Daytona 500 media day visit: McMurray, Burton and Harvick

175 views

Team Chevy Racing press release

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed race day routines, EFI, pack drafting, and other topics.

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

ON RACE DAY PREPARATION: “My whole life is really structured. I do everything the same every single day. The whole race weekends are all the same. We do all of our appearances before the driver’s meeting, and then we used to have a team meeting 45 minutes before the driver’s meeting and as soon as that was over we would go to the driver’s meeting and then have some lunch afterwards and hang out in the motorhome until it is time to go. I didn’t realize it Christy (wife) pointed it out to me that I become weird a few hours before the race, I get real quiet and I never really noticed until she pointed it out and I realized that I do. I get very short with people a few hours before the race. I think it is because you are thinking about everything that is getting ready to happen and it is hard to go from signing autographs, telling stories at a hospitality tent to then racing a car immediately, so I think you have to have a little transition period.”

TELL ME THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOW YOU GET READY FOR THE RACES NOW COMPARED TO THE VERY FIRST TIME YOU CAME HERE, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THOSE TWO? “Not much, probably very similar, I don’t know. I think you get a routine together and you just stick with that and that is what you are comfortable with. I know not every driver does the same thing. I see some guys, they go to their hauler to put their uniform on, I would not want to go to the hauler before the race to put my uniform on because there is a lot going on there, a lot of distractions. Everyone has their own routine and for me it has been the same since the start of my career. “

WERE YOU MORE EXCITED THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME HERE? “No, I don’t think that has changed. I was excited to get down here yesterday. You couldn’t wait. I still have a hard time sleeping on Thursday nights before Friday practice when we go to a new track. It is still very exciting and just really excited about getting there.”

DOES LIFE CHANGE WHEN YOU WIN THE DAYTONA 500? “Maybe, I think if you let it change you it could. For me, I think it would be different if the Daytona 500 was Homestead and vice versa, because you would have months of enjoyment and savoring it, but you have about thirty minutes to savor it and then they send you on a crazy media tour and by the time the media tour is over you are worn out and it is time to go to the next race. They latterly land you at the next race. It is hard to enjoy that and savor it.”

MAYBE IT WILL CHANGE WHEN YOU ARE A 65 YEAR OLD AND CONSIDERED A DAYTONA 500 WINNER? “I think I view a lot of that, a title as being a winner of any race. I think you probably enjoy that more when you are retired than at the moment. For sure, I think so.”

OTHER THAN EVERY OTHER RACE OF THE YEAR, THIS IS THE ONE YOU HAVE THE MOST TIME TO PREPARE FOR, THAT IS HOW IT IS DIFFERENT: “Yea, and this could be different to if it were at a typical race track for us, where when you look at the practice sheet on Friday when guys unload and the first four or five that are fastest, normally are the four or five that have the greatest chance to win the race. This place, the guy that leads at the white flag, most likely will not win the race. His odds are not that great that he will win, so it would be wonderful if you could know the results before you got here because you would probably enjoy everything leading up to it much more but there is so many unknowns leading up to it that you don’t have a clue how you are going to finish in the race.”

THIS YEAR THE FACT THAT YOU ARE GOING TO EFI, HOW MUCH WILL THAT CHANGE HOW THE RACE WILL HAPPEN AND HOW YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL IN THE CAR? “I don’t think at plate tracks you are going to see much difference. I don’t think that driver’s are going to talk about much difference. I think when we get to Phoenix, and some of those other tracks, there are going to be some differences. NASCAR has a fairly open window as to what you can do to manipulate the fuel injection; the way the car drives, the way it slows down and I think you will see some difference there. You hear guys talk about it more.”

IF YOU GO ON A LONG RUN, USED TO YOU COULD CHANGE THE TIMING, YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT ANYMORE: “Yea, but the difference of what they used to allow you to change, I never could feel it anyway. You could change between distributors or boxes. Now with fuel injection, it is a significant difference now, but you are committed to it for the whole race. You cannot change it throughout the run, I believe they lock that fuel injection box on Sunday morning, so whatever you choose, be good or bad, that is what you have. There is going to be some learning curves with all that. We came down here for speedweeks and no one talked about fuel injection and everyone talked about tandem drafting, but I think when we get to Phoenix, Vegas, that is going to be the story is how guys are using that to their advantage or the issues that come with it, because there is going to be some little issues for each team with engines shutting off, weather it is the struck throttle over ride that they have built in, there is a lot of stuff there and I would be shocked if there were no small issues with it.”

