NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference April 13, 2004 This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Teleconference featured Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo and team owner of the No. 6 GM Goodwrench Silverado driven by ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
April 13, 2004
This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Teleconference featured Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo and team owner of the No. 6 GM Goodwrench Silverado driven by Matt Crafton.
Harvick and Crafton discuss the upcoming NASCAR race weekend at Martinsville Speedway, which features both the NEXTEL Cup and Craftsman Truck events. Harvick is currently 7th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings and Crafton is 10th in the Craftsman Truck points.
ON HAVING MATT CRAFTON RACING AS HIS DRIVER IN THE TRUCK SERIES
"I think when we first started the truck deal I started in 2001 and really started trying to create a race team that I thought was a top-notch team with great equipment and to do everything we could to try and win races. It developed to where it outgrew my racing every once in a while. GM Goodwrench stepped up and wanted to do something in the Truck Series this year We put a program together and I felt that when I was in the Truck Series, we didn't really have everything that we needed - not that everything we did there wasn't up to speed. It just wasn't up to the level of Richard Childress Racing or Hendrick Motorsports. I went back and raced and felt that Matt was at the same point in his career that I was when I got the opportunity with Richard. I felt he was capable of doing what we needed to do to win races if we put him in the right stuff.
"I think we're on the right track to do that and obviously we have a whole new race team. We've had to get everything built and going in the right direction. That's being the biggest challenge. And now that we're getting close to having all that complete, it should be a fun year."
ON RACING WITH MATT CRAFTON IN THE FEATHERLITE SERIES
"I'm sure he has passed me on the track. I know he passed me at Altamonte and I know he brings that up. Like I try to tell him, it's not all about the battles. It's about the wars. When you get to the end of the year, you need to be on top - not just each week."
ON HIS NEXTEL CUP SERIES SEASON SO FAR
"It's been an up-and-down season to say the least. We've struggled a little bit in the beginning part of the races and then have seemed to get our cars where they needed to be toward the end of the races. We had a chance to win at Las Vegas and ran out of gas. That was a little disappointing that we didn't get to finish where we had run all day. Atlanta was our biggest struggle of the year. We missed it there for some reason. We had a really good car in Happy Hour and came back the next morning and couldn't get anything. We haven't won a race yet. But the team has shown a lot of promise just because of the fact that we can take our cars at the beginning of the race when we think they're terrible and then turned them around a couple of times and make Top 10, top five runs out of them. That's a good sign for a race team."
DOES THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM FOR THIS YEAR MAKE THAN AN EVEN HIGHER PRIORITY?
"Yes. Everything that we're doing now is to position ourselves for the Top 10 for the end of the year and making sure we've got our cars where we need to have them. We need to maintain ourselves for where we need to be. Not that we're not trying to win races, it's just that we know that the ultimate picture is the last 10 races. So, you just have to do what we have to do. We came back after Texas and had a brand new car sitting in the shop getting ready to go to the paint shop for California, and we came back and cut the whole body off of it and they're working hard to put a new body on it. That's what it's all about. You have to do what you need to do to position yourself in the right place at the end of the year."
HAS BEING AN OWNER OF A NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK TEAM CHANGED YOUR VIEW OF THE SPORT?
"It's definitely changed a lot of perspective I have on a lot of things. We hear a lot of people bash the way NASCAR wants to do things. Not to pinpoint any one thing, but when you're sitting on the other side of the fence you understand why they're doing things. The biggest thing is that it's helped my relationship with Richard (Childress) in understanding where he's coming from and why he does certain things a certain way. I can relate to him now because I have more of an understanding on where he's coming from on those issues. I think more than anything, it's helped me understand him on a lot of different things."
ON THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, DO YOU START NOW LOOKING AT RACES WHERE YOU NEED TO DO BETTER?)
"I think everybody wants to get through the 26 races knowing they have to be in the Top 10 and wanting to use a few tests as possible to stay in the Top 10. You want to use as few tests as you can but you also have to get yourself to the level of where you think you need to be week in and week out."
REGARDING TALLADEGA, WHAT'S THE FIRST THING THAT POPS INTO YOUR HEAD?
