KEELAN A FAN OF THE SNOW?
KEVIN HARVICK: “He likes the snow. He just doesn’t like it all over his stuff. He’s a little OCD.”
OBVIOUSLY, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THIS SEASON, A LOT OF CHANGES – CHAMPIONSHIP, QUALIFYING, PENALITES. AS A PARTICIPANT AND A RACE FAN, IS THAT A LOT TO GRASP IN ONE SEASON?
Learning all the new names and faces, how everything works, and how the cars run. Then you add into that all the changes in NASCAR. The main goal right now is just getting to victory lane. That’s really the first goal because I believe the earlier you get to victory lane the more chances you can take, and if things are going well, you can win more races and help protect yourself in the first round of the championship chase. So, just gotta push and try to make it happen.”
EVEN IF THERE’S A LOT OF CHANGE DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN IT’S A BAD THING?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I love change. As I’ve learned over the off-season, change is very enthusiastic for not only myself but for all the people around me. I think everybody at SHR would tell you that the enthusiasm is contagious at the shop just because it just bleeds over from one person to the next. It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, the results will show everything that we think we should be able to achieve.”
WITH ALL THE CHANGES, WHAT’S THE ONE THAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I love the qualifying knockout. It’s kind of the same situation with the championship knockout. I’ve liked that from the beginning. It took me a little bit to grasp the one race for everything. But I think it was explained very well and the fact that if you’re going to have a problem in that race, you’re going to have a problem in that race no matter what format it is. It’s going to be fun.”
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAMMATES THAT SURPRISED YOU?
KEVIN HARVICK: “Not really. I had the opportunity to work with Kurt (Busch) all of last year. For me, I’ve been around Tony (Stewart) quite a bit in the Nationwide cars and personally. I think as we’ve gone through the whole process, the biggest thing I’ve learned is about the company in general. Whatever you need, whoever you need… go get it and let’s figure out how to make this all happen.
That part to me has been fun. Everything on our car is brand new – from the hauler to every race car, every nut and bolt in the drawer. They’ve put an unbelievable effort into it. The other thing is that surprised me – I knew Tony was a pretty intense guy but we went to a Jimmy John’s event and we’re coming home Monday. He got on that plane and he was like a crazed lunatic. You could see that look in his eye. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m ready to… race!’ Just that look in his eye. I knew he was a pretty intense person but I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’”
DO YOU THINK THAT INTENSITY IS GOING TO BE MAGNIFIED TENFOLD GIVEN WHAT HE’S BEEN THROUGH?
KEVIN HARVICK: I know how excited I am getting in a race car. I couldn’t imagine sitting on the sidelines for months and not being able to get back in the car and put all those crazy thoughts out of your head – if you’d be able to race again, what’s it feel like, is it going to hurt? Just putting all those things to rest for him is going to be great. If anything is sore or hurts, you’ll never hear about it because he’s be so excited to get back in a race car that he can’t hardly stand it.”
HOW CLOSE DID YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HIM THROUGHOUT HIS REHAB?
“I would see him periodically, but obviously there was a lot going on. Rehab hasn’t gone on that long. He went through a lot of healing more than anything. But we would keep up as much as we could. When he started coming back to the race track, he was easier to keep up with at that point.”
DOES WHAT RICHARD PETTY SAID ABOUT DANICA PATRICK MATTER AT ALL TO YOU BECAUSE SHE IS A TEAMMATE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The hard part is that everyone has an opinion on everything that is going on. You try to just listen and observe and try to handle your situation as best you can. Obviously it’s hard to rattle her. She’s so used to people saying this and it doesn’t bother her. And that’s not a front. It really doesn’t phase her and you really don’t have to stick up for anything that someone says or does. She is not phased but anything I’ve seen. She just doesn’t care and moves on and lets it roll off. I think she’s dealt with so much for so long that she’s just immune to it.”
WHERE DO YOU THINK SHE’S CAPABLE OF WINNING A RACE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I think this year is going to be really good for her and her learning curve just for the fact that we went and tested together at Nashville. Just a couple of conversations can help. She can drive the car. Most all of us have done this for… I’ve been in a stock car since I was 16 so that’s 22 years. You aren’t going to make that experience up. She’s realistic about what she needs to do and accomplish. Just getting those little conversations over before you get to the track can overcome a lot of hurdles.”
