFOLDING? MATT KENSETH THINKS IT’S GOING TO BE A RACE FOR 12TH SO EVERYBODY CAN HAVE A PREFERRED TRACK POSITION.
“Well, I think a lot of that depends on what happens in practice. I think it’s going to be fairly cool temperature race, so that really isn’t the thing that you want to see the most when there’s strategy going to be played out and you want to see falloff and you want to see two tires work. Last year, two tires were pretty tough to make work and pretty tough to make up ground because the cars were just so fast and everybody had a fair amount of grip. I think the strategy is going to be how much falloff is actually in the tires, how much do the cars slow down, and can you run the middle groove and keep pace with the bottom groove when you’re on new tires. That was really where we were last year. We could run the middle groove. But as soon as Denny (Hamlin) moved up, the front of the car went away and we weren’t able to make up ground anymore. Practice is important to see where all the falloff and things are going to be to analyze that 100 percent.
“It’s hard to me to wrap my arms about racing for 12th. I think for me, if you have a nine, 10, or 11, I’d rather be first and try to be on the outside of that first row of cars on new tires. I don’t know. It’s just against the grain and there’s a lot of thought that has to go into it because there is strategy that plays into it. So, I think if you’re going to win the race, I think you’re going to have to kind of guess at what the right strategy is. And you’re also going to have to get lucky because you’re going to have to come off pit road; if that’s the strategy, it seems like the common strategy. The common theme is usually not just one guy that’s thinking about it. So, there’s a lot of thought that’s going into it which kind of makes it fun.”
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR SHR CONTRACT THIS WEEK. HOW GOOD DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE LONG-TERM SECURITY AND A DEAL IN PLACE?
“I was hoping that we were going to get all this out of the way today so that we don’t have to talk about it for several more years again. As you sit back and you see all the things that happened at the beginning of the year and I’ll kind of give you guys (media) a little more background on how all this went. For me, I had an automatic two-year extension that the team held; but which everybody was understood that we were going to extend that option. But I think as you stood back and looked at it there was a lot of things that changed in the sport and within our team. We had a lot of sponsorship things that wanted to do things further than really where we were. So, we sat back and said okay, let’s mutually agree just to forget that contract and let’s restructure everything and I think anytime somebody hears the word ‘restructure’ somehow within an organization or within a team, it was a mutually agreed restructure to extend the contract and make it go further so that we could extend our sponsorships and extend our relationships that we had to make them longer. You hear the scuttlebutt. It affects the guys in the shop a lot more than it affects me. I think it’s kind of fun, to be honest with you, because I think a lot of you guys have gone through a lot of the things that we go through as drivers when you see somebody say something that you take offense to and seeing the internal squabbles between a lot of you guys kind of reminds me of putting us in situations. So, I think there’s a lot that can be learned through this particular situation.
“But I think as you look back and it got so out of control that I actually went to Kasey Kahne and I said look man, here’s what’s going on. And I told him there’s not been one person that’s called me from your organization and I want you to have the trust in your team. I want you to believe in your team. I want you to keep working on the things that you’re working on, but here’s where it’s at. Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s what I see. Here’s how it’s going to go. And here we are up until last week still running around.
“And I think for me, when you look at things and you say well, you can only say so much before you start crossing line or putting things into legal responsibilities and treading lightly on what you can and can’t say. So, you put yourself in that position and I tried to be as up-front as I could with you guys to tell you exactly what was going on. So, it’s all been great with the management at SHR. I never even worried about having to take phone calls or place phone calls or put our team in a position to go out, my personal team, in a position to go out and talk to other people. That was never the case. It was just extending an extension that needed to be put in place because in the end it’s like I’ve said several times, I feel like I’ve got the best crew chief in the garage. Our team has been performing well and doing the things that they need to do and I like the challenges that face us in the future. That motivates me to have those things in place. And so, it’s all been good. It’s just been some crazy rumors that however they got started, they got started.”
WITH THE EXTENSION, DID SOME OF THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ALL THE RESTRUCTURING GOING ON AS FAR AS WHAT NASCAR HAS DONE WITH THE DRIVER PAYMENT AND THE CONTRACTS, AND WE DON’T SEE WHAT THE PURSES ARE AND THE PURSES HAVE BEEN REDISTRIBUTED. I WOULD IMAGINE THAT THOSE PERCENTAGES HAVE CHANGED.
“I would tell you yes, that’s probably what originally started all the conversations and things snowballed from there into well, let’s just make this better since we’re going to have to work on one portion, let’s just get rid of the whole thing and start over and just make it all right so it’s all right going forward and everybody’s on the same page. But that’s definitely what started the conversations.”