"We have a chance to win. You know you have to miss the big wreck and that's probably the biggest thing going in. You know you have a fifty-fifty chance of being in the right spot. If you can have a good car and keep yourself in position at the front of the pack then usually you can miss that wreck. But sometimes, that's the start of the wreck. In the last couple of years, Talladega and Daytona have been good race tracks for us. We look forward to going there and put a lot of effort into those programs."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT CLINT BOWYER AND WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS?
"I have actually latched on to Clint as a friend and really tried to do everything I can to explain the situations and help him with whatever he needs help in. I think he can get it done in all the ways he needs to. On whether rookie drivers should do the things he did last week (Busch race at Nashville), I don't think he did anything wrong. I called and left a message on his cell phone after the race and told him I thought he did everything he needed to do to try to win the race and that we wouldn't expect anything less of him. He's got a lot of talent. He's got a really good feel for a race car. Anybody who can race on dirt and asphalt week in and week out and win at both series has obviously got really good car skills. I think he did a great job last week. He dominated the race. Had it not been for Robby Gordon's tire falling off the car, he would have won the race going away. I think he's going to be a great asset for RCR."
DO YOU SEE A LITTLE BIT OF YOURSELF IN HIM?
"I see a lot of myself in him. He's really calm and quiet - not real quiet - but he's relaxed off the race track. At the race track he's very competitive. When he gets in the race car, he wants to do whatever he has to do to win a race. I see a lot of myself in him. I'll do whatever it takes to help him succeed."
ARE THE DRIVERS GOING TO HAVE TO REALLY POLICE THEMSELVES ON A HOT-TEMPERED TRACK LIKE MARTINSVILLE?
"I don't really know how to answer that because I'm one of those types of people who gets wound up and cares a lot about what I do and puts a lot of emotion into it. Over the last few years I've kind of learned that you have to carry some things back to your house and vent away from everything that's outside. Martinsville and Bristol are two places that bring out a little extra emotion and I kind of like that."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO RACING IN THE BUSCH SERIES IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE CUP SERIES?
"For me, some of the biggest advantages are just being in the seat before you get into the NEXTEL Cup car before you have to go out and blast a couple of qualifying runs on Friday. You get to race on Saturday and make a couple hundred laps before you get in the Cup car. You get to see tire wear and the grooves and things like that. Secondly, I just enjoy being at the race track and in the race car. I just like to race. The third most important thing is that it brings more revenue to the RCR organization and let's us do more things throughout the company and brings another corporate sponsor, like the Hershey's Corporation, into the company. It brings a big partner into the company."
ON ENTERING AND EXITING THE CORNER AT MARTINSVILLE WITH A BUNCH OF CARS AROUND YOU DURING THE RACE
"You have to make your car turn through the center of the corner and be able to get up off the corner with the gas pedal as close to the floor as you can get it to get forward bite. So it's kind of a fine line in making the car turn and getting the grip that you need up off the corner. The second thing is that you have to survive and do what you have to do to keep the fenders on and the radiator in the thing and make sure you make all 500 laps. If you're not around 400 laps into the race, you're not going to have any chance of winning the race. I'd say the center of the corner is probably the first key. You've got to get through there and you've got to get up off the corner with good bite.
"You've got to finagle your way into a position to do what you need to do. It makes it a little hard to pass. You've got to back the corner up and try to get up underneath somebody. There is a second groove that's come into play now where you can race on the outside of somebody too. It's just a hard place to pass on. Your car has to handle good in the middle of the corner so you can turn up underneath somebody getting off the corner."
ON RUNNING AT THE END OF THE RACE FOR 46 CONSECUTIVE RACES, WHICH IS THE LONGEST ACTIVE STREAK WITHOUT A DNF
"I'm glad you brought that up since we're going to Martinsville (laughs). Hopefully we don't end it there. Building good race cars has always been one of the fortes of RCR. They do whatever it takes to finish the race no matter what. That's what keeps us in a lot of these championship battles. We've struggled a little bit this year but we've been running at the end of every race. We have to make sure we make laps. We have to be reliable in the motor department. The guys on the crew make sure we do that. In the Busch Series we hold that record for the most consecutive races without a DNF - I believe - that's always something we've been pretty good at. Knock on wood, let's hope it keeps going that way."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THERE ARE THREE DRIVERS THIS YEAR TRYING TO FOLLOW YOUR LEAD BY RUNNING IN BOTH THE BUSCH AND CUP SERIES?
