This week's NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featured Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo and his crew chief, Todd Berrier. The following are highlights of the Q&A's with the media as they discussed the 2003...
This week's NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featured Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo and his crew chief, Todd Berrier.
The following are highlights of the Q&A's with the media as they discussed the 2003 season and the upcoming Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. Harvick is the winner of both NASCAR Winston Cup races at Chicagoland (2001 & '02). Only three other drivers have won the first two events at a track: Tony Stewart won at Homestead Miami Speedway in 1999 & '00, Jeff Gordon won at Kansas Speedway in 2001 & '02, and AJ Foyt won at Ontario in 1971 & '72.
Harvick is the 1998 NASCAR Winston West champion, the 2000 Busch Series Rookie-of-the-Year, the 2001 Busch Series champion and the 2001 Winston Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year. He currently ranks 8th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings.
Q&A'S WITH KEVIN HARVICK:
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY?
"From the first time we unloaded, it's just been one of those places that fits my driving style. The first year that the track opened, Jeff Green and Todd (Berrier) went up there and had a really good test. Luckily everything transferred over into everything that I like in a race car. We went back this year and tried all the stuff that we've had for the last two years and it was still relatively good. By the end of the test, everything on the car was completely different than it had been the last two years. We'll probably attribute most of that to the new body styles of the Chevrolets and hopefully we can go back and at least get a solid top five out of the weekend and hopefully have a chance to defend out last two wins."
ON THE SAFER WALLS BEING INSTALLED AT RICHMOND AND LOUDON BEFORE THE NEXT WINSTON CUP RACES
"I think that's a great addition. Anything we can do to keep everybody safe when they hit the walls is going to be better. The thing about Richmond and Loudon is that the wall is so far away by the time you spin out -- you don't usually back into the wall like you do at Charlotte and some of the higher speed race tracks - you wind up hitting solidly into the driver's side. So anything we can do to lessen those blows is going to be a great improvement. You've got to commend NASCAR for everything that they've done in the driver's cockpit and for making us paying attention to everything we need to do to keep ourselves safe."
ON HIS STRONG STRING OF FINISHES FOLLOWING THE SONOMA STOP ON THE TOUR FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS
"That's been a pretty normal train for us for some reason. The summer months for us are really strong for some reason. I don't know what that's attributed to. I don't know if we're just getting into the flow of things or if it's just the race tracks we're going to. It's a really good part of the schedule for us. Sonoma was great for us this year and I thought we had a chance to win our first race of the year last week (at Daytona), but obviously the circumstances played a different card. But that's what we have to do. We have to run in the top five and we've done that in the last couple of weeks. We've done a lot of testing over the past three weeks and I've been in the race car pretty much every single day with maybe one day a week off. That's the plan. Hopefully the results will keep showing up like they are."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY FITTING YOUR DRIVING STYLE?
"I wish I could explain it so I could transfer it somewhere else. It's just one of those places where you scoot the front tires. The front end pushes a lot up off the corner and the tires are really hard and you're carrying a lot of speed up off the corners there. It's also one of those places where you just barely let off the gas getting into the corner and you're pretty much on the gas pedal from a quarter of the way through the corner all the way through the exit of the corner. So, your car's got to handle good to keep it from pushing the front end up off the corner. I wish I knew why it's just one of those tracks that fits my style. I can't really explain it. But I know the characteristics of the race car are one reason that I've had success there."
WHAT IS A COOKIE-CUTTER RACE TRACK?
"I guess if you're going to lump mile and a half race tracks together, everybody is talking about is Las Vegas, Kansas, Chicago, and places like that. I don't think you can put places like Atlanta or Charlotte in there. They do kind of look the same. I can tell you from experience that they don't really drive the same. Chicago drives more like Texas then it does Las Vegas or Kansas. We've had a lot of success on the mile and a half tracks. They are extremely nice and they do look the same but none of them really drive the same. A lot of them have their similarities - don't get me wrong - but they all have their own little characteristics."
