KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 JIMMY JOHNS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his outlook for this weekend’s race, the proposed changes at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Talladega race coming up and much more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND. “We obviously have had good success here at this race track so we come here expecting to be in contention to race in the top five for a win. That’s pretty much the expectations or highs. All-in-all it’s been a good solid start to the season. I think we’ve run better than the results have shown. We’ve made some mistakes, but I think if we just keep chipping away at it and keep the speed in the cars everything will be fine.”
TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS WITH NO CAUTIONS, HAVE YOU EVER SEEN IT THIS QUIET IN THE SPORT? “I was watching the races last night and thinking it’s just part of racing. It’s like sports in general. As you look at the races, you just never know what kind of race you are going to get. The late model race was boring and the K&N race was awesome. So no I don’t think it has anything to do with tires, cars, or anything like that. I think it’s just a matter of how everything lines up on that particular night, and how the cautions fall, and how the race plays out. It’s just part of a string of events that are lining up the way they have. You look at last year’s first Martinsville and the second Martinsville it couldn’t have been more different races.”
YOU’VE BEEN PRETTY MUCH IN THE OLD BRISTOL CAMP AS FAR AS WHAT YOU WANTED. FROM WHAT YOU’VE HEARD OF THE CHANGES, DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE MORE LIKE THE OLD BRISTOL? “Yeah, you know they were all gung ho on wanting to meet at Texas. The next thing you knew, nobody showed up, nobody called, nobody wanted to talk anymore. I guess maybe they were embarrassed that they just wound grinding it. So, I don’t really know. At least they are being proactive in trying to help fix it. I don’t know exactly where all the grinders will have to wind up grinding the race track. It’s 50/50 whether that’s the fastest part of the race track or not. Hopefully they grind the whole thing. Obviously it didn’t sound like Bruton (Smith) didn’t want anybody’s opinion that drives a car. He went to Darrel (Waltrip), so we’ll see how all that works out for him.”
DARREL WALTRIP SAID DRIVERS DON’T LIKE TO BE THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY, YOU’VE BEEN IN THE MIDDLE, WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE CENTER OF A CONTROVERSY? “It all just depends on the controversy side of it. I think as you look at the situations that you are in, it could be a controversy, a situation with another driver, or a situation with something that you said. It’s easier not to be in the middle of a controversy to tell you the truth. With the way that the media and the things work now, it’s just easier to not to have to answer the questions from your sponsors, or your team. It puts all the guys on your team in a bad spot because everybody is answering questions. Really for those guys, it’s not really something they do on a daily basis, so it’s a little bit of a difficult situation that it puts everybody in. It’s just easier not to be.”
DARREL ALSO SAID THAT HE THINKS THE DRIVERS ARE GAINING THE SYSTEM ON THIS POINTS THING, AND THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 10-12 GUYS THAT REALLY HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? “I think if you made the points system the old points system, and you made the points system the new points system you are going to have the same guys racing for the championship that are running good that year. I just think that’s the way it is. I think you are going to have some certain guys that pop up on a year-to-year basis, and you’re going to have the consistency of the guys that are consistently racing for that championship year after year no matter what points system you have.”
WHEN WE GO TO TALLADEGA, IF THE RULES STAY THE SAME DO YOU EXPECT THE SAME KIND OF RACING LIKE DAYTONA? “Yeah, I think you’ll have that same type of pack and the things that go with it. I feel like as we go toward there we’ll have to see what the temperature is as to how you race. You kind of get put in a box there. You can’t run the car 260 or 280 (degrees) all day and take that chance of having an engine failure. If the temperatures are that high, it will force our hand to run the race the way that we did at Daytona. But, I think as a group it will be the same type of racing.
“I think the Daytona racing had a little bit of both styles of racing and the race was good. Locking the engine temperature down is just something that everybody gets concerned about. Not just in our camp, and particularly with the Chevrolets. They tend to get quite a bit warmer than the Fords. If it’s just like Daytona, we’ll probably be cautious until the last 50 laps.”
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO JOSH (JONES) AND GIVE US AN UPDATE ON HOW HE IS DOING NOW? “He got hit in the head with a softball running to first base and fractured his skull, blacked his eye, and filled his ear up with blood so he can’t hear out of his left ear. All that should get better. They were just being really cautious about the swelling of his brain, and just making sure he didn’t get a blood clot. They’ve taken good care of him and everything should be fine. I’ll probably have to give him a lot less grief for a few weeks, for sure.”
WHEN THESE MEDIA SESSIONS START, YOU’RE ALWAYS THE FIRST DRIVER IN. ARE YOU AN EARLY RISER? DO YOU JUST FIND IT DISTASTEFUL AND LIKE TO GET IT DONE? “I don’t like to do my media stuff during the day. Once I get in the car, I like to be able to focus on what I do. I know it’s part of my routine that I go through every week, but I like to not have that interrupted with something that could frustrate me throughout the day if there’s a situation or something that you don’t feel like talking about. I’m just in a much better frame of mind in the morning to answer questions than I am after practice starts.” JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS TALKING AT MARTINSVILLE ABOUT HOW HE JUST WANTS TO DRIVE THE CAR. AND IF HE’S IN THE BACK OF THE PICKUP TRUCK (DRIVER INTROS) AND IF HE’S IN THE BACK OF THE TRUCK WITH YOU, YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT INSURANCE AND THINGS GOING ON AT THE SHOP. HAS HAVING THOSE WORRIES TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU BEEN GOOD FOR YOUR DRIVING THIS YEAR? “Yeah, I think the effect on the driving side of it has been a lot more than I had anticipated. I’ve been able to be really in-tune with my Cup program and really pay attention to understanding more about the engineering side of it because that’s really what drives the sport; and spending time with my engineers and the crew chief as well. With having everything at Richard’s (Childress shop), the Nationwide and the Truck stuff, just flows. And when there’s problems like we had yesterday, you don’t hear about them. They just handle them. You show up and you drive the car and they handle the politics that go with situations. It’s been a much bigger relief than I had anticipated.