YOU MENTIONED THE TANDEM RACING, HOW MUCH OF THAT DO YOU THINK THERE IS GOING TO BE HERE? “I don’t think anyone really knows yet, how much we are going to have. They changed the rules a little bit since we have been down here and a lot of it is going to depend on how that affects the cooling of the cars, when we were down here for the test, with one set up you literally could not push for a whole lap without overheating. With another configuration, the best configuration, it was maybe six laps was the most you could push before you would switch, and really only being able to push for two or three laps, I don’t think you will see guys doing much of that early in the race because when you go to make that exchange, when you are all by yourself at a test, it is one thing, when you try to make the exchange with thirty other cars on the race track, it is so much harder to do. I think the time difference that you will lose between that, I don’t know that it is going to be a big advantage.”

HOW DO YOU GO IN STRATEGIZING FOR THIS RACE? “Well you don’t have a strategy, really the Shootout is going to set the tone for what you can do, but the other thing is, when it comes to the Daytona 500; when we were down here testing and you were pushing a guy, you would let the water temperature get out of control just to see what was going to happen. When you come down here for the Daytona 500, you will not take the chance early in the race of continuing to push the guy with the water temperature going up because it will ruin your race later on. Testing was testing and I think guys pushed the limits of the cars more than they will when we are here for the 500.”

IS EFI GOING TO CHANGE QUALIFYING NOW? BECAUSE SPEEDS ARE GOING DOWN FOR QUALIFYING: “No, they are going to qualify quite a bit faster I think. The cars are going to qualify at 190 probably or something like that. Maybe a little faster than that, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fuel injection as much as it does the plate and spoiler that NASCAR has given us. I don’t know that for a fact, but I think speeds are going to be quite a bit faster than what they were, I think they will be over 190 for sure. We were down to 175, weren’t we?”

DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER THAT YOU WILL QUALIFY CLOSER TO RACE SPEEDS? “No, it doesn’t make any difference. I think we could run around here at about 220 and still wide open with no problem. The track has so much grip that the difference between 175 and 200, other than the engines sounding terrible with the lower RMP’s you can’t tell a difference.”

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CAR NAME FOR ONE OF YOUR CARS? “We don’t name our cars”

DO YOU HAVE AN EXERCISE ROUTINE? “Yes, every day I run forty minutes of cardio.”

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL TO? “Anywhere my wife would like to go, she likes the beach.”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN OVERSEAS? “Yes, I have been to Italy.”

INAUDIBLE: “Here is what I will tell you, and my wife will laugh at me because we just had Valentine’s Day, well no, I think Valentine’s Day is the most overrated thing in the world, because I think you should be nice everyday not just one day. Right, you shouldn’t just pick one day to be nice.”

DID YOU USE THE OFF SEASON TO RECHARGE? “Off season was really busy, but I really don’t like the off time. When we have time off, I am really ready to get back going again. It was really busy but it was good.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE CHANCES OF WINNING THE 500 AGAIN? “I think that they are better than one in forty-three. I think anybody can win. I think that, I don’t know until we see if it is a large pack, I think I have a better chance of winning than the tandem drafting. I don’t know why but it just seems like for Juan (Montoya) and I, we run really well at the tandem races but something happens to one of us and it eliminates the other guy. It just seems like every race one of us gets caught up in a wreck, or a part will fail, we had an engine failure last year that eliminates you from the race then. I think if it is a big pack, for me I feel like that increases my chance.”

LET’S SAY IT’S A POSITION RACE, WHERE IT IS PACK RACING MOST OF THE TIME, DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL BE SCRAMBLING, MAYBE LIKE FIVE, TEN TO GO TO GET UP THERE AND THEN BREAK OFF? “It will be before that, I think so, it will all depend on how the caution flags fall. I would say, people will say I am going to wait until ten to go, when you are in the car and there is fifty to go, it seems like it is over in ten seconds, so you get very antsy, and I have been the guy that says we are going to wait until twenty-five to go, so literally at fifth laps to go it is all you can do to stay back there. A lot of it will depend too on how far the pack gets, how large the pack is. It is hard, when it gets to the end of one of these races and they get three wide, there is nowhere to go, you cannot pass. When the track used to be worn out, you could, because of handling, the way it is now, handling doesn’t go away and it is harder than ever to pass.”

