KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 RHEEM CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing in Atlanta, the 9/11 Anniversary, the Race to the Chase and other topics.
HOW DO YOU LIKE BEING BACK HERE IN ATLANTA? “This has been a good track for us the last couple of times here. The last race here we had a good car and I made a mistake getting on pit road and blew a left front tire, blew the fender off. It is a really fun track sliding around, you have a lot of options as a driver to move yourself around the race track with the bumps and the fall off of the tires, it’s just a challenging race track with a lot of speed. Should be a fun weekend.”
COMING UP ON THE ANNIVERSITY OF 9/11, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT DAY? “That’s a strange day because it always pops up every year because that is the day of my mom’s birthday. It is one of those days that has a lot of meaning other than her birthday now, everything that happened that particular day. I remember we were in Memphis, Tennessee testing our nationwide car, I remember the confusion and everybody not knowing what to do, and we just packed everything up and went home. For everyone that is an American, everyone will remember where they were on that particular day and just the efforts and things that you are really now seeing the results of everything that happened that particular day and capturing the guys that we responsible for it. It is just amazing how far that we have come and the things that changed on one day.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR THE RACING COMMUNITY TO GET BACK TO RACING AFTER 9/11 TO HEAL THE AMERICAN PSYCHY? “The race that I probably remember the most is Dover. Just because of location and the activities and the feeling of that particular day at Dover was something that was just different than normal. This is a very patriotic garage, were all proud to be Americans and understand what it means to be an American”.
YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THE DRIVERS GOING TO THE WHITE HOUSE NEXT WEEK. I SEE YOU HAVE SOMETHING GOING ON. DID YOU TRY TO RESCHEDULE OR WAS IT JUST TOO LATE AFTER YOU RECEIVED THE INVITATION? “This time of year there is just a lot going on. Most everything we do is scheduled months in advance. I have been to the White House before and it is an honor just to go to the White House and be in the oval office and on the premises at the White House. I understand the honor, just with everything we have going on right now there is no way possible to reschedule the things that we have going next week.
DO YOU HAVE MULTIPLE THINGS GOING ON OR WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO BE? “I don’t think that is anyone’s business. It is just one of those things where we have so many things going on that particular week leading up to the chase. It is just a bad week for us to be committed to more than one thing to go up the day before we have to be in Richmond.”
TALK ABOUT GOING TO RICHMOND WITHOUT THE ANXIETY OF HAVING TO MAKE THE CHASE SINCE YOU ARE IN NOW? “Well we are fortunate, the last couple of weeks have not taken in the results as a race team that we would have liked to have seen. It has been a little bit of a panic to everybody at RCR (Richard Childress Racing), we were there Sunday morning after the race last week trying to back track and figure out the things we need to do to get back to where we were several weeks ago. We feel like we have chased down some things that we have probably not done right and we have got to do better, and some things that we need to incorporate back to the way we were doing them six months ago. If we go on to win or compete for a championship I think there are a lot of key moments we can look back to over these last three or four weeks.”
LAST YEAR GOING INTO THIS STRETCH YOU HAD FOUR TOP TENS IN SEVEN RACE, YOU WERE RUNNING A LOT BETTER THAN YOU ARE NOW. DOES MOMENTUM REALLY MAKE THAT MUCH OF AN IMPACT? DOES WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE THE CHASE MATTER? “It doesn’t seem to. It didn’t last year. I feel like we had all the momentum in the world last year leading into the chase and we didn’t win the championship. I think as you head into the chase you have to have a direction. Obviously, our direction got a little bit of a speed bump over the last couple of weeks of what we thought we needed to do, so we had to drop back and kind of punt a little bit. We still have some issues that we need to resolve, we feel like we have made some headway on a lot of those issues. The experience that I have and the mindset that I have from last year and the years before is when you flip the switch to go into the last ten it is not like the first twenty-six. Weather you have momentum or you’re just on a total downfall. That reset button switches and it is a whole different level when you get to the last ten. How it all goes, I don’t know but I know that we had everything in hand last year and just whipped them in the first twenty-six and it didn’t add up to a championship.”
WHY A BIG CONCERN IN THE WAY YOU ARE RUNNING BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE TRACKS, THE LAST FEW WEEKS ARE NOT LIKE THE RACES IN THE CHASE. HOE DO YOU VIEW THAT? “I think as you look back, it is not just the last couple of weeks we have had a bad six weeks. If it was just me, it would not be that big of a deal but over the past couple of weeks it has kind of been all of us. We have done things a little bit wrong and we have had to back track to understand why. Even though the tracks aren’t the same, I think you see a lot of the same cars that have been competitive over the last six week be competitive over the past two weeks. We just got to change paths a little bit.”