ON BEING ONE OF ONLY FOUR DRIVERS TO HAVE EVER WON THE FIRST TWO RACES AT A TRACK
"We're just fortunate to be in Winston Cup racing. To come from Bakersfield and racing Go-Karts and Late Models to have a pretty successful start to my Winston Cup career and then to be lumped in that one small category with all those guys names (Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and AJ Foyt) is pretty neat for me. Hopefully we can carry it over from two wins to three. I don't know who is in that category, but that would be pretty neat too. All I've heard from people in Chicago is that it's a three-peat town. So I'm going with that."
WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
"We pretty much go into the weekend thinking we'll have a great qualifying effort and that we'll have a chance of winning the race. That's just the mindset you have going to a place where you've had so much success. It's the same mindset we had going into Daytona. We expected to have a chance to sit on the pole and have a chance to win the race. There are a lot of circumstances that can come into play. Last year we had a fast car and the circumstances worked in our favor. When we get there, we expect to unload off the trailer and set a good lap right off the bat. That's a good feeling going into a weekend that you expect to go out and have success."
DO YOU CIRCLE CHICAGO ON THE CALENDAR?
"Oh, yeah. You put a big red circle around it - especially after you've won there the last two years. And then obviously you circle all four speedway races for the people at RCR and the road courses and short tracks and you put two circles around Bristol because we've had a lot of success there. There are a lot of race tracks on the schedule where we've had a lot of success and expect to have more success. There are also a few on there that sometimes I wish they'd just fill them up with water. But that's what makes our schedule so unique. If there wasn't a race track that I didn't like on the schedule, I'd probably be lying to you."
AT THE HALFWAY POINT IN THE SEASON, DO YOU LOOK AT YOURSELF AS POSSIBLY WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP IF THINGS COME TOGETHER QUICKLY?
"Last year, I think we out-scored everybody during the summer months by about 200 points. Matt Kenseth (leader) is pretty far out there at this point. But I think the Roush teams have been in this position before of winning championship but then pretty much blown it. I don't want to wish any bad luck on anybody, but if we can make up some point here in the next few weeks our ultimate goal is to win a Winston Cup championship. But when you're going week to week through the season you just have to race the people around you and try to overcome the points. If you go out and lead laps and win races, you don't have to worry about who's around you. I don't think we can really focus on trying to win a championship; we just have to make sure we finish races and turn bad days into something better. But right now, we're worried about trying to win a race."
YOU HAVE PICKED UP ON JUST ABOUT EVERY RACE TRACK. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU THINK YOU NEED TO DO TO IMPROVE ON AT THIS POINT?
"Consistency. At the beginning of the year we really struggled with our (new) bodies and we've got all that turned around now. The thing we have to do now is just what we've been doing for the past couple of weeks. We need to lead laps and run in the top 10 and hopefully finish in the top five and have a chance to win the race. Right now, everybody is so positive and the cars are running good. That does more for everybody and for myself than anything else. You're always going to have a weakness at certain race tracks or certain points in the races. But it's how you overcome those things that make you succeed."
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THIS SEASON IN COMPARISON TO THE 2001 AND 2000 SEASONS?
"This year everybody just put their heads down and put their heads together and tried to make it all better. We've done that. And then Richard (Childress) changed Todd and Gil's positions and that helped me a ton. Todd and I have a relationship that's really strong. It's more like a brotherly relationship. He can tell what I'm feeling or thinking without my having to say anything. We've come through a lot of things that might have caused a little turmoil, but now we don't let it affect what we have to do in the big picture."
HOW HAVE YOU GOTTEN BETTER AT DEALING WITH THE DEMANDS OF WINSTON CUP RACING?
"The biggest thing I've had to learn is that I can't please all the fans. You do everything you can when you're around the fans because they make it all go round. But the main things I have to worry about are DeLana, and Richard, and all the people at RCR and all the sponsors. We have to go way out of our way to make sure they're happy. If you try to make the whole entire world happy, you're going to wear yourself out because it's just not possible. You just have to let a lot of things roll off your shoulders and take a more relaxed approach to it. When you get in the race car, you need to funnel all that energy into concentrating on what you need to do behind the wheel."
ARE YOU AND ROBBY GORDON STILL ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER AS TEAMMATES?