IS IT STILL A MATTER OF, LIKE IF IT IS GOING TO BE PACK RACING, WILL IT STILL BE A GAME OF WHERE YOU ARE TRYING TO GET THAT RUN LATE OR CAN YOU GET THAT POSITION, MAINTAIN UNTIL IT IS TIME TO GO? “I don’t know, I remember Talladega, when I won at Talladega a few years ago. It was like everyone ran single file and we were in the very back and it was like they all raced for a second and then I ended up in the front and it went single file again and I don’t know why it worked out that way, but it just did. The fear probably for everyone here is that, and this is what I think NASCAR’s fear, is that if we do not have the tandem, all the driver’s and teams have educated themselves to know that if you race the pack, you percentages of finishing are very small. No one chooses to run single file but we all know that our chances of finishing are much greater if you do that. The fear is if they take that tandem all the way away that it will just be a single file race. I think they have a good compromise now, where you can push for two or three laps and if you can do that you will have a single file and see a couple of guys go up and take the lead. I think it will be a good compromise.”

IF YOU ARE GOING TO RIDE, IT WOULD BE IN SINGLE FILE? “Yea, when you say ride in a pack, no one rides in a pack. No one just gets in that pack and says; oh I’ll just ride here, because that is a dangerous area to be in, you are trying to get to the front of the pack and then ride. That is the mentality, you do not want to be three rows back riding, and you are like I want to be the leader of this thing and then ride. It will be very interesting to see how that all plays out. I think people will be much more interested in that they will be in the tandem.”

***

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed last year’s performance, social media, the history of Martinsville Speedway, Kevin Harvick and other topics.

Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY IS CELEBRATING its 60TH ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR, TALK ABOUT YOUR APPRECIATION FOR THE TRACK? “The history there is really cool, you go back and you trace the history and you think about it being a dirt track, how it started. Clay Earls being there, for me it is a lot of history. I grew up watching the double header, was the late model sportsman and modified race. When I go there, that is what is on my mind. I remember like it was yesterday when they announced they were going to run a late model stock car race at Martinsville. I was working on my late model stock car, had the radio on listening to a Cup race and Clay Earls was interviewed during the race and he was talking about it. I can remember thinking; Damn, I’m going to get to run at Martinsville, it was really cool. Every time I go there, I think about that. From a Virginia guy, a lot of people don’t like the track because it is really hard, it is really small, but for me the fact that it is really hard and small, that makes it special. Then growing up in that area and understanding the history of it a little better than most people I think makes it a little more special for me.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THAT LATE MODEL RACE AND HOW IT TURNED OUT? “One of the first things I remember is going there and we got there to test and those geese were all in the infield. Clay Earls walked in there, actually he drove in there in his car, unrolled his window and yelled to the geese and they all lined up and walked out. I was like that man is in control, even the geese know who the boss is, and I will never forget that. How did they know to do that? Just stuff like that, and going there to run that Late Model race, the first year I went I was able to make the race. My dad told me, if we made the race, he would buy a new car, and the car we were running was less than a new car. We made the race, and it was like wow, now we are going to get a real car and that is my fondest memory of that race. I ran second there once to some guy named Mark Martin.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SOCIAL NETWORKING STUFF, THE FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND ALL THAT? “Well, I didn’t really understand it at first. A year ago this time I thought it was ridiculous; I was not a fan of it. Then thought it was a way for people to talk to each other about when they went to the bathroom, and what they had for breakfast, and I was like what the Hell why do we have to do this? But, everywhere I went fans kept asking me when are you going to get involved, and so I started looking into it and gained a little better appreciation but not really, I was hesitant to mess with it. I kinda got pushed into it a little bit, you need to get involved, and the fans want you to do it. I did, and once I got involved, it was like ok now I get it. I don’t talk to my buddies about what we did for breakfast, I do talk to my fans about what is going on with the racing, what is going on with a particular race, or what happened in qualifying or what happened in the race, what we are doing to prepare, stuff like that. It gives the fans an opportunity to do a lot of question and answers, on race weekends we do a you stream cast, it has been fun. You have to have thick skin, there are some things that are written on there that you have to be willing to over look, as I am sure all of you all know. That is part of it, when you open up a forum; you have to understand it is coming back to you. That is what makes it work fans can respond to you, they can give you their opinion as raw as it is, as uncut as it is, they can give you their opinion. Sometimes that makes you a little upset but really if you sit back and think about it, it is ok, and sometimes I have gotten into an argument with people on it and most of those people have then turned into my fans which is pretty interesting, but I think it is a real positive thing. It is easy to do, you can take fifteen or twenty minutes every three or four nights and spend some time and it goes a long way. It gives the fans a chance to be involved. That is what separates our sport. That is the one thing that our sport has always lead in. To me social media has made it easier for other sports to open that up. Football players, Basketball players, Baseball players, they don’t do stuff before the game. That is their special little time, we are used to it. We do a lot more appearances, we do a lot more than they do, but social media is easy to do and you can do it in your own home. You can do it while you are traveling and I think that they are taking big advantage of that because now the fans are like, wow we can talk to a big star in another sport. Whereas they have always been able to talk to our big stars. In some ways it has hurt our sport a little bit because we were already open, and now it has lead some other sports to open up.”

