Martinsville Speedway - April 3, 2011
An Interview with:
Kevin Harvick - Winner
Gil Martin - Crew chief
Richard Childress - Team owner
KERRY THARP: Our race winner for the second consecutive week in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is Kevin Harvick who drives the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and is joined give his crew chief, Gil Martin. This is Kevin's 16th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and this is his first win at Martinsville Speedway. As I said, it's his second win of the season, second in a row. And also another note about today's race, 31 lead changes, a new track record. Kevin when you took the last lead there, that was the biggest one congratulations.
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm just glad we led more than one lap this week.
It was just a crazy day for us. We started the race and our car was really, really loose. We came in and made a lot of adjustments, made it a little bit better and we kept working on it and then we wrecked it. And after we wrecked it, it actually got going pretty good. But then we started changing huge swings at it. But just a huge credit to the organization and the team for keeping me sane. I was ready to slit my wrists and they kept me somewhat grounded I think, and then we were able to focus on working on our car and getting back to where we needed to be. Just a great character-building day for our team. I don't know how many character building days we can have but we'll keep enjoying them as long as we wind up this way.
KERRY THARP: Gil Martin, crew chief, certainly an interesting week here at Martinsville working with the tires and the strategy and managing things throughout the course of the race weekend. How did things unfold for you out there this afternoon?
GIL MARTIN: As Kevin said, our car, we were terrible. No other way to put it other than the fact we were terrible. I think we were set up for the tire last year too much. We needed the car to turn better and we returned to good today. We had to take a lot of that out during the course of the race but I think we waited for the right time to get our two tires because we were able to work on the car and the red flag I think was actually a good thing for us because our team was able to almost be at half time and we went to the bottom of the pit box and six or seven of us together.
And we thought about what could we do with our tire pressures and all to make certain that we had the right tire pressures in the left side tires when we did put two on right towards the end and it worked out. So I have to give everybody a ton of credit for just going through our engineers, Jeremy Bullins and Matt Swiderski going through the simulation and the tire plotters. Because we spent a lot of time on that at the shop but we were able to sit and talk and look at some of that stuff during the red flag and it paid off for us.
KERRY THARP: Richard Childress, second straight weekend in victory lane with the 29 car and the Budweiser team. Talk about winning today at Martinsville.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It's special because you look at this as our home track now. I know it's Kevin's sort of home track because he's close by. It was a great race for the fans today. I think I looked it up, and I don't think anyone left the grandstands. Everybody was a little concerned about the tires to start with, but at the end of the day, we had great tires as the track started rubbering up, you were able to put two tires and that was a great call Gil made.
Kevin just kept coming on, coming on. I knew we would have a shot and none of us wanted to see Jimmie get pulled in, because that put him on that outside to come back in fourth and still come back and win the race, I think says something about Kevin and the way his car was.
Q. Richard, it's been a long time since you've put a car in victory lane here, 1995. Wonder if all you guys could kind of talk about getting to do that finally after all that time.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It has been a long time, and to be so close to home, you always want to win here in Charlotte and places like that. But for Kevin to take the big win today was really special, and I just walked by and I happened to think and look over there where that old 3 car was tore down, and I don't know where they will be tearing us down today, but brought back a memory just as I walked in.
GIL MARTIN: For me, it's a great day because of the fact of we have been so bad here. I mean, I've been coming here with RCR for ten years and up until last year, we were hit and miss with all three teams or however many we have brought here and we had an opportunity to win both races last year and messed up and didn't do it.
To come here and win two in a row, it's a special feeling for me. It's never happened for me before, so on a personal note, it's a great deal for me.
But as far as the company, golly, I just don't know what to say about it. It's awesome to win for Budweiser and having all of the new sponsors that we have got on. It's been a good day for us.
Q. Yesterday Clay told you he would give you two races if he won the truck race; does that deal carry over to today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Clay usually doesn't back up on anything, so I don't know, maybe we'll go to the go-kart track and race for it or something since he's trying to become a driver. Is he in here? He's trying to become a driver now. I hear he's racing at Richmond in Denny Hamlin's race. Maybe he's out practicing right now; you're right. But I hope it does. (Smiling).
