Daytona 500: Kevin Harvick Media Day interview

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS met with media and talked about returning to defend his Daytona 500 win, his championship efforts, the most memorable Daytona 500, the top 35 rule, KHI, his driving style, and more: ON RETURNING AS...

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS met with media and talked about returning to defend his Daytona 500 win, his championship efforts, the most memorable Daytona 500, the top 35 rule, KHI, his driving style, and more:

ON RETURNING AS THE DEFENDING DAYTONA 500 WINNER:

"I think that definitely coming back is just one of those deals where you just, it brings back everything that happened last year. To win this race is just, for us, is great; and it puts it all into perspective with everybody talking about you got to win the Daytona 500. It's the greatest race you can win in NASCAR and I think to experience that first hand and understand why the people that have won it talk about it Is great to be a part of. So it's just obviously a big deal and every year we come here it's a big deal. We spend most of our winter working to get our cars right and come down here and race, so we're looking forward to it."

ON HIS GOALS FOR 2008:

"I don't know. I know we are here to race for a championship. So anything less than that would be disappointing."

ON CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORTS:

"Well, we've been close. You know we were close in '03, we were close in '06 and just haven't been able to finish the deal. I feel like everybody is pulling in the right direction. I feel like we have made improvements on our cars. It wasn't like we had to have a major overhaul, we had to have a lot of small things get better so I'm not saying everything is 100% right, or our cars are the fastest or the slowest. I'm just saying I think we've made strides in the right direction and we're going to work hard to keep it going that way.

ON SOLELY RUNNING THE IMPALA SS THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF BOTH MONTE CARLO SS AND IMPALA SS:

"Well I think for us it is an advantage. I think our guys were spread pretty thin last year just for the fact that we didn't hire a whole lot of extra people to come in and take care of our stuff. We didn't really hire any extra people and basically you are running two teams per team with the two separate cars so it's a lot of work that's going to be taken away from the guys and they can concentrate on one package. As a driver you can come in and concentrate on one car and know what you are getting into each week."

ON DAYTONA USA:

Yeah, we have already had one of those gatherings and it's a pretty impressive room. I mean you see A.J. Foyt and Dale Jarrett and all the different guys that have won the Daytona 500 all in the same room. I mean it's just really, really neat to just kind of listen to all their stories and just kind of watch and then mingle and really just take it all in. It's neat to be a part of that.

WHAT'S THE MOST MEMORABLE DAYTONA 500?

"Well I think the best one is probably the first one that was on CBS. I think that kind of made the Daytona 500 a lot more popular than what it was before and helped our sport tremendously and got it kick-started.

WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR? WHAT IS DIFFERENT FOR YOU COMING IN YOU KNOW YOU WON LAST YEAR HOW DO YOU FEEL DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?

"I think everybody just feels a lot more relaxed. It seems like everybody is communicating very well at RCR amongst the teams and the drivers and everything, and everything just, I don't know everything just flowed very well this winter and that may be good; that may be bad. It seems like everybody has had good tests. All the testing has gone good. The cars drive pretty good so now it's just time to get over all the testing part of it and start racing."

IT'S BEEN SEVEN YEARS SINCE YOU STARTED, BUT HOW MUCH HAS IT HELPED TO GET TWO OF NASCAR'S, BIGGEST WINS OUT OF THE WAY IN THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS OF YOUR CAREER?

"Heck, I thought it was three. Which ones are you counting?"

BRICKYARD AND HERE

"Oh, okay we don't count the All-star race?"

OKAY, THE ALL-STAR RACE:

"No, I think you still have that drive to want to win those races again, but it almost takes pressure off of you coming into the Daytona 500 because every year you come to here you say well am I going to win this year? Am I ever going to win the Daytona 500? So it takes all those questions away and you can come here and just concentrate and you know what it takes to win the race and you know what it's all about when you do win the race. So you know everything that comes with it and you want to experience that again so it's definitely a different atmosphere coming in knowing that."

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED KEVIN HARVICK, INC. DID YOU EVER BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD HAVE THIS MUCH SUCCESS AT THIS PARTICULAR POINT?

"Not really. I think when we started the company, we started the company just to go out and have fun and really just try to win a truck race and just kind of really mess around every once in a while. So as it progressed, General Motors wanted to come in and start a more aggressive truck program and we put GM Goodwrench on our truck, and Chevrolet had a couple of brands on other trucks, so it just progressed from there. We brought Ron (Hornaday) in and last year we were able to win the championship so you know it has progressed a lot faster than we thought. "But five years ago, we really never had plans for the company to be as big as it is right now. All just kind of happened."

ANY PLANS TO GO CUP?

"No plans to go Cup."