THOUGHTS ON FUEL INJECTION COMING INTO NASCAR? “Well, I think it is the right thing to do. I think our cars need to be relevant as it relates to cars on the highway. From a performance standpoint I am not sure there is going to be a major difference. I think fuel mileage should increase a little bit; performance should increase a little bit, probably not enough for the fans to really be able to tell. Us running fuel injection is a great thing for a lot of reasons, the manufacturers do use this as a test bed. We will now be able to bring some information to the street that will ultimately will benefit the street cars and it is an expensive endeavor, but I think long term it is a necessary thing to do.”

WAS IT TOUGH FOR THE TEAMS TO CONVERT? “Yea, it was really tough for the teams. Teams have had to spend a lot of money, put a lot of resources to it, not just in money, so yes it is tough. It also comes at a time where the economy is down, so it is not at the best time. None the less it is something that had to happen. The same way with the car, the car next year I think will have a bigger impact than the fuel injection, but it is time to do it.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WARD (BURTON) GETTING INTO THE TRUCK SERIES? “I think that is a huge plus for the truck series. I think the truck series having someone like Ward that everyone recognizes, been gone for a long time, Ward had a lot of fans, people like that Ward speaks his mind and says what he thinks and says it in a way no one else could. People like that. I think that is a huge plus for the truck series, it is going to be fun to watch him run. He is an extremely competitive person, he has been gone from the sport for a long time but I know he did not leave the sport the way he wanted to, and I am sure he feels that he has something to prove, knowing Ward, he won’t be here to just ride around. He is here for one reason and that is to win the race and I am sure you will see him put a big effort toward it.”

JEFF, YOU SAID LAST MONTH THAT YOU WERE P.O.’ED ARE YOU STILL P.O.’ED? “I am getting happier, as the year has gotten here, as we have been able to test, as we have been able to spend more time focusing on the future rather than worrying about the past I have started to get into the mindset of the year. That has been good for me because last year was frustrating and I was mad about it and that did not always work out for me. Being able to go do the tire test, being able to come down here and test, being able to focus on what we need to do to win Phoenix, what do we need to do to win the 500, what do we need to do to win Vegas. Those things have allowed me to see that there is a future and confirm my suspicions that we were moving in the right direction. Now it is more about moving forward, but you never forget. For me, I never forget the bad days. I tend to forget the good ones, the bad ones seem to stick with me for a while and that certainly goes for years as well. To be honest, I was mad from 2010. I don’t think there has ever been a year, and I have had years were I have won a lot of races; there has never been a year than I was in more positions to win races than 2010 and we didn’t win any of them. That was extremely frustrating, and that carried over into our poor performance last year. I had two years where I thought we had great opportunities to win races and do great things and didn’t do them and then rolled into the next year and preformed horribly. To me those two years ran together. “

YOU DO NOT SHOW YOUR FRUSTRATION UNLESS YOU DO IT AT HOME AND KICK THE CAT OR SOMETHING, HAVE YOU GOTTEN THAT ACROSS TO PEOPLE THAT I DON’T LIKE THIS, LET’S SO SOMETHING? “Well, the people on my team understand. I make it clear to everybody that I need to make it clear to, how I feel. It is part of my role to be part of the performance too, it is not like I get to walk into work on Monday and say well all you people are just stupid, and if ya’ll would just give me a fast race car I could show you that I could do it. It doesn’t work like that at all, if I am part of the problem, I have to be a part of the solution. I want to be part of the problem if that makes any sense. I know people laugh when I say that, but the reality of it is, you don’t do everything right. There are a lot of things that you do wrong. If you did everything right, you would win all the races and of course nobody does. When we make decisions that are wrong I want to be a part of those decisions, when we make them right, I want to be part of those too. Through that there is ownership. I am excited about that. Drew ( Blickensderfer, crew chief) is very open to that. I am excited in being involved in the decisions that ultimately may not be right, but now I am not a victim, now I am able to say we made this together, here is why we made them, versus saying well, those people made the decision and I don’t know why they made them. That is a bad place to be.”