"Our situation is on the Goodwrench car. I can't let the small things affect what I'm doing down the road with my race team and RCR and the things we want to accomplish. If we sit and dwell on that situation (that) Robby was supposed to go out and win the road course - he's supposed to have done that for seven years. A couple of years ago, I'd probably have been in Victory Lane choking him. But not this year. I was mad and didn't agree with it. I still don't agree with it. I think a lot of people feel the same. But Richard told me I was on the verge of having my best year in Winston Cup and not to let one situation that could change the way things are going right now. Sure, unfortunately you have to have your guard up a little bit and treat him a little bit differently, but the big picture is still what we're looking at right now."
HOW IS YOUR TRUCK TEAM COMING ALONG, AND WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM IT?
"That's been a huge process in itself. I started it in 2001 and (wanted to) just go out and have fun. I wanted to race something that I owned and put together. And so we bought that truck and put Rick Carelli in there at Daytona in 2002. And now it's evolved in what looks like a full schedule next year with another driver and I'm going to have to watch it go around. My ultimate goal was to have a truck team and make mistakes as an owner - well, I guess you could say while I could afford to make mistakes as an owner - and not have to do it at a Busch or Winston Cup level. Hopefully we can get all the sponsorship stuff done in the next month and start hiring people and really start paying attention to who we want to put in the truck. Hopefully we can get all that stuff announced soon."
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE FOR YOU TO BE JUST THE OWNER AND NOT THE DRIVER OF THAT TEAM? WHAT KIND OF DRIVER DO YOU WANT?
"I want a young, marketable, aggressive driver somewhere between (the age of) 18 and 24. We want somebody we can use at RCR and maybe put in a Busch program or Cup program down the road. Hopefully, it'll be somebody who has had experience in the Truck Series."
"That's the hardest part for me to separate. I built that stuff so I could go out and drive it. But now I'm so busy with the Busch car and Winston Cup car. I'm going to have to separate myself from being the driver and step back and be the owner and let the race fans and the sponsors relate to the driver we put in the truck. That'll be a little tough. But that'll give me some more time to run some more Busch races next year and still have plenty to do and a lot of fun."
ARE WE GOING TO SEE GUYS LIKE YOU AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND MICHAEL WALTRIP RUNNING TRUCK TEAMS SO CHEVROLET HAS A COMPETITIVE PRESENCE IN THE TRUCK SERIES?
"I think all the manufacturers are going to step up and the series is going to be stronger than it's ever been. Chevrolet could probably go out - I know Toyota is coming in and Dodge is already there - and pick up a fair number of teams. But ours will be a Chevrolet and will be hopefully at the race track every race next year and have a major presence in the series."
WILL RCR BUILD YOUR ENGINES?
"Yes. That's the plan now."
Q&A'S WITH TODD BERRIER:
HAS HARVICK TOLD YOU WHAT HE NEEDS TO WIN THREE IN A ROW AT CHICAGOLAND?
"We went there and tested a few weeks ago. We really wanted to make sure that we didn't go there and screw up since we've been so successful there in the past. The odds are not in your favor to go back and three-peat. So we wanted to cover all the bases we could to make sure we'll go there and run good."
WHAT MAKES A RELATIONSHIP WORK BETWEEN A DRIVER AND A CREW CHIEF?
"I don't really know what it is. There are certain things that work and things that don't. We just hit it off and became good friends. We never had a hard time understanding one another. Everything just kind of fell into place. It worked to our benefit because we both were coming from a different series into this and we were both virtually new to it. We didn't have a lot to fall back on. He would suggest what was needed and I'd suggest what I thought. We didn't have notes from last year because we were coming straight from a truck to a car. If the circumstances were different and we didn't have all the things fall into place like they did, it may be different today. He can say what he feels and what he thinks and it doesn't hurt my feelings and vice versa."
SO DO THE SAME THINGS THAT MAKE FOR A GOOD RELATIONSHIP AWAY FROM THE RACE TRACK WORK WELL AT THE RACE TRACK?
"In our case, yes. It's not like you avoid each other until you're at the track. You can talk to each other about anything that's not racing related. In turn, that just makes things a lot better when it comes down to performing together."
HOW DID LAST YEAR AFFECT YOU?