HOW MANY TIMES IN THE YEAR DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE RACE LAST YEAR? DO YOU THINK SPECIFICALLY WHAT PARTS OF THE RACE YOU MIGHT HAVE DONE SOMETHING THAT MAYBE HELPED YOU WIN OR IF YOU HADN'T DONE THIS OR THAT?

"Well with 20 laps to go we had to come in and fix the front of our car, so it was one of those things where we were I think 32nd, 34th or something as the green flag fell with 20 or so laps to go. But I don't think there is one particular moment that sticks out other than missing all the wrecks there. I mean there were several wrecks that we were close to coming through the pack. But it was definitely one of the most aggressive races that we have been involved in, that I've been involved in on any racetrack whether its Martinsville, Daytona, Talladega, whatever the case may be. But I just remember that race being as aggressive as any race I've been in."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY AGGRESSIVE?

"Did you see the last lap?"

I SAW THE LAST LAP, BUT WHAT ELSE DID YOU SEE?

"You know, just a lot of pushing and shoving."

CAN YOU DESCRIBE TO A FAN WHAT IT IS LIKE TO DRIVE ON THE EDGE AT THE DAYTONA 500?

"Well, it's exciting. I mean for us, even as we drive the car week in and week out, it's definitely exciting to kind of push those limits and really just go as hard as you can. That's what we get paid to do."

YOU SAID THE OPEN WHEEL RACERS WERE GOING TO COME IN AND STRUGGLE A LITTLE. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS AND CAN YOU JUST ELABORATE ON THAT?

"Well, it's just different form everything they've done in the past. I mean we saw it last year with Juan (Pablo Montoya) and I think in my opinion that he is probably the best open-wheel racer that there is here. So it, you know it's just totally different. It's a different environment, different cars. They have none of the same reactions that the other cars have. I've never driven an Indy car, but I can imagine if I went and drove one there would be a transition period."

YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WERE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO AVOID THE TROUBLE LATE IN THE RACE LAST YEAR. HOW MUCH TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 IS LUCK INVOLVED, HOW MUCH LUCK IS INVOLVED IN WINNING THE 500?

"Well, I think you know luck is definitely involved in any race every week. I was reading a magazine yesterday and saw an ad in there for the 50th running. And I was reading how Buddy Baker lapped the whole field and I don't remember what year it was but he had lapped the whole field, had tire trouble and came in and still had a lap on the field and with five laps to go, blew up. So it is not always the fastest car that wins the race. You still have to be running at the end so I mean everything still has to line up on the luck side as well -- no matter how fast your car is."

LAST YEAR THERE WAS ALL THIS EXCITEMENT AFTER WINNING THE RACE. WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOUR TEAMMATE (CLINT BOWYER) HAD HIS OWN LITTLE STUNT SHOW FINISH OVER THERE?

"I actually didn't realize that until we were into the media tour. I didn't even really know that he had flipped. Everything happened so fast there at the end of the race and there was so much going on. I knew there were a lot of cars wrecked, but I didn't realize that Clint was the one upside down. So I think I saw it on Sports Center the next day."

DID YOU RAZZ HIM ANY AFTER IT OR TALK ABOUT HOW SPECTACULAR IT WAS?

"It's Clint, man. We razz him about getting out of bed in the morning. If he walks we razz him, so we give him grief about everything."

HAS THE TOP-35 RULE IMPACTED THE THURSDAY QUALIFYING RACES IN TERMS OF HAVING SO MANY GUYS LOCKED IN? IS THERE LESS DRAMA AND ANXIETY IN THAT RACE?

"Well, the qualifying races are important just to get your car handling right and really just get your grasp on where you need to go for the next couple of days of practice and things like that. I think it takes some of the excitement from the guys that are already locked in, but it's still just as exciting for the guys who are locked in so, I think it is just a different type of excitement.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY WHEN YOU'VE WON A RACE YOU GOT THE MOJO, YOU GOT THE CONFIDENCE, BUT AREN'T YOU A PRETTY CONFIDENT PERSON? DO YOU WALK IN AT ALL DIFFERENT BECAUSE YOU WON LAST YEAR?

"Yeah, I don't think confidence is something that I've lacked. I think we're all very sure of the fact that we can go out and win races and we've all won races on the whole team and know that we can do that so, we've won championships together in the Nationwide Series. So it's not a fact of knowing that we can or can't do it. It's the fact of just putting all the pieces together and having it all work."

WHAT CAN YOU LEARN BY WATCHING YOUR TEAMMATE, CLINT BOWYER, IN THE SHOOTOUT?

Jeff (Burton) and I will probably be concentrating on just where Clint goes and how his car reacts and just taking up notes and really just applying it to our car. Nobody really knows what is going to happen and nobody is really going to know what happens until the green flag drops and you put all 43 cars out there. The qualifying races don't have all the cars in it and the Shootout only has 21 cars in it, so you're not really going to know what's going to happen until the green flag drops next Sunday.