YOU OBVIOUSLY IN YOUR CAREER HAVE SOME DEALING WITH THE FRANCE FAMILY. THE PETTY/PEARSON GENERATION, THE CALE YARBOROUGH GENERATION WOULD REFER TO BIG BILL AND BILL JR., LIKE THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THE ZAHR; THEY WOULD USE ONE WORD FRANCE. IT DID NOT ALWAYS HAVE A WARM AND FUZZY TONE TO IT; IT WAS LIKE THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THE DICTATORSHIP. FOR YOUR GENERATION OF DRIVERS, IS IT JUST NOT LIKE THAT, THAT YOU CONSIDER THE FRANCE FAMILY AS THE CZAR? “I think Bill started toward the end of Bill’s reign at the top, he started to become more open to conversation. Although you always knew who was in control. He was very clear this is how it is going to be, but I think that anytime someone is in control and has ultimate power people tend to be nervous about that. I guess is the best way to say it. You talk to a lot of the guys in older generation, there is almost like resentment that NASCAR is so successful. I don’t really hear that with the newer generation. I think that certainly people disagree with NASCAR because they ultimately have to make the decision which means you are going to disagree with them, the same way you do with anyone that is in power. NASCAR today, although they make the final decision it is more open. You can have more conversation. Even though we talk about the fines you can get if you say the wrong thing, as compared to the way it used to be, I think that is ok. People are able to say things and have conversations that I am not so sure you could have before. I think Brian, has done a good job with that. I have not agreed with everything that Brian has done, but I do believe that Brian believes that he needs to talk to the competitors; he needs to understand the opinion. Mike (Helton) has been phenomenal about that. From day one I think Mike was very open to having conversation. It is just a different way of ruling today than it was in the past.”

SO YA’LL DON’T SEE AN IRON HANDED DICTATOR SITTING THERE? “I think we see a very firm, but I would not say iron handed. It is different. I would say, they are going to make the final decision, and they should, but you can have a conversation easier today than you could in the past. I think that is good. I think being able to talk about it take a little bit of that feels, well they are going to do whatever the hell they want anyway. Being able to have that conversation takes a little pressure off of that.”

DO YOU HAVE A 1 IN 43 SHOT TO WIN THIS RACE OR ARE YOUR ODDS BETTER? “I don’t know I am not a statistician. Our plate program last year, itself, we were fast in every race. We had a chance to win every plate race we were in. Obviously we did not win any of them, but we had chances. I am confident that we can come here and compete at a high level. It is a long race and I will be honest, I don’t even know what the rules are going to be right now. I don’t know how the tandem versus big packs, I don’t know how all of that is going to work out. It is a little hard to say exactly where we are going to be but I do believe that our speed will be good. With good speed, you can control the tempo. When you do not have good speed, you are waiting for something to happen and then you respond to that. With good speed, you make it happen. There is a major difference in that. Based on our past experience over the recent past, I believe we will have the speed in order to force tempo.”

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WITH THE WAY THE RULES ARE, IT IS DISCOURAGING TANDEM DRAFTING OR DOING IT LESS, THAT WE COULD SEE A LONG SINGLE FILE LINE OF CARS, BECAUSE MAYBE PEOPLE WILL NOT WANT TO GET IN PACKS THEY WILL WANT TO BE SOMEWHERE SAFE? “Anything is possible. You know the year we went to Talladega, which by the way was not the only year that this happened. The year NASCAR made the rule that said you can’t bump draft in the corners and everyone got single file, before that race started, I didn’t know that was going to happen. We had other races at Talladega where the lead pack went and ran the outside and we ran single file for lap after lap after lap, I didn’t know that was going to happen then either. I don’t know. I think that if the cars are on the verge of overheating when you are in a big pack then you are not going to be in a big pack. That is why this is so difficult. NASCAR can make our cars overheat but the ultimate goal is to have a really, really good race. If our cars overheat so easy, well then you can’t have a really good race. They have a very difficult job in making this happen to limit our pushing but also put us in a position where we can be in a big pack. I don’t know how it is going to work. I know they are doing everything in their power to make it work. However it is a difficult challenge.”