THE STRUGGLES YOU’VE HAD ON PIT ROAD, WE HEAR OF THIS FROM THE FANS A LOT THAT YOU’RE LIKE THE GREAT HOPE TO GO AGAINST THE TOYOTA CARS. AND THEN YOU’RE IN A SITUATION LIKE YOU WERE AT DOVER LAST WEEK. FIRST PIT BOX. NO EXCUSE IN THE WORLD WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE THE FIRST GUY OUT ON PIT ROAD. IT REALLY SEEMS THAT IT’S BEEN A STRUGGLE. HAVE YOU ADDRESSED THAT IN TEAM MEETINGS? DO YOU THINK THINGS ARE GOING TO BE BETTER GOING FORWARD?
“I think it’s been addressed too much. And I think we put our guys in a bad spot because look, these guys have won two championships; they’ve won races with Tony (Stewart) and they’ve won races with me. Some of the things that you don’t see and the jack man was out the first several weeks and had some injuries and had to get those repaired and fixed and so we had some curveballs that were thrown to us at the beginning of the season. Obviously they’ve been trying to do things differently with formations and pit guns and the last stop of the last week was let’s just go back to normal; after we crashed you know they had an 11.3-second pit stop and those guys don’t have anything to prove to anybody. And I think from a management, crew chief, organizational standpoint we’ve kind of put them in a bad spot from trying to throw too many things at them. And when we just let them naturally do their job, especially now that it’s back to five lug nuts, that’s really what those guys were brought up doing. So, it’s just like the cars. You have to experiment. You have to try. You have to put those guys out there and unfortunately they’re getting a little bit of a bad rap for a lot of situations that they’ve been put in. So, we had some great meeting this week. You don’t forget how to do those things. They did it just how they needed to do it last week. And just getting them some constant consistency is that’s really what we need to put them in an environment that can do that and not just keep throwing things at it and keep trying to make things better. Just take the consistency and they’ve got the speed and it shows up when you need to. So, it shows up bad on paper. And it looks bad on TV. But, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. I think we just need to get them back to their normal environment with five on five off, which it hasn’t been. As long as the rules are officiated, which are still questionable. Last week, as to everybody putting five on or five off, I feel good about it.”
WHEN YOU’RE ON THE TRACK COMPETING AND YOU COME OFF PIT ROAD AND YOU’VE LOST POSITIONS, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOU FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT? WHAT KIND OF SHAPE DOES IT PUT YOU IN GOING BACK TO A RESTART?
“It doesn’t affect me like it used to. These are not new problems. I think these are problems that you’re going to have. You’re going to have pit road problems. You’re just going to have things that you have to adapt to. And I think the performance of the race cars has been so good over three years that you make those comebacks and finish second, third, fourth and has masked and does and continues to mask a lot of the problems which is a good thing. You see a lot of people that have problems with their cars or have problems on pit road and don’t recover. But our cars are fast enough to where we recover. We didn’t recover enough last week and a couple of the other weeks. So, it’s not something that you let tear the team down. It’s just something that you fix. You believe in the core nucleolus of the team on the pit crew and knowing that they’ve been there before and you do support them and put the pieces back together because it’s so easy to unplug something and pull pieces and parts out of situations and they just unfold fast. So, I think if there wasn’t for experiencing situations like this before, it used to eat me up. But at that particular point that part of it didn’t go well and somebody has to pick up the slack and you do the best you can in the car to pick up the pieces and move forward. It’s an ever-moving target. Once you get this one fixed, it’ll be a new target and we’ll move to something else.
“I feel good. I don’t feel like we’ve put everything together all the way through the first part of the season. All the pieces have performed well at one point or another and they’re all there. It’s just a matter of getting them all in sync.”
HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT AS TO WHETHER THIS LONG TERM DEAL MAY BE YOUR LAST, OR HAVE YOU KEPT THAT KIND OF OPEN-ENDED FOR NOW?
“Most everything we do is in four or five-year chunks. So, it’s really until you get to this particular point in the last year of the deal it’s really not something that you really evaluate until then. DeLana and I and everybody on our team tries to put as many things to bed as possible so that our goal is to always focus on being parents and trying to do the best we can on Sunday’s or Saturday night in this particular case. DeLana and I talked about where we wanted to be and we set the goals of how we were going to do things for the next several years and we’ll address those things then. But, you hear too many guys talk about retiring too soon and you watch Mark (Martin) do it into his mid-50’s. So, I’m going to sit up here and say I need to retire at this particular age. I’m going to quit when I feel like I’m not having fun anymore or I’m not competitive. It’s way too much fun right now being competitive and having fast cars and you feel like you’re making up for a little bit of lost time at the beginning. So, it’s been fun to kind of have that rejuvenated the last three years and really be excited about it and love being part of the team and organization and all the things that come with what we have right no. So, it’s just a lot of fun and it’s going to have to be pretty painful for me at the end of this one to just say I’m done because I’ll still be in my mid-40’s. I’m not going to commit to quit before it’s too soon.”
UNDER THIS CONTRACT EXTENSION, WILL THERE BE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU TO RACE XFINITY?
“I don’t really have any plans to race Xfinity. I don’t really want to race more than a handful of them anyway. If I do, I would say five would probably be the number and I’m going to want to race them at the tracks I want to race them at. But, I would like to race a handful of them but I’m not going to do it in a situation that I don’t enjoy or want to be a part of. So, I will do three to five if the right opportunity is there. But, we’ve had a lot to work on right now. It’s been on the radar but it hasn’t been 100 percent detailed out yet.”