"It's hard. You feel for guys like Greg Biffle who blow up 14 laps into the race and have to go home. They don't even know what they're getting into this summer when they're racing Pike's Peak and Milwaukee and Sears Point and it gets hard. It's hard to do. I hope they succeed. We were pretty fortunate that the weather cooperated in 2001 and finish by winning a championship. I didn't do it last year. This year, DeLana and I talked and if we have an off weekend, we're taking it. The last 10 races are ultimately important. Everything you did all year will come down to 10 races. You need to be fresh at the end of the year. And that's why you don't see me racing on any of the off-weekends we have this year."
HOW IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF CONFIDENCE AND STABILITY IS IT TO HAVE A SOLID SPONSOR BEHIND YOU?
"It's very important. We're very fortunate to have GM Goodwrench and RCR and KHI to back our two programs and all the sponsors we have like Hershey's and ACDelco. Without all those things, you can't go test. There's a lot of fat that you waste in racing. You have to try things and ninety percent of them don't work. If you build a brand new body on a car that costs $14 or $15,000 and 12 days to build, you come back and you cut it off. You just basically throw those man-hours and effort into the trash. There are a lot of things you waste. Without a good sponsor, you can't do those things. It makes it nice that we can go test and do the things we need to do with GM Goodwrench and Chevrolet backing the Truck and Cup programs."
DOES THAT CONFIDENCE MAKE YOU A BETTER DRIVER?
"Yeah. You don't have to hold anything back. You don't have to worry about tearing up your race car because when you go home you know they're going to fix it. They've got the people and the resources and the money to fix it. You do whatever it takes to win races and finish the best you can. Those few points at the end of the year are worth the side of that race car. You just can do what you have to do."
CAN YOU SENSE HOW MUCH YOU'VE MATURED SINCE THAT WEEKEND AT MARTINSVILLE TWO YEARS AGO?
"It's been almost scary to think about it sometimes. I still have my moments where you blow up or get mad. But everybody has those moments in everyday life. That moment was a pretty big moment in my whole life to be honest with you. To sit home and watch that race and not be in the race was pretty disappointing. It was a big reality check. I can still be myself and still be aggressive and say what's on my mind, but the fact of the matter is that it's their ball and their court (NASCAR's). You've got to play by their rules. NASCAR wants me to be who I am and to be aggressive and be outspoken, but there are moments when you can't do the things you think you should be able to do. If you look back at a lot of things and realize where people were coming from, it helps to understand a lot of the situations I was in."
HOW AWKWARD WAS IT IN YOUR MONDAY MORNING MEETING AT RCR WHEN ROBBY GORDON WAS THERE AND HE WAS INVOLVED IN THE WRECKS THAT TOOK OUT BOTH YOUR BUSCH CARS?
"It was disappointing for the whole company. Our only chance to win the race was hoping we could get down in front of Robby and he took us up the race track and we never even had a chance to fend the guys off behind us. That's not to say that we would or wouldn't have won the race. Richard does everything he can to help us on our side projects. The fact of the matter is, without the No. 2, the No. 21, the No. 29, 30, and 31, Robby doesn't have anything and I don't have anything. It's just really disappointing the way the whole situation went down. I don't know how to fix it. It happens constantly and over and over. It's one of those things where it's unfortunate."
ON POSSIBLY MOVING SOME OF THE RACE DATES FROM THE SOUTHEAST TO OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY
"Some people aren't going to like my answer. It goes from Atlanta. I think it goes from Darlington and Rockingham and Charlotte too. The grandstands aren't full. The people knew the situation Rockingham is in. They knew the situation Darlington was in. It stinks. They all have traditions in our sport, but we have to take our sport to where the demands are and where the grandstands will be full. That's what keeps our sponsors happy and television happy and everybody happy. There are a lot of traditionalists in our sport and I respect those people and understand where they're coming from. I wish it could be that way and that we could race on the same race tracks every year. But when you're getting 200,000 people at Texas and Las Vegas and places like that, it speaks for itself. We've got to keep our sponsors happy."