NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 21, 2015
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUDWEISER/JIMMY JOHN’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed safety issues, driver communication with NASCAR, aero, voting in the Hall of Fame, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING OUT THE SEASON STRONGLY AND HOW YOU PLAN TO CARRY THAT MOMENTUM INTO 600 LAPS HERE IN CHARLOTTE
“We’ve obviously had a great start to the year and last week was just another great week. Like I talk all the time, I’m just really lucky to be a part of team that’s got a leader like Rodney Childers and an organization that’s really committed to doing what we have to do to be competitive to win races. The best part about this team is they just keep their head down, grinding away on new things and constantly working on pushing forward.
“I heard somebody ask Jimmie (Johnson) a question about the windshield. There is some pretty remarkable video of some projectile at NASCAR did and actually changed the front window leading into last year with some different layers and different things that were mandatory with the cars. Without that windshield that NASCAR put into place, that would have been a much, much uglier piece of video. I wish that you guys (the media) could see some of those projectile tests that they did with different objects with the new windshields.”
HOW DID YOUR HALL OF FAME VOTING EXPERIENCE GO? CAN YOU REVEAL WHOM YOU VOTED FOR?
“It was an honor, first; and I think the thing that I really learned the most about going through the whole process was that there really isn’t a bad vote. Everybody who is nominated on that list pretty much year-in and year-out is deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame. My list of inductees was four out of the five on there and listening to everything, I felt like there were going to be some pretty obvious choices. I think the part that I’m looking forward to the most is hearing Bruton Smith’s acceptance speech. That’s going to be the most entertaining part. There are some great inductees in this class, but I think his speech will be awesome.”
SINCE KYLE BUSCH’S WRECK AT DAYTONA, WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF SATISFACTION AT VARIOUS TRACKS, INCLUDING CHARLOTTE, WITH THE INCREASE IN SAFER BARRIERS?
“The hard part about the safety aspect of Safer Barriers and different things like that is that it’s hard to get the barriers built and in place in a short amount of time. In the second half of the year, I think you’re going to see a lot more Safer Barriers and different things happen. I think the analysis of the different walls that have odd shapes and angles to them with the tire barriers, and listening to the explanations of what NASCAR has done to temporarily make those places better is encouraging. But, I think it’s an ongoing process. I know the Hendrick folks are working on some different things with the seats. NASCAR has implemented some new updates to the floorboards with the cars as you wreck them; you have to update the floorboards. So there have been some really positive things that come from a really unfortunate incident. There have definitely been some changes from the safety front as we’ve moved from that wreck. And I know that there is a really big plan in place and you just can’t go out and just put walls up and I think the planning and the organization and everything has gone through has been a full court press since that day.”
EARLY IN YOUR CAREER, WAS THERE ONE PERSON WHO SPARKED YOU AND HELPED YOU TO GET MOVING ON THE ROAD YOU ARE ON NOW, AND WHAT KINDS OF THINGS THEY DID TO HELP YOU ALONG THE WAY?
“You can’t narrow it down into one person, just for the fact that for me, I had a whole town behind me. Growing up in Bakersfield, California, there was a large group of people that were very supportive and I was lucky to be a part of a racing community like Bakersfield. I would point the starting of that process, and kind of until the day that I left, to when I was 19 or 20. It was a huge part of kind of getting the ball rolling in the right direction from whether it be support, or financial support. But even to this day, when you look at the things that we do in the community there or in the community here, or anywhere else across the country, the whole town is really supportive of everything that I do.”
IF YOU LOOK AT JEFF GORDON AS A VOICE THAT NASCAR LISTENS TO, HOW MUCH OF AN ABSENCE IS THERE GOING TO BE? IS SOMEBODY GOING TO HAVE TO STEP-UP TO BE A VOICE FOR YOU GUYS?
“I think there is so much that you guys (the media) don’t see or hear about and things that happen with the communication between the drivers and NASCAR. There is definitely a group of constant communication between different drivers and different NASCAR people to definitely help try to push things in a direction or bounce things off of each other to try to help better the sport. Jeff is obviously, in my opinion, still going to be around. The good thing about it is that he’s going to have a different perspective on it when he’s on the outside looking in because he’s already got that voice. From a competition standpoint, from a driver’s standpoint, I believe that there are definitely several of us that have voices that can fill that role and are definitely active in voicing our opinions. But there is a lot that you guys just don’t see and hear about. It’s just like the windshield. Those are things that we receive on a yearly basis of updates and things that happen. It’s a constant progression. It’s just like the competition in the garage. There’s a constant progression of whether it’s safety or completion; we talk about those things a lot amongst the two groups.”