Q. Kevin and Richard, congratulations on the win, but obviously Junior was up front and people were waving arms and screaming; could you scenes that, and do you feel you made a few enemies by beating him?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I could see the people just going crazy coming off of turn two when he took the lead from Kyle, and I as catching him and I'm like, man, I'm going to be the bad guy here. But I've got to do what I've got to do.
It's one of those deals where I knew that I was kind of in the same position last year at California where I got a little over zealous and his car was loose getting in the corner and probably needed to protect the bottom getting into the corner the way his car was.
But it was cool to see him back up there in contention for a win and to race with Dale Junior and to win the race at Martinsville is something that I mean I think it's pretty cool and it's like Richard talked about, seeing the 3 car, he had memories of the 3 car being torn down over there here.
So it's just a lot of fun. I know the fans want to see him win. I want to see him win. I want to see Dale Junior win. It would be great for the sport and I think today went a long ways to showing how competitive that they can be racing for wins, and that's what we need. We all need him to win. But not going to back down.
Q. Understanding every race is a little different, and you probably don't want to give away too many secrets, you're getting a reputation of being able to show up in the end at a lot of these races. Is that a product of conserving your stuff through the first three-quarters of the race or working the car through the first three-quarters of the race or a little bit of both?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I can remember Richard leaving a race in 2001 from Sonoma, and we had wrecked -- do you remember this? He left the race. Because we had an accident and we came back and I think we finished 9th or 10th or 11th or something like that. The next day I get a call and it's like, how in the hell did you guys come back and finish 11th from 23, 24, wherever it was.
I don't know why it's always been that way, really throughout my whole career, and today it worked in our favor. Our car was bad at the beginning and I had a ton of brakes left at the end and that was really our strong point was getting in the corner, and can that was Junior's weak point was getting in the corner; he was free.
My dad always told me the pay window didn't open until the checkered flag was flown, and we survived and raced off of what we won each week. So if you tore your car up -- my first year, I tore my late model up and we only got to run seven times because he wrecked it every other week. The second time we wrecked one time and we won the championship because we were always around at the end and would take advantage of other people's mistakes. I guess it's just the way I was taught to race. You have to be around at the end to win these races.
Q. You had kind of the same characteristics with your car like you had yesterday in the truck race; what did you learn from yesterday's truck race, whether it be the tires or the way the track drove, to be able to make the right adjustments to be there?
KEVIN HARVICK: We were consistent. We had a really crappy set of tires that came off the car the first time. We don't know why. We didn't obviously come in and raise the hood and make some adjustments and front-ended adjustments like we did on the truck yesterday.
We were able to I think make huge adjustments on our air pressures and the way I know we were making a lot of weight adjustments on our car. So the truck race, I was just glad I didn't flip out yesterday to tell you the truth. Stayed calm and everything worked itself out and I had a neat bunch of guys that worked on that truck and we were I guess to able teach them a lot about being able to hang in the race and keep yourself in the game and don't ever give up.
I'm the first one that wants to quit, usually. And they are like, all right, well we can't do that. So let's just figure out what we need to do here and Gil has a good tendency of letting me vent and then we move on.
So, I don't know. I mean, just track time, to me, I'm a rhythm racer, and I like to get into a rhythm and know where my grip levels are and know the characteristics of a racetrack and the things around me. I think it helps to race both days.
Q. Can you describe where and when the back of your car got destroyed, how that happened, and for Richard, can you talk about it just being bittersweet with what happened with Paul Menard and Jeff Burton today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think when they all got stacked up there, that's what knocked the hood up, and then I think Paul actually got into the back of me. And that's what knocked his radiator out.
Just they got stacked up, I don't even remember when it was. It was before halfway. Everything happened before halfway, thank God, that we were able to work on the car after that.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, I told Jeff after the race was over, it will turn. He's having some tough breaks right now but it can turn the other way just as quick and as good as what you're going through right then.