COMPARED TO ANYTHING ELSE, WHAT WOULD WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 MEAN TO YOU COMPARED TO OTHER VICTORIES? “Well I would not trade a single win I have had for a Daytona 500. However, if you got to pick, I would pick a Daytona 500. If that makes any sense, I wouldn’t, if you said to me today, after I had already won a race somewhere that you could trade them, I wouldn’t do it. Every win is special in its own reason. Winning in the Daytona 500 puts you in a category, when you are introduced later in life, you are a Daytona 500 champion. They do not introduce you as, a something 300 champion; they introduce you as a Daytona 500 champion. They introduce you as a Southern 500 champion; they introduce you as a Sprint Cup champion, so you want to win those marquee races.”

IS THAT A VOID; IS THAT SOMETHING YOU STILL DREAM ABOUT EVEN AT THIS STAGE? “Listen, I have several things on my list that I want to make sure I get done and one of them is the Daytona 500.”

HOW MUCH OF WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 IS LUCK VS. SKILL? “Well, we could debate that all day. There is an element of luck involved; there is no question about it. Ultimately skill wins out.”

JEFF, GREG BIFFLE TOLD ME THAT HE WOULD RATHER MAKE THE CHASE THAN HAVE THE YEAR JAMIE MCMURRAY HAD A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN HE WON THE 500, THE BRICKYARD AND WON AT CHARLOTTE, I THINK FANS WOULD FIND THAT ODD. HOWEVER HE SAID HE WOULD RATHER MAKE THE CHASE THAN WIN THOSE THREE RACES, HOW DO YOU FEEL? “I want to do both.”

SOME LIFE CHANGES AHEAD FOR YOUR TEAMMATE KEVIN HARVICK…”Yea, now that he is having a kid he can’t run fast anymore right? HAVE YOU SEEN, OBVIOUSLY PART OF THE REASON HE SHUT THE TEAM DOWN IS HE WANTED TO FOCUS MORE ON THE CUP SIDE, NOT JUST ON THE FAMILY SIDE, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN, HAVE YOU SEEN OUTWARD CHANGES? “In the off season, we don’t do a whole lot together. There was a lot of stuff going on, but a lot of stuff was planned and we did not see a whole lot of each other. I think having a lot of that stuff off his shoulders is going to be a good thing. I thought he handled it well with having the truck teams and nationwide teams, I thought he handled that exceptionally well. At the end of the day, there is no way you are not thinking about it. No way are you not concerned about, how and I going to be paying my employees, where is the sponsorship coming from. I think being able to focus on what he is just driving and that team, I think that will be easier for him. Make his life easier, a little more normal. When you have children, when you don’t have children, the whole world is about what is going on around you. It is natural, when you have children; there is no way to realize there is so much more. I think that some people lay down a little bit with that because the softer side of them comes out. They are only worried about the karma, other people it makes them more intense because now they have a responsibility that they didn’t have before that is greater than them. That responsibility in having that something that is greater than you makes some people step it up. Kevin (Harvick) is one of those people that I think will step it up, will find a way to be better for it. No matter what you think of yourself, once you have children that is bigger than you and now you are racing for them, you race for them longer than you race for yourself.”

DOES KEVIN (HARVICK) ALWAYS SEEK MOTIVATORS, IT SEEMS LIKE HE IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR CHALLENGES? “Kevin (Harvick), his nature is that when things are hard, he doesn’t mind things being hard. He doesn’t mind conflict, he doesn’t mind creating an issue that is uncomfortable, those things just don’t bother him. He actually uses those things and he is willing to put it out there and say we are going to do this, everybody around him saying what in the hell are you talking about, but he has a plan and he knows what he wants to do and he has a reason for wanting to do it, then he says I will show you. He is a very self motivated person, doesn’t mind making hard decisions, doesn’t mind conflict, I think sometimes those things make him better.”

AS FAR AS KIDS GO, WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE TO A YOUNG GUY WANTING TO RACE? “Well, quit worrying about whether you can do it for a living or not and go have fun. I see a lot of kids around the country that parents are pushing them really hard because they think they can be the next Jimmie Johnson. I think that, that is a mistake. I think that, you should push your children to do well in whatever endeavors they have, I don’t care what it is, playing the violin or playing basketball, whatever, but kids need to have perspective in that, it is part of their life, it is not their life. Have fun, work hard, have fun, try to be the best you can be but make sure you are having fun.”

***

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed last year’s performance, changes over the off season and his impending role as a new father.

Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Greg Aleck

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON AUSTIN DILLION? WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH HIM? “I think for me, I kind of feel responsible to help Austin and Ty. They are good kids. I have grown up around the organization since they were barely old enough to walk. For me it is fun to see them come along and they do a good job in the race cars and are very respectful of the things that they have and realize the opportunities that they have. They make it easy to help them.”

