Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS met with media and discussed his approach to the new qualifying procedure, testing at Las Vegas, working with Stewart-Haas, and more.
IS TODAY YOUR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY? “Yes, it is; 13 years. This is the first time that (wife, DeLana and son, Keelan) they haven’t been out here. It’s obviously another piece of our lives that Mr. Keelan has changed. But west coast trips, as all you parents know, are not good to changes the schedule. So, first things first.”
ARE YOU GOING TO CELEBRATE WHEN YOU GET BACK HOME? “Well, I’m actually staying out here through Las Vegas just because of the travel, and having to be there on Thursday is such a short time frame at home. So yeah, it’s hard to celebrate anything anymore. With everything that’s going on here and everything with Keelan, so it stays pretty busy.”
“So, it was just a weird situation. The car didn’t have any brakes or any steering and the throttle was partially hung coming off the wall and going through the wet grass and then into no safer barrier at the end of pit road there. So, it was a hard shot. It’s a little bit frustrating because it really shouldn’t even be a debate. I know they have data that shows where the most frequently hit spots are but we wear all this safety equipment and do all the things that we do to these race tracks for that one freak incident to keep things from happening like happened back in 2001. So, it’s shouldn’t even be a debate. It’s just one of those things I guess that you just wait around for something else to happen and then they’ll fix it.”
ON TESTING AT LAS VEGAS... “Well, we tested with the no ride height rule at Charlotte when we did the NASCAR test and I just expect the cars to have a little bit more grip and a little bit more speed than what we had before. Along with that, when you have those changes in the car, it changes all the springs and the way that the engineers go about looking at everything that they do. And so it’s a whole different thought process than it was last year. And as we found out last week in the Unlimited, the main thing that you have to pay attention to is being able to get the tires off the car on a pit stop. So, we had to adjust for that during Speedweeks a little bit last week. And so, I know they’ve worked hard on it but things happen a lot more aggressively coming into the pit stall and everything is hot and so you’ve just got to make sure that’s right.”
SO HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT YOU HAVE AN EXTRA DAY OUT THERE TO TEST? “For us, not only is it a new team, which I felt like we’ve worked through a lot of things really well last week. We had some things here and there, a lot of things here and there, that we had to work through and everybody did a good job. So, those four extra hours to get everything sorted out for us is important, but I think there are just so many new things and the way that you look at things and the way you go about things and the springs and things that you run underneath the car are so drastically different than what you ran last year, that we’re looking for that baseline to be able to understand exactly what we need and where to work from. In that same sense, things will evolve really fast because things are quite a bit different. So, you’ll have something that will evolve into something new by the time you get to the next week.”
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE QUALIFYING SESSION? DO YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC PLAN OF WHEN YOU WANT TO GO OUT AND HOW LONG YOU WANT TO BE OUT? “I think it’s going to kind of be trial by fire, here. I think everybody is anticipating and is excited about it, but we don’t really know exactly what to do because the hard part about it is really the engine. And I know they make it sound really simple; you just take tape off. But when you start taking tape off the downforce becomes less, the packer becomes different and you can’t adjust the packer in the front of the car.
You can adjust the air pressure, but the ride is going to change as you take tape off the front of the car. So there’s just a lot of things that play into it that you anticipate. But there’s also a lot of things that you don’t understand or know about with the car that you’re not going to think of until you actually get into the situation that it’s going to be a challenge for everybody just to try to put your arms around everything and understand it. I think it’s going to be great once we get it all going and get all the kinks worked out with it. It’s definitely going to keep the on-track excitement up. So I think everybody is excited but everybody is a little bit on edge because you don’t really know exactly what you need to do. You’ve thought of everything you can think of, but there will always be a hundred things that you don’t think of.”
DO YOU EXPECT TRAFFIC TO BE AN ISSUE HERE? “You know, we do practice all the time. When everybody starts doing qualifying runs, sometimes there are guys out there doing race runs and sometimes there are guys out there doing whatever. And so, there will be a lot of different agendas. But we deal with it every week pretty much during practice with the traffic.”