And for Paul, I really hated to see it. I think when he hit the back of Kevin there, you know, everybody just jammed up and knocked his radiator out and ended up burning the engine up there.
Q. When you left Daytona, finishing 42, here we are five, six races later and you're now fifth in points, only 15 out of the lead. Just talk about that remarkable come back and how that kind of positions you to be a contender for a championship yet again.
KEVIN HARVICK: Honestly when we left Daytona I was laughing because it had been 156 races since we had had an engine problem and it's hard to get down on anybody for 1 in 156 in this sport.
Our engine guys do a great job at what they do, and from where I started at RCR to where we are today, I feel like we have the best engine department and I feel like when we started, we were mediocre, on the mediocre side of the engine side. It's one of the best engine departments in the business. There's no reason to get down on those guys because all I'm going to do is cause are more harm than I will good getting down on them. Just try to support them, and they figured it out and we'll move forward.
Q. When the field started pitting under green at the end and the caution came out, how close were you to coming in? And after you do come out of the pit road on to that caution you go from lining up on the inside, Jimmie gets a penalty and now you're on the outside. Where were you being in that top groove?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I wasn't real happy because I knew that the odds were against us in that particular situation. It was just all a matter of getting down and we were able to race the 17 really hard and get a good drive up off the corner and just kind of squeeze in there.
Then from that point on, there was enough laps left to get by the 42 and the 18. The 18 was struggling pretty heavily through the center of the corner. And we were able to get by him pretty easy. Then was all about chasing down the 88 after he had taken off a bit. But it all worked out.
Q. If you could elaborate on how this positions you to make another run at a championship this year with the way you've been the last two weeks.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think when you look at the two wins, I feel it good about our -- I'll take our chances on making the Chase with the wild card stuff. So here we are, six weeks into the season, and I feel like we can take more chances than we did last year, just because -- I'm not saying that is exactly what we will need to be.
Honestly I feel like -- maybe you guys will disagree -- but I feel like we can really push the limits on racing, and just the fact that we have got that caution in our back pocket. Something that we have only done I think once before is win back-to-back weeks, and you know, to come out this season and win at racetracks that we had not won at before but we feel like we have been fairly good at the last couple of years is good for our confidence to say the least.
Q. Kevin, you said you were ready to slit your wrists in the first hundred laps, but in your radio chat you were giving extremely calm, detailed feedback. You talk about this being a character-building day; have you already reached the point where you have built enough character and this is par for the course for you guys and you can be that calm, measured driver that can win a championship?
KEVIN HARVICK: You must have just clicked in between the calm points, because there was a few uncalm points. I know when Richard comes on the radio and says, all right, you need to do this or that, I've kind of carried it over the edge and I need to shut up and go about my business. Because at that point I need to get back to focusing on my job.
But you know, I just -- I'm just the highest-strung person, and I don't know, I turn into this lunatic when I get in the car and I wind up apologizing more than I do anything else.
But I just get in this mind frame that I just can't get out of while I'm in that race car and that's all I can think about is and that's all I want to do is do good for our sponsors and for our team. That's really what it's all about. You just turn into this crazed animal; I can't explain it. (Laughing)
Is that not a good explanation?
GIL MARTIN: Somebody brought it to my attention this week that this was my 100th start with Kevin, and I think what happens is he gets the opportunity to vent because the car was terrible and he needed to vent.
I think in the beginning when he would do that, we would somewhat take it to heart and take it personal, and now, we just continue to let him vent. We go about our business and decide what we are going to do on the next change, and we feel good about it and so does he. So it works out good in the end.
Q. I'm sure character building is great, but would it be nice to have a race weekend where you didn't have to go through a list of obstacles to get to this outcome?
KEVIN HARVICK: It would be nice but I think we need somewhat of a challenge it seems like. I don't know why that is. -- how many phones you got in your pocket?