IN REGARDS TO HOW THE DAYTONA 500 WILL PLAY OUT: “The playing out part is tough to answer. I think even from the test there are a lot of unknowns. I think a lot of us are anticipating getting our first practice underway and the Bud Shootout to really see what all is going to take place. This is just a wide open race. There is a lot of anticipation, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of hype and build up and usually you see something crazy happen at the beginning of these races. You want to make it through the first parts of the race and try to keep yourself from getting torn up. I think we made it 23 laps last year and had an engine failure. You never know what is going to happen. I think this weekend is important.”

HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO SAY SON THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN WAS THE YEAR I WON MY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP? “ That would be pretty cool. This has been a long time in the process and there has been a lot that had to take place before everything to happen the way that it has. You guys have seen all the moving parts and obviously you didn’t have all the information that went with it. It’s been great to start the family aspect of our life with Richard absorbing most everything that we had at KHI. To see the depth and the people that it has brought to the RCR organization is great to have everything under the same roof and to put it all into place and to see how it’s all unfolded. A lot of people were looking at us like we were crazy in September of last year, but it’s all worked out great.”

IS THAT THE BIG REASON YOU SOLD THE RACE TEAM? “That was the biggest contributing factor, yes.”

HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE LAST YEAR? “At first it was hard to really understand what you were supposed to do. We have been so used to getting up in the morning and going to work. You see what problems have occurred on that particular day. You go in and try to unravel them and fix them. For us this winter was more about how to relax and take care of yourself, work on the house, go on vacation and really use the off season as what it is meant for. Seems like the off season has gone on forever because we have always been so busy in the past, it flew by. I’m excited to get back at the track and excited where our life is headed.”

DO YOU HAVE A NAME? “ Yes we do, you will find out what it is in July.”

IS THAT A FUTURE BABY BLOG? “The baby blog shut the website down yesterday. It did. I know it seems silly, but DeLana posted her baby blog up yesterday. First thing it did was crash the website.”

DO YOU SEE THAT AS A POSSIBILITY BEING ABLE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? “We made a lot of changes, obviously the family decision led into a snowball effect of things that started to happen. When we made that decision obviously Austin was coming to the Nationwide Series and it made a very sensible change to take the Nationwide teams and put them at RCR. The situation with (Clint) Bowyer, when that happened, there was some downsizing on the Cup side that had to take effect. You had four teams with a lot of people you could cherry pick from to make the best teams possible. It gave us a chance to start working on a lot of things. We made a lot of different decisions. I told them earlier that I have changed everything from my chiropractor to my race team. Anything you can think of in between we have worked on and tried to make better.”

YOU ARE THE ONLY DRIVER WHO HAS FINISHED IN THE TOP THREE IN POINTS THE LAST TWO YEARS WHICH IS A STAT MANY PEOPLE TAKE A SECOND LOOK AT. YOU MADE A LOT OF CHANGES, BUT HAS THIS BEEN THE BEST STRETCH OF YOUR CAREER AND BEST CHANCE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP? “I think from a mental aspect, this is the best. I never really realized how much an effect it takes on you with all the things you have going on, on the outside that frame of mind that you are able to put yourself in is much more relaxed. We made a lot of changes. We brought Drew [Blickensderfer] from the outside to bring in some new ideas. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) have worked together a lot so we have made what we felt were the best decisions to try as an organization to take ourselves from finishing third to win the championship. I feel like we may go out and it all may just crumble but with what we have underneath us we feel like this is the best opportunity that we have built for ourselves over the winter.”

HOW WAS THE REALIZATION THAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE A FATHER CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON? “You obviously have to think about a lot of things. The good thing about it is a lot of our friends have already gone through the process. I tell a lot of people all the time, we will probably be the most mature people at the school lunch or the PTA meetings. We did wait a little longer in life, but I think our life is a lot more settled than most parents going into these situations. I’m 36 and DeLana’s 38, we are looking forward to it. We have been through a lot of challenges together in our lives. Whether it was 2001 or starting race teams or getting rid of race teams we have had to make a lot of decisions and been hands on with a lot of things. When something like this is yours, you do everything you can to make it right. A lot of things you would change in your life that you want to do better to make your child’s life better, you talk about a lot of those things. It’s going to be a great challenge. It definitely changes the direction of the things you think about and do in your life, but we are looking forward to it.”