YOU DID EVERYTHING YOU COULD TO WIN LAST WEEK. YOU CAME UP THROUGH THE FIELD AND YOU RAN INTO THE FIRST-PLACE, SECOND-PLACE AERO ISSUE THAT’S BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME AT THESE TRACKS.
“Wait a second. Let’s clarify the aero-push. Does anybody watch Formula 1? It’s been there for years. It’s in IndyCars. It’s in racing (laughter). If you run behind one of your colleagues in this room (media center), you’re going to have an aero push.”
THIS IS TRUE. BUT IS THERE A SHORT TERM OR A LONG-TERM FIX TO IT?
“It’s never going to get fixed.”
OR, IS THIS A WORK IN PROGRESS THAT MAY HAVE AN ANSWER SOMEWHERE DOWN THE ROAD?
“It’s always going to exist in racing. It’s never going to not exist. Your car is never going to run as fast behind another car as it does by itself. It’s just impossible. It’s just absolutely impossible. And I think these cars, over the last 20 years, have become more sensitive in aero-push. I just think in the 70’s and 80’s it was probably there; they just didn’t know. And we almost know too much about everything that’s going on now. I could make my car run fast behind other cars last week, but it’s just a totally different way of driving the car when you’re behind somebody than it is when you’re driving by yourself. Denny (Hamlin, race winner) made a good move and he kind of caught me off-guard. I felt like I had options to run all the way up against the wall or I could run on the bottom. I could maneuver my car. It’s just that he kind of caught me off-guard at the right time and I was committed to the middle. And when you’re carrying too much speed on entry and over-using the throttle like you do in a 10-lap sprint, you’re right on the edge of really losing the front-end if somebody’s in front of you. When you’re behind a car, you can’t overdrive it. It’s just something that’s always going to exist. It’s impossible to fix.”
REGARDING THE JAMES HINCHCLIFFE THIS PAST WEEK AT INDY, WHEN THE SAFETY CREW WAS CREDITED WITH SAVING HIS LIFE, WHAT IS DONE OVER THERE IS DIFFERENT THAN HERE (NASCAR). WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE, AS SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS MORE ABOUT THIS THAN THE MEDIA DOES, ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH HOW IT IS? ARE THERE OTHER THINGS THAT CAN BE LEARNED? WHY ISN’T THERE A DEDICATED SAFETY TEAM OVER HERE? LOOK AT WHAT IT DID OVER THERE. HOW DO YOU VIEW THAT?
“That’s actually a conversation that a group of us have had, actually on week two. And learning more about the process and how long some of these doctors in the background that have actually been at some of these race tracks for a really long time and know the system and how it’s talked about and upgraded and done differently on a yearly basis, was really something that I didn’t know about. But it is definitely something we’ve talked about and had these conversations with NASCAR. Once they explain the process and how the doctors were chosen was definitely kind of eye-opening as to how much money and time was spent to make sure they had the right people at every race track, and really the longevity of the staff and some of the people that have been a part of our community for a long time. Some of it is just now knowing about it. And I don’t think anybody is saying that it can’t always be better. But I feel pretty confident in what the process is and the medical staff that we have at the tracks.”
“Week two of the season.”
THE LAST SEVEN 1.5-MILE POINTS RACES HAVE ALL BEEN WON BY YOU OR JIMMIE JOHNSON. IS THERE ANY REASON TO EXPECT THAT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN THIS WEEKEND?
“Well, I hope not. I hope that we’re on the winning side of it. I think as you look at our strengths as the No. 4 team and how we ran last week and the way Kurt (Busch) ran last week, I think from a Stewart-Haas standpoint, we feel really good about coming into the week and where we are with things. I feel like hopefully we’ve made ourselves better than what we were last week. You just never know, obviously. As you look at the results, the 1.5-mile tracks have been really good for us. This track in general, for the No. 4 team in general, has been good since really all last year when we finished second in all three races. We added a fourth to that this year. I think when we come to Charlotte we want to run well. This is an important race as far as ones that you circle on the calendar. The Coke 600 is definitely one of those you want to win. I think Rodney (Childers) and the team guys want to win it, too. We expect to go out and be competitive. You just never know what’s going to happen. But you expect to be competitive and hopefully run up front.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOUR PIT CREW TO BE ON-POINT, ESPECIALLY FOR THIS RACE?