GIL MARTIN: I don't know. I can't help it.
KEVIN HARVICK: Man can't text, but he's got two phones in his pocket. (Laughter).
You know, I think it's just kind of been really the nature of the beast, really since I've started and I think if you look back, and you really look back at the days when you and Dale and everybody, it was just all about making days out of days that really weren't there, and you make something out of something that's not very good.
And when we started the day, we weren't very good but at the end, it was pretty good and obviously it was the best car on the racetrack. It's just one of those deals where we were just -- maybe we were just brought up different, I don't know. We just race different.
Q. Gil, you mentioned the days of thunder moment at the end where your tires matched up; can you explain that? And Richard, obviously you were close to Dale Junior, too. Any stirred emotions seeing him up there, the crowd going crazy and your man catching him?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'm like Kevin. We all want to see Dale Junior win a race. If one of our four cars can't win, I'd like to see him win. But you don't want to let him win at your expense. And Kevin had to do what he had to do right there at the end and I was proud of him. It's just -- Dale Junior will win races. He will come back. We have been in that situation. We have had a long dry spell, so I know what it meant if he could have won that race.
But like I say, we did what we had to do and that was win the race.
GIL MARTIN: I guess what I was letting him know, during the halftime we were able to get what we felt like during the race was our best set of tires as far as the codes and as far as the spring rates on the tires, and we spent a lot of time juggling them around trying to get them the same because we thought the car had pretty good balance. And I told him, it's kind of a cliché like it was a perfect matched set of tires; hey, hog put the best tires on him. (Laughter).
We made a lot of time making sure the stagger was right and the spring was exactly the same so when we got to the last set of tires that we felt confident that the balance was going to stay the same on the car. And I wanted him to know that we had spent the time to really make sure we had them the same because we were not going to make any air pressure adjustments on the last run.
KEVIN HARVICK: And in the end we are all just a bunch of sarcastic smart asses. That's really the only way we know to communicate with each other. We can't communicate like normal people. We have to be sarcastic and smart alecs.
Q. Did you realize that your contact with Newman had cut down his tire, and did you know that that was kind of why he was maybe --
KEVIN HARVICK: Cut down whose tire?
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn't know I had contact with Newman.
KEVIN HARVICK: I did? I don't know. I didn't know I had contact with Newman.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Didn't think he could see out of his rear-view mirror there.
Q. Was there ever a point where you thought you would get to a hundred races with Harvick?
GIL MARTIN: I didn't know in it was that close to start with. I should have went to Richard, he said I should get a medal. I'm glad I did because I told a lot of people, in the last ten years we have been through a lot of ups and downs, and whether we have raced together or I've been on another team in the same company; that I think at the same point, Kevin's matured a lot.
And through his maturity, he's made me mature in a lot of ways, even though I'm older, I've matured in a lot of ways at the racetrack, because there are a lot of things that are much more important to me at the racetrack and we don't spend a lot time looking for the trick shock of the week or the trick setup or hot tip car. Every week I look at it as his office. He's familiar with where everything is at in that thing and we make small changes when we get to the race track.
So I think that hundred mark is kind of a short story because I've sit and watched -- it's probably closer to 300 to know what this guy needs, and at the end he stands up in the seat and gets the job done. So I'm proud to be here for a hundred.
Q. Catching that 88 car, his car had left him and you got around him pretty easy. Did you expect it to be that easy or was you looking for a little battle there?
KEVIN HARVICK: He gave me a couple shots, which I was expecting just because it was so late in the race, and I knew where he was -- I knew he wanted to win. But for me, you know, I knew my strong point was getting in the corner and I just didn't want to get hit getting in the corner. If I could get hit in the middle of the corner, I knew I could drive off. It was a lot of fun and obviously there's a lot of attention on anything that Dale Junior does, and to be racing with him for the win is something that we had not -- I don't remember ever doing that before, but was fun to do today.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to Kevin, to Gil and to Richard on a second connective win and we'll see you at Texas. Thank you.