ON RAIN IN THE FORECAST POSSIBLY AFFECTING QUALIFYING AND PRACTICE... “Yeah, it’s a unique spot we’ve been talking about it for a week now because we’ve seen the forecast and you just have to go out and try to put as many things together as you can and collect as much data as you can so you can put your race set-up together for Sunday. But you know that qualifying is important, but you also have to concentrate as much as we can on the race stuff. So, there are so many things that you have to put into and hour and a half that you have to prioritize. Qualifying will probably be the last thing that we prioritize too, but we’ll definitely have to get to it at some point.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL FOR A TEAM TO WIN EARLY IN THE SEASON AND BE IN THE CHASE? HOW DOES THAT CHANGE AN APPROACH? WHAT IS THAT EMOTION? ‘Well, this year it’s different. Because, not that you’re not going to be aggressive, but you have to keep the mindset right now of that you still have to finish the races; but as you get in that position you can start being a lot more aggressive with really anything. Car set-ups, fuel strategy, race strategy, all those things fall into being more aggressive so you can take a lot of chances and then really, all you’re after at that point is winning races to try to gain more bonus points to protect yourself in the first round of the Chase to get the cushion.”
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF JUNIOR ON TWITTER? “I think he’s doing good. I knew he’d like it once he got on there. He’s kind of that techy-type of guy who likes all the cool gadgets and stuff. And for a guy who is that popular, it’s a really easy way to interact without having to create a frenzy that happens when he comes around somewhere in public. For him it’s got to be almost a relief to be able to engage with people and do it at his own pace and not have to be in this total frenzy because he is a rock star.”
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT HIM THIS WEEK ON TWITTER? “I think everybody did. One thing I like about what Dale Junior has is he’s got all those cool pictures of his dad. I’ll look forward to Thursdays now just for the fact that I know he’s going to post some really cool pictures from back in the day.”
AFTER GOING THROUGH THE WHOLE WEEK, IS THERE ANYTHING HE HAS TO WORRY ABOUT WHEN GETTING TO THE TRACK HERE ON FRIDAY? “For him, he’s used to dealing with all the hype. So, it’s not anything different. Obviously you’ve been through a lot this week in just taking care of yourself and making sure you’re ready to go and not giving them the world and managing your time correctly is the hardest part to make sure that you focus on the race car and the things that you need to do in it. But he deals with that every week.”
HOW DOES THIS NEW CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT IMPACT YOUR STRATEGY FOR TESTING THIS YEAR? “Honestly, we haven’t talked about a test yet. I think it’s just kind of seeing where you’re at and if things are going good, there’s no reason to use those tests up. You can save all four of them for Homestead. That would probably be the best way to do it.”
YOU HAVE A ROSTER OF FOUR-STAR DRIVERS AT STEWART-HAAS. HAVE YOU DISCOVERED THAT THERE IS A DOMINANT PERSONALITY THERE? DOES TONY STEWART HAVE MORE SAY BECAUSE HE’S THE BOSS? HOW IS THAT DEVELOPING, AS YOU ARE ALL GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER? “I’ve learned that Tony listens a lot because he takes a lot of things in. When we sat in our first competition meeting this week, Tony seems like the guy that’s going to be the boss that doesn’t want to say anything and I can kind of relate to this. You don’t want to say something that’s out of line until you think about it and realize and understand how you need to approach it and fix it and do those things. But Tony is a smart person and I don’t think many people give him the credit. And I learned this sitting at the Roulette Table just how smart he was. He’s Rain Man smart with numbers and things.
“He seems like the guy that’s going to be thinking about things all the time and wants to give you the right answer instead of blurting out something; which you know, for us, we’re just brainstorming and thinking out loud and Tony is sitting there absorbing it all and wanting to make the right answer. And you can see that in him sitting there during the competition meeting and things that have happened so far.”
WHEN YOU SAY THAT, IS THERE A TOUGH BALANCE BETWEEN LEADING AS A LISTENER VERSUS AS A TALKER? “Well, I think there’s a time for both. I think sometimes you have to set the tone when things are out of hand or something like that with a comment. I think there’s a time when things are calm and things are just progressing and you have to think about things and how to make things better. So, there’s a time for both of them. Like when I started my teams, I just wanted to if somebody did something wrong you just fire them. If something’s not going right, you cut it up. And you can’t run business that way. You have to be able to absorb it all and make a good decision for the company and it’s not just about one person or one car. You can tell that he’s been a part of a lot of things and understands that there’s a lot going on and everything affects something else.”