“Well, it’s a long race. And the length of the race and number of pit stops that you do is a little more than what they’re used to. But I think, for my group of guys, that they are a very experienced group of individuals that have been through these races before. They’ve been through championship races and presser moments and they’re just going to go out and do their thing. They’re good at blocking that out. But every week, if you’re going to have a chance to win, you’re going to have to have it all put together because if you don’t, somebody else will. And that’s just the nature of the competitive world that we live in.”
WILL YOU BE RUNNING THE SAME CAR THIS WEEK THAT YOU RAN IN THE ALL-STAR RACE LAST WEEK? DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING LAST WEEK THAT WILL BE BENEFICIAL TO RUNNING IN THE COKE 600?
“Well, we have new rules and we have different tires this time. So, we’re just kind of zeroing-in on hopefully what is the starting place for this week. Last week was obviously a trophy and a lot of money on the line. Winning the All-Star Race is gratifying I guess you could say. But in the end it’s a good verification or test session I guess you could say for this week and what you need to do and where you need to go and you kind of know some of the general characteristics are coming from the All-Star Race to this race as to the direction of where the track is going to go. So there’s a lot of things that were different that were great to get out of the way last week and you look forward to today, just for the fact that you aren’t going to do a bunch of race run stuff just for the fact that you raced 110 laps last week and feel like you should have a good starting spot for race trim as we go into Saturday’s practice.”
NOT EVERYBODY WINS MULTIPLE RACES THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THE SEASON IN FOUR OF THE LAST FIVE SEASONS AS YOU HAVE. IS THERE A SPECIAL MINDSET COMING INTO THE YEAR? ARE YOU FIRED-UP BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED THE PREVIOUS YEAR? DO YOU WANT TO JUST START AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR BUSINESS TAKEN CARE OF AS FAR AS THE CHASE GOES SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IT LATER?
“Well, it’s definitely better to win early in this format. The earlier you can win, the better you can have a plan and the more things you can try and venture out and do throughout the first 26 races. And I think the biggest thing is that you can be pretty thorough about it. You don’t have a lot of pressure on your race team as far as what you need to do or how you need to do things. It’s really about finding more speed. It’s about winning races and trying to do those things in the first 26 weeks. And the third thing is develop a plan as to what your cars and what you want to race in those cars on week 27 as you go into the last 10 weeks. So, it worked well for us last year and I think I feel like my guy is pretty dangerous. The more time you give him time to think, in Rodney (Childers), the more time you give him to think and do that in a relaxed atmosphere is something that really lets him….. He can shine in any moment. But it really lets him shine when he can really get creative and start thinking about things in wanting to find speed because that makes him excited and challenged and all in the same sense, I guess you could say because that’s just the type of guy that he is. So, for me, as the driver of the car, it’s fun because you know that he’s going to find something and that’s exciting.”
‘UNCOMPROMISING’ AIRED ON FS1 LAST WEEK, HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO GO BACK TO CALIFORNIA AND SHOW EVERYBODY YOUR RACING ROOTS?
“I think that show was important just for the fact that that’s not something I normally do. I go back there a couple of times a year and see the same group of people and go to a lot of the same places. But I think it’s important for people to learn more about people. Fans say they just don’t know much about my background and where I came from and how it was. So, it was important to go back there and really show them how much of a support cast I had in the town and as I grew up and how I grew up with some of the key people in the situation. It’s fun for me. And to go back to see the Go-Kart track virtually the same track that I raced on and to go back to where Mesa Marin used to be and talk to the Collins family and see some of the different people that helped us throughout my racing career is pretty neat. So, it was fun to tell a little bit of that story.”
GIVEN THAT YOU’VE WON TWO RACES AND ARE ALREADY SAFELY IN THE CHASE, HOW MUCH WILL YOU AND RODNEY CHILDERS GO OUT OF THE BOX THIS WEEKEND TO WIN THE COKE 600?
WHAT KINDS OF CHANCES ARE YOU WILLING TO TAKE?
“There’s not going to be a magical wand that you can wave to just magically make something appear. There are definitely five or six little things that you want to try and it’s going to take five, six, or 10 little things to add up to find something that’s measurable to know that it’s better. I think as a group, you want to go out and win the race. But obviously, things are going well and you can try a lot of those things, but you still have to verify them. Obviously, if it’s a fuel mileage race and you have to save gas and strategy and things like that, I think those are no-brainers. So, there’s no reason to get way too far out of the box on the cars because first off, you can’t and second, it’s hard to find things that add-up to something you can actually measure and verify in a difference. As we go through the weekend, it’s a lot of little things and there is definitely an open window for strategy plays and different things to win the race. But, definitely the goal is to win the race.”