WILL THE ADDITION OF THE BABY CHANGE YOU AS A DRIVER? “I think it has to. I think when you are having a bad day and you go in the motorhome door it will be a lot easier to flip that switch off and separate yourself from the things that have happened during the day. I think that is the good thing. I think that is the one thing I have learned over the winter is it is good to shut it off. You hear a lot of people talk about that you want to focus on the times that you focus and give it 100 percent attention, but it will be good when you can shut that off for several hours.”

YOU ARE VERY INTENSE AND COMPETITIVE, WILLTHIS MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT? “The drive and determination I don’t think changes. Obviously, you want to set the best example that you can, but the competitor in you is still who you are. The day that goes away you won’t see me sitting here the first week of the season.”

HAVING OWNED A NATIONWIDE TEAM CAN YOU SPEAK TO THE ECONOMIC IMPACT THAT HAVING DANICA IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR: “I don’t think there is anything, obviously she will bring a lot of attention but I think and we’ve experienced this with Nationwide teams before, you can go out and win races and have the best drivers in your car and not be able to find a sponsor. I don’t think she will really have any effect on that other than it will bring a lot of attention to the series. The economy and the sponsorship fight is what it is whether she is here or not.”

IN REGARDS TO THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BUD SHOOTOUT: “I think this is as an important of a Bud Shootout as I can possibly ever remember just for the fact that the rules have changed a little bit from the time we were here at the test. So there are still a lot of unknowns, a lot of things as drivers and teams that you want to push and want to test the limits of before you get to the 500. Basically you have practice for the Shooutout and the race itself to make a quick plan over the beginning of next week and come back and practice in the twins or duels or whatever they are called to go into next week. This Shootout is important because we really don’t know. We think we are going to have a mixed style of racing, but we really don’t know temperatures and pop off valves and things are still a little bit unknown.”

IN REGARDS TO TANDEM RACING: “Tandem is still going to win the race. I will promise you that.”

WHAT WILL WE SEE SPECIFICALLY? “The biggest thing in my mind is just the weather. The ambient temperature is going to be a key factor in how long you can push and how fast the temperatures rise. If you get a hot day, the tandem racing will be affected a lot. The cars actually run hotter in a pack; it’s harder to cool them in a pack than in a tandem. Obviously, in a tandem you can duck out and get some air, but the pack racing is hotter than a tandem for a lap or two.”

IS IT MUCH WARMER THIS WEEK THAN IN TESTING IS? IS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO SEE THAT MUCH DIFFERENT FROM TESTING IN JANUARY? “It was fairly cool when we were at the test. I think they opened up the grill an inch on each side or up and down I don’t remember exactly which direction. They opened up the grill some, but if it’s 80 it’s going to be 30 degrees hotter than when we tested. There will be some scrambling I would say.”

WHEN YOU WON THE DAYTONA 500 HOW DID THAT MOMENT MESH WITH WHAT YOU HAD BEEN DREAMING OF? “That’s a good question, it was a lot more work than I anticipated. When you are standing there is victory lane and you look at that Harley J. Earl trophy and you see the names on that trophy and you start to see the recognition and the list of people you put yourself on there with it is something that is pretty special. This is our sports biggest race and everybody puts their biggest effort into this race because you have the most time. It has the most hype and it pays the most money. It has the most prestigious trophy and there is nothing about this race that is not the biggest or the best.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE CHASE IN 2010 AND 2011 THAT WILL HELP YOU IN 2012? “I don’t think we made mistakes. I think if we could combine the two Chases, that would make a great Chase. We were very consistent in 2010. We were very inconsistent in 2011. We had speed in 2010, we didn’t have the speed we had in 2010 that we had in 2011. I think you need a combination of those two things. You have to have the capabilities in your cars of speed like Stewart had last year so that you can have a couple of bad races so you can go out and knock out a couple of wins. I think if you have that speed in your car and that capability no matter how bad a day you have a couple of races you can go out and overcome consistency with wins.”

DO YOU THINK MAYBE TRYING THINGS IN THE CHASE IS NOT THE RIGHT ROUTE? “It definitely hindered us getting locked into the Chase early. I felt like we somewhat sat on our hands, not sat on our hands, I think we tried more things than we probably should have and probably we should have really looked at what we were doing well and tried to build on that. Instead of going down roads we wanted to explore. We got ourselves off target and never really found that speed that we had at the beginning of the year at the end of the year because we were kind of chasing our tail a little bit.”

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags burton, chevrolet, harvick, mcmurray