"I'm just now started to see the Kevin Harvick that I knew the year before last. But with all the things that happened, he toned down a lot. It was a deal where he was making sure he didn't overdo it and just do what it took to make things happen. Before, he would over-exert himself. He might say some things that he might not have said if he had to think about it. And yet he's a hard charger. It's a lot easier to pull somebody back than it is to make him go harder. They kind of took a lot of that fire out of him because they said if he did anything else that would be it (referring to NASCAR penalties). He had to mind himself pretty well. This year, there haven't been any major altercations from NASCAR. He's starting to be more like the Kevin Harvick was two years ago."
WITH SO MANY GUYS FROM CALIFORNIA AT RCR, DO YOU LIKE GUYS FROM THE WEST COAST OR IS THAT JUST A COINCIDENCE?
"I don't know. It is that way - even with the Busch team. We have a lot of guys on it from California. All of them seem to work out pretty well. We don't go out hunting them or searching for them, but they have worked out."
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE ABOUT GOING FROM ONE TYPE OF TRACK TO ANOTHER WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT?
"The speedway stuff is something that this company has a fair amount of success with over the last several years. We have a certain plan that we follow on those cars. It's really a completely different animal. Probably the biggest thing are places like Martinsville with Kevin getting adjusted to being flat out running wide open to having to let off at the flag stand to make the car turn. It takes Kevin a little bit to get back in that mode. For us, we typically have different cars for all the scenarios. We tested for Chicago. For Loudon, we went to Milwaukee and tested. The biggest thing is trying to remind yourself the different strategies it takes."
ON DEALING WITH TEAM MEMBERS FROM A CREW CHIEF'S PERSPECTIVE
"You have Kevin Hamlin and myself and Mike Beam and we all work with the same people week in and week out in the shop. Guys that work on the No. 30 car also work on the No. 29 or the No. 31 or vice versa. So it's really a fine line that we have to cross to make sure that things aren't said and that people aren't beat up over certain things that go on. The drivers are going to be drivers. They're all charging hard. They all want to win. Sometimes we all end up at the right place at the right time. Somehow or other we always migrate two or three cars together. I don't know how we do it. Last week we didn't have a Tuesday meeting after Sonoma because we were in Milwaukee testing. The No. 30 was there also. We all did talk on the phone. But we do realize when it's all said and done that you have to fend for yourself as much as you can. You'll work with him as much as you can but when it comes time to go, you've got to go look after yourself. That's just what Robby Gordon is going to have to do."
WHEN SPARKS FLY BETWEEN THE DRIVERS, DO YOU SIDE WITH YOUR DRIVER OR THE PROGRAM?
"Right, wrong, or indifferent, you've got to support your driver. He's the quarterback of the whole deal. We all make decisions day in and day out that sometimes we might want to change. But at the time, I'm going to side with Kevin no matter what. When we come back to the shop, we have to make sure that everybody here is good with everything that goes on. You can't please everyone. But we do try to make them all understand how it works and that when we are at the track on Sunday, we're three different teams. On Monday, it's one team. That's a fine line to cross for these guys."
SO EVERYTHING IS PRETTY GOOD THERE RIGHT NOW?
"Yes, and it'll get better. It'll be perfect. And then all of a sudden something is going to happen and it's going to get worse again. It's going to be uphill and downhill the whole time. I don't think there is anything we can do about that. If you had one car that ran in the back and one car that ran up front, it would be real easy for them to get along. But when two are contending for a win, sparks are going to fly. It's not a bad problem to have. If we were back there racing 28th and 29th, and 30th we're not going to race each other as hard as you would for the lead. You'd have a whole different set of problems."
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE SO CLOSE TO A WIN AND NOT HAVE THINGS GO YOUR WAY?
"In our race day meeting that we have every week with all the guys, it is a boost to have a car as good as we had at Sonoma. We had a car with potential of winning the race. At Daytona, it was the same thing. But you play your cards and when it's all said and done you can look back and see how you should have done it. It's a boost to have a car that good, and a disappointment to finish that bad with it. It's just one of those deals. As long as you and the team gives it all we've got, we can't expect more than that."