IS IT EASIER TO BACK TRACK WHEN EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE RUNNIN THE SAME, THAN WHEN SOME GUYS ARE GOOD AND SOME GUYS ARE BAD? “Yea, I wish I could tell you it was easier. Like I said we were there Sunday morning and that is not what you want to be doing. The guys in the shop do not want to be in the shop on Sunday trying to figure out what we need to be doing different. This is a forward moving sport and there is progression every week in the garage and when you get to that point and have to start back tracking you don’t remember what in the world you did six months ago to back track to do, so its’ like you got to really pay attention to the fine details of notes and wind tunnel things and all the things that go into these race cars. You have to look through all of them in a matter of days. These guys have put in a lot of effort; it is not going to be from a lack of effort. I think everyone knows that and knows the expectations that are put on us as a team and that is why everyone has been doing what they had to do.”
WE ARE DOING A STORY ON KESELOWSKI AND THE RUN HE HAS BEEN ON. IN THE PAST FOUR WEEKS HE HAS NOT DRIVEN A NATIONWIDE CAR, IS THERE SOMETHING TO THAT? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN HIS FOCUS ON BEING ABLE TO CONCETRATE MORE ON HIS CUP CAR? WHAT DO YOU THINK? “Yea, I don’t know, you see his teammate that doesn’t run nationwide most of the time and he has not finished well at all. For me especially at tracks like this, I enjoy the rhythm and understanding where the bumps are and I think it is more coincidence than it is anything. Those guys have just hit on something and have really used the momentum to win races and put themselves into position to do well. I think that is more coincidence than it is anything.”
WHY DO YOU THINK RICHMOND IS THE FAVORITE SHORT TRACK OF MOST OF THE DRIVERS? “Because it is racy, you can move around the race track. The track has become pretty warn out, and I think as a lot of us were used to that sealer being put on the race track through the years every time you come back there it was a little different every time how the track would react. It has enough speed; it has enough room to move around and race. You just get that short track feel along with that intermediate feel of the speed to get all the race tracks in there and everybody just enjoys it.”
YOUR WIN THERE WAS FIVE YEARS AGO, BUT YOU HAVE A STELLER RECORD THERE. DO YOU THINK WITH A LOT OF CONFIDENCE YOU CAN GO IN AND WIN THERE? “I think that on paper statically that is our best race track. We get excited going to Richmond, knowing that, that’s a place we should perform well.”
WHAT IS YOUR TIME FRAME FOR DECIDING THE DIRECTION THAT KHI WILL GO NEXT YEAR? “Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, that should all be situated and public. Hopefully sooner than that but hopefully no longer than two weeks. “
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOUR FIRST PERSONAL CAR WAS? DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF YOUR FIRST PERSONAL CAR? “Oh yea, the first one I bought was an 88’ Camero. It was probably not the right car for me, when I was 17, 18, but that was the first car that I purchased and completely tore the crap out of.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT CAR? “I gave it to my sister. (Laughs) Needless to say she did not keep it very long because it was always broke, because I was so hard on it. I did a lot of things to that car that should not have been done to it. She drove it for a long time and moved on.
WE HAVE SEEN A LOT OF STRAGETY RACES. GOODYEAR HAS A TIRE THAT DOES NOT WARE AS MUCH. HOW DOES THAT CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU AS A DRIVER, DOES IT ALLOW YOU TO DO CERTAIN THINGS? “Well, I think as you look at the races, track position has just become incredibly important. It seems like you can hold that track position with a couple of tires and sometimes even no tires. You have to consider that and for me it was probably something strategy wise I thought about a little too much. The guys on the box have a better perspective on what is going on in the race, and as a driver you have to be more open minded as to the things that are happening and going on. You have to know that those guys are going to put you in a situation that is possibly going to be beneficial.
IS IT HARDER TO HOLD ONTO THE CAR FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME? DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR DRIVING STYLE? “You don’t really have to change anything, you just have to know, you just have to anticipate what your car is going to do on no tires or two tires and I think at Loudon we ran the left side tires three runs and that was one run too many. We learned a lesson there and hopefully when we go back we can put that in our memory bank and know going forward that two runs is probably about it.”
KEVIN, JEGS IS COMING BACK ON YOUR NO.2 TRUCK AT TEXAS AND NEW HAMPSHIRE ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO HAVING FUN WITH THEM? “Everybody from JEGS has been a lot of fun to be around and with Cody coming up through the oval track racing and stuff. I think they are definitely interested in what is going on with the trucks. Should be a fun weekend.”
THOUGHTS ON JEFF GORDON: “”I think that Jeff paved the way for a lot of younger guys to come into the sport and be able to not be shunned as far as an owner would look at you and say No you don’t have the experience. He kind of changed the way that the sport was looked at from a young driver’s perspective and to win that many races in this sport is something that is pretty extraordinary.”