YOU HAVE A STERLING RESUME AT TALLADEGA. YOU’VE GOT ONE VICTORY AND WISH YOU’VE HAD MORE. AS MANY TIMES AS YOU’VE RUN THERE, HOW IS IT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE ANY DNF’S? IS JUST STAYING CLEAN YOUR APPROACH AT TALLADEGA? “I think if you really look a little deeper into that, there’s some days where we just finish the last few laps and run probably slower than we need to run. But that’s always been something that Richard (Childress) has pushed on the guys is to make sure that when you start something, you do your best to not have that DNF on the chart. So, they do a good job at fixing things and getting them back out on the race track. We’ve definitely torn-up our share of stuff at Talladega as well. But it has been a good place for us. Hopefully we can keep putting ourselves in the right spot and keep that record intact.”
LOOKING AT YOUR RECORD AT RICHMOND, I GUESS PEOPLE FORGET THAT IT GOT REPAVED TOO IN 2004 AND YOUR RECORD IS ACTUALLY A LOT BETTER SINCE THEN. DO YOU REMEMBER BACK TO HOW IT WAS? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE A TRACK TO COME INTO WHERE YOU GUYS LIKE IT? “Yeah, this has been a great place for us. For whatever reason, we’ve run well here over the years. But I think on the paving side of it, it seems like this track has worn out a little bit more than some of the other tracks. I don’t know if that’s because it just feels like it because of the tire being softer that they bring here and it wears out quicker and it seems that the asphalt is worn out but maybe it’s just the tire. But it takes time. Obviously this is a lot smaller race track than a Charlotte or Kansas or one of those styles of race track, so it takes probably less time to get it back to where you want it to be. Really, as a driver, you don’t care. If it can be a repave like we had at Phoenix, where they go in and they really take the amount of time and effort to make sure that the grooves are run-in; and I think if every track was treated like that, it would probably be less controversy on a repave than what we’ve had. Because really, Phoenix, you haven’t heard much about that because of the preparation and effort that they’ve put into those particular races to make sure that the grooves are wide. So, if we can do that, I think that was a good lesson for everybody; but it just takes time and it just depends on where it is and what track it is. But you look at Darlington and it really hasn’t lost any speed. It’s just lost color. And I’ve always said that the asphalt might be one of the biggest reasons that the tracks don’t age. There’s no rocks or anything in the asphalt to wear the tires out and they don’t lose speed. Charlotte has been that way for a long time. They all just kind of turn around and walk off when you tell them things like that (smiles). You feel like you don’t get heard on that stuff.”
WE ALL KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO WIN AT THIS LEVEL FOR YOU GUYS. WHEN YOU HAVE VICTORY IN YOUR GRASP LATE IN A RACE, AND IT’S TAKEN FROM YOU MECHANICALLY OR WHATNOT; BUT ESPECIALLY IF IT’S A DRIVER THAT MAKES A MOVE THAT TAKES A WIN AWAY FROM YOU, WHAT’S THE CHALLENGE LIKE TO TRY TO MOVE PAST THAT? “It is hard to win. And when you feel like you make that mistake to give it away, it takes a while. You want to make sure that you put yourself in victory lane as soon as you can to overcome. I went through a situation like that at California; not this year but the year before and the year before that, giving one away in the last couple of laps. And it came down to the same situation. And it teaches you a lesson on how you need to approach certain situations. No matter the situation though, you have to move past it. My rule is that by the time you’ve touched down on the ground or arrive at your home that Sunday night, you have to be over it. Monday morning you have to wake up and be worried about the next week, good or bad, and focus on what’s going on. So, our competition meetings are early in the morning on Monday and you have to be prepared for the next week.”
ON THE CHANGES AT BRISTOL, DO YOU FEEL LIKE DRIVERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN TALKED TO MORE ABOUT THAT AND WOULD THAT INFO MIGHT HAVE MADE FOR MORE CHANGES? DID YOU WANT TO SEE MORE CHANGES? “I’m happy that they’re going through the effort that they’re going through, to try to fix it. Obviously when they changed it, they tried to make it better. But reading all the stuff this week and listening to the things that were said this week that they don’t want the drivers’ opinion. That’s fine. It’s just one of those deals.”
GIVEN THE UNUSUAL NATURE OF SUPERSPEEDWAY RACING WHERE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AND ANYONE CAN WIN, WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF MODIFYING THE POINTS FOR A SUPERSPEEDWAY RACE WHERE EITHER THEY DON’T COUNT AT ALL OR MAYBE IT’S LIKE A MATH TEST WHERE YOU GET TO DROP YOUR LOWEST GRADE? “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think if you’re going to go to a race, you get points and they count and this is not something that it’s not like you get to have a bad day and forget about it. This is something that every week matters. You go to different types of race tracks and you test the skills of your team and yourself and there’s strategy and there’s performance and there are so many things that go into what we do. Dropping races and having mulligans is not a good idea.”