THE BIG RUMOR WAS THAT YOU WERE DOING TO THE NO. 5 CAR NEXT YEAR. YOU WANTED TO RELIEVE KASEY KAHNE OF THE STRESS OF THAT. DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS HAS DISTRACTED YOUR DRIVING AT ALL?
“I don’t think so. Not from my part. I think it’s probably been a distraction at the shop and to the guys on the team a lot more than it has me. I don’t mind getting in the middle of some of these games. At this point, we weren’t even really trying to play a game, but unfortunately it kind of turned into just a spiraling out of control rumor. But I felt like that was important. I feel like I have a good relationship with Kasey. I felt like it was important for him to know where his organization stood and the talks and situations that had been there were never even talked about. So, I thought that was important for him to know. That was probably two or two and a half months ago that I had that conversation with him. I felt like that was important because I knew that there was a lot of pressure on that particular side of things to get where they have been and where they’re performing better and doing the things that they’re doing on the race track. I just felt that was important.”
THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF TWEAKS TO THE RULES RECENTLY. DO YOU FEEL THE RULES ARE DESIGNED TO BRING AND THE GIBBS GUYS BACK TO THE PACK AT ALL? AND/OR, DO YOU THINK IT WILL HAVE ANY IMPACT IN BRINGING THE FIELD CLOSER TO YOU?
“I look at a lot of those rules as just in a direct effect of the Driver Council and NASCAR meeting. From a Council standpoint we’re all pushing and I think the drivers in the garage are pushing with us to try to keep the downforce off the cars. The teams are just rapidly gaining on the downforce and sideforce. I think everybody wants to see that reduced. I think this is the first step in that process. It’s kind of an efficiency process to help development and costs and things that go with really expensive fans and seeing what a little bit less skew will do; and then you’ve obviously seen the lesser downforce package that they tested at Michigan in the same direction with some good results. So, those are just direct effects of the meetings and things that the Council had pushed really hard with NASCAR to try to just at least take a step for the All-Star Race and then take another step as we have with the teams and NASCAR moving forward.”
YOU MENTIONED THE DRIVER COUNCIL, WHICH IS ALMOST A YEAR OLD. LOOKING BACK WITH WHAT YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO DO AND ACCOMPLISH, HAS IT SURPRISED YOU? THIS IS BRAND NEW FOR THE SPORT AND THE IMPACT IT’S HAD IN A YEAR
“As you look at the first half of the first term, I think we were all just trying to figure out what was actually happening and how it was going to be structured and I think as you look at the second half of the first term, things started to happen. And this year everybody knew that we needed to start pushing harder as a group. Some of the processes needed to be different in how we approach things with the teams and NASCAR. And I think everybody has communicated really well whether it’s with the group texts or the meetings or whatever the case may be that there’s a lot of communication after really, every race; and even during the week as to things that are going on and constant chatter of things we need to work on as they evolve. So, it’s been a lot more effective than I thought it would be. It’s evolved into more committees and meetings and things that happen with NASCAR and the different groups of tracks and things like that. It’s been very effective and as you see all this stuff building up it just keep getting better and better and we’re able to just keep chopping things off the block of really little things, that people may not even know about. I think one great example this week is the kids autograph session that’s going to be in place at the race track that all the drivers know about and they know where it’s at and it’s kids only. And from a driver’s standpoint just making those interactions and different things available and known about are really steps in the right direction to make the experience better for the competitive for the competitors and the fans.”
LAST WEEK AT DOVER NASCAR CLAMPED DOWN ON THE RESTARTS. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED THE GAMESMANSHIP OF WHAT’S GOING ON AND WHAT’S NOT GOING ON NOW?
“As competitors, that’s a pretty black and white call. And I think they probably didn’t view it as that until we were like, it just needs to be black or white. You’re either good or you’re bad. When I started in this sport in a rookie meeting that was the first thing they tell you. You’re on the front row, the second place car does not beat the leader to the line, ever; spinning tires, no matter what. The leader has earned the right to be the leader. And we went to double file restarts and we all feel like it’s important that the leader has that advantage to be able to keep the lead of the race and let everybody else race. So, the leader is in control more. I think you see the leader having an advantage more on the restarts, which he has earned, whether it’s on pit road or on the race track, to do the things that he did to earn the lead and do what he wants to do on the restarts. There has definitely been less gamesmanship. And I think that just those calls being firm and sticking to them has helped everybody realize that they’re not messing around, which is good.”
ON SHR’S CHANGE TO FORD NEXT YEAR, WHAT IMPACT IF ANY DID THAT HAVE ON YOUR DECISION TO SIGN THE EXTENSION?
“I’m just happy to race to the end of the year and be competitive right now and worry about the things that we have in front of us. So, we’ll worry about all that stuff when we get to the end of the year.”