ALL THOUGH THINGS ARE DIFFERENT AT TALLADEGA, WHEN YOU RACED THIS CAR AT TALLADEGA DID YOU NOTICE YOU HAD TO DRIVE IT DIFFERENTLY?

"Oh yeah. They definitely drive differently. Talladega is obviously a little different animal than here. The cars move around a little bit more just over the bumps, which you didn't have at Talladega. But they definitely draft different. The side draft is not really as effective as it was. It's really not effective at all; and you are relying a lot on the guy behind you. It reminds me a lot of the Nationwide cars and the way they draft.

IT'S A LOT HARDER WORK

"Well it's just a lot strategizing I guess."

BASED ON WHAT YOU LEARNED AT THE CALIFORNIA AND VEGAS TESTS, WHAT CAN YOU APPLY TO A TRACK LIKE ATLANTA WHERE YOU DIDN'T GET TO TEST?

"Well, we tested twice at Atlanta. We did one tire test and NASCAR had a test there."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF GOING TO THE RACE THERE IN MARCH SINCE YOU DID GET TO TEST?

"Well, I think that the cars are obviously going to be a lot further advanced than what they were for us anyway than at the test. So it's just a matter of the same deal as the Daytona 500. It's putting all those cars out on the track and really seeing how they are going to react and go from there. We'll have a little bit better grasp of that as we go to California and Vegas before we get to Atlanta."

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS MORE OF A THROWBACK TYPE OF RACE DRIVER BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK YOUR MIND OR RATTLE SOMEONE'S CAGE OUT ON THE TRACK?

"A lot of guys today say pretty much what they think their sponsors want them to say. You've always kind of been a little different in that regard. Well, I think I've held true to who I am, where I came from, and what I believe. Whether that's right or wrong, sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong, and so I don't know. I don't know if you want to call it a throwback or what you want to call it. I think of myself as just a normal, laidback person."

SPEAKING OF SPEAKING YOUR MIND, DO YOU THINK IT IS GOOD OR BAD THAT THIS INFLUX OF OPEN-WHEEL GUYS COMING INTO THIS SPORT? GOOD OR BAD FOR NASCAR?

"Well, I think it's good for NASCAR just for the fact that you are bringing in the best drivers from pretty much around the world, I think you're bringing them all in and when I said what I said the other day, it was meant to not make anybody mad, it was just the fact that those guys would be better off spending a year racing a Nationwide car or truck or something just to get used to the feel of the vehicle. They wouldn't be under such a microscope that they are now. So it's, obviously Dario Franchitti is an Indy 500 winner, the IRL Champion, all these guys have the credentials to back it up to race here it's just going to take time to get used to everything and to really understand what the cars are all about and where the cars are going to go, and react to them and things like that. So it's just a whole different world."

DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AT THE RACE AND THE LAST LAP, THE QUESTION WHETHER NASCAR MADE THE RIGHT CALL?

"I don't care to be truthful."

EVEN IF YOU TAKE YOURSELF OUT OF THE EQUATION?

"That's not my job, that's their job. I drive."

A LOT OF DRIVERS WENT BACK AND FORTH AND HAD DIFFERENT OPINIONS

"I don't question things that I can't control."

DO YOU THINK THE TOP 35 RULE IS A GOOD RULE?

"Well, I think the top 35 rule is a good rule. In my opinion there should be a top 40 rule. I mean maybe a couple of spots. The sponsors are hard to come by in this sport and they are hard to keep. And I think with a lot of the teams struggling for sponsorship, if those teams are locked in and some of the teams are not locked in have sponsorships, it might help bring some sponsorship to cars that are already locked in the field and owners who have been here for a long time and things like that. So I think the rule is good to help keep the sponsors on the cars that support the series week in and week out, but there still needs to be a few spots available."

RON HORNADAY SAYS YOU TOOK HIS BEST TRUCK FROM LAST YEAR

"I took his best truck last year, you're right. It's sitting on the lift at my house and it's not going anywhere. If they only have one, they are in trouble."

ANY PARTICULAR REASON YOU TOOK THAT ONE?

"I take them all. I mean I have the car that we locked the Busch championship up in '06, and I have Hornaday's truck. I probably have 15 cars that are just from different moments that I feel like I need to keep. So I just keep them.

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO HAVING HORNADAY AND SPRAGUE RUN TOGETHER?

"Yeah, it's going to be a lot of fun to have them both run together. They are already good friends and understand each other, so it will be fun to watch them race. I like the way they both are going to drive and so hopefully when it comes down to the end they can race each other and keep it in the family."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Kevin Harvick , Dario Franchitti , Buddy Baker , A.J. Foyt