WITH ALL THE CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE – GUYS GOING TO NEW TEAMS, GETTING INTO NEW CARS AND HAVING TO ADJUST TO NEW NUMBERS – IS IT GOING TO TAKE SOME GETTING USED TO FOR THE DRIVERS TO FIGURE OUT AND SORT THAT OUT. WHEN YOU SEE THE 31, IT’S NOT GOING TO BE JEFF BURTON…:
KEVIN HARVICK: “As long as he’s behind me, it’s all good! As you come to Daytona every year, there are always changes – whether it be car numbers, drivers moving teams, crew chiefs. It’s refreshing. It’s kind of like any other sport. You see people move around and it’s exciting. It’s no different that seeing Peyton Manning going from the Colts to the Broncos. There is a lot of enthusiasm around that. I know I’m excited and I know our fans are excited. We’ve looked at everything – website, Twitter, social media. It’s a time to update and refresh. It’s fun to learn all the new stuff that is going on.”
WILL IT TAKE SOME ADJUSTMENT FOR FANS TO KNOW THAT THE 29 ISN’T KEVIN HARVICK ANY MORE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The good news for me is that the 29 isn’t in existence any more! They all know what number it’s going to be right now.”
HOW ABOUT THE NO. 3 CAR?
“I really don’t have a tie to it and it doesn’t affect anything I do. So I’m good with focusing on my job.”
WOULD YOU BE ANY MORE OR LESS AGGRESSIVE AROUND HIM (THE NO. 3) THAN ANY OTHER DRIVER?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I’d wreck my mom if I had to. One hundred percent! If we’re going to win the Daytona 500, it’s going around.”
THAT WOULD BE PRETTY DRAMATIC BUT WOULD THERE BE AN UPROAR IF SOMEBODY DOES WRECK HIM. AT LEAST FROM A FAN’S PERSPECTIVE THEY WILL THINK OF THE 3 BEFORE THEY THINK OF AUSTIN (DILLON). FROM A RACER’S PERSPECTIVE, IT’S STILL AUSTIN:
KEVIN HARVICK: “You just race him like you would anyone else. It’s really no different than any other car. You want to win the race and - outside of your teammates - you have to do what you have to do. You worry about the rest of it later.”
YOU HAVEN’T RACED IN TRAFFIC HERE IN MONTHS. DOES IT TAKE A LITTLE WHILE TO GET BACK INTO THAT GROOVE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The good news is this year is that I’ve been in the car a fair amount as we’ve gone through the offseason. We’ve probably been in the car eight or 10 days throughout the last couple of months. You just take your time. There’s no reason to take too many chances as you move into Speedweeks. I’ve laid in bed sick and watched my car get wrecked and seen wrecks and been involved in wrecks. A lot of them have happened in that first practice.”
BUT IT’S NOT A MATTER OF TRUST?
KEVIN HARVICK: “It’s just everyone is a little excited.”
HOW’S YOUR MARTIAL ARTS DOING?
KEVIN HARVICK: “It’s a little slow at this point. We’ve been so busy and it just takes time. I’m stuck at my red belt.”
ARE YOU GOING TO GO FOR A BLACK BELT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “Oh yeah. I’m too far into it to give up. I’m probably at this point probably eight to 12 months away. It depends on how much time I can spend.”
HAS IT HELPED YOU BEHIND THE WHEEL?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I know it’s helped my flexibility, which was the main goal. And if you have a bad Sunday, you get to take some aggression out Monday during sparring. But I think it has. I wish I would have started when I was a kid just to do something different. It’s great for the kids in their discipline and the way things work. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s something outside the box that I wouldn’t have done five years ago.”
YOU SAID YOU DON’T HAVE ANY FEELINGS ABOUT THE 3 CAR BECAUSE OF CIRCUMSTANCES. THROUGH THE YEARS YOU’VE SEEN 3 BANNERS AND T-SHIRTS. DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE 3 CAR HAS BEEN AWAY FROM THE SPORT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “That’s a good question. I don’t know if I’m the right guy to answer that, though.”
HOW DID THE CAL RIPKEN FOUNDATION BOARD DEAL COME ABOUT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “We’re excited to be members of the Cal Ripken Sr. Board. We’ve got some mutual friends in Mark Butler who owns Ollie’s Bargin Outlet and have just noticed they do a great job in what they do. We have the same common interest in trying to make kids’ lives better. Ollie’s is very involved in it and we will become more heavily involved as we move through the years. The first project will be in Greensboro, N.C., to build a new field. That’s one of the great things they do. They come in and build these $1 million-plus fields, a Boys & Girls Club or whatever the facility is that the kids can enjoy for years. It’s a great foundation and I’m looking forward to partnering with them and having a lot of great events.”