True Value IROC at Indy Press Conference: KEVIN HARVICK - IROC 2002 Series Winner DALE JARRETT - IROC Final Race Winner Moderator: In your press conference room is your 2002 IROC champ, True Value IROC champion, Kevin Harvick. We will run down...
True Value IROC at Indy Press Conference: KEVIN HARVICK - IROC 2002 Series Winner DALE JARRETT - IROC Final Race Winner
Moderator: In your press conference room is your 2002 IROC champ, True Value IROC champion, Kevin Harvick. We will run down the top five in points real fast. Kevin Harvick, representing the NASCAR Busch Series, clinched the championship with 54 points. Next was Buddy Lazier, representing the Indy Racing League, with 49. Third was Dale Jarrett, representing the Winston Cup Series, also with 49. The tie-breaking system for IROC, ties are broken by highest average finishing positions in all four races. Fourth was Helio Castroneves, representing the IRL, and fifth was Bobby Labonte, with NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. Dale, this is Dale Jarrett's second True Value IROC victory. His first came in 2001 at Daytona International Speedway, and that year he finished fifth. This is his best finish in the points. For Kevin, Kevin Harvick is the first True Value IROC rookie to win the IROC championship since Ricky Rudd in 1992. He is the sixth rookie to win the title in the 26-year history of IROC. The other four rookies that won IROC titles were Mark Donohue in '74, Harry Gant in '85, Al Unser Jr., '86, and Geoff Bodine, '87. We are going to start with the race winner first. Dale, congratulations. Share with us your strategy today. You lead every lap.
Dale Jarrett: Get out front (laughing). That is easy to say, but I knew from practice yesterday, I tried being behind the car and how difficult it's going to be to make a pass, and then how much better, and how much more you were in control out front, just because, these cars, like all others, depend a lot on the air. I knew that I could run the line I wanted to and take care of the tires. That was going to be the main thing where I didn't, you know, the cars generally start off maybe a little bit loose and then get really tight, especially if you are in traffic. And I was able to do all of that. Helio (Castroneves), a couple of times, caught up to me, but that was when I was running the line, and I felt like I wasn't using my tires as much, and I just had to go back to the other line to get back to a couple car lengths lead. So it went perfect for me. I knew the start of the race was one of the most important thing, and I was either going to spin out or get the lead, and I about spun out, but I did get the lead.
Q: Kevin, you didn't get a chance to celebrate too much. You jumped right into your Cup car and went to practice. Now is it starting to sink in what you've accomplished today?
Kevin Harvick: Well, I mean, when we came into the year, I mean, it was something that just really neat to be in the IROC series, and race against all the different divisions and people that are driving the IROC cars. It is just an honor to drive them, but to come to the last race in the year and have a shot to win the championship was really neat for me. I was nervous this morning, and didn't eat. I was pretty whipped out when I got in there. I forgot to eat lunch today, so I paid the price for that one, but it was a great experience, and hopefully next year we can do it again. It's just a lot of fun. I mean, I enjoy. They kind of remind me of the older-style Busch (Grand National Series) cars in the way you drive them, and we had a lot of success with those and just a challenge to drive. They've got 30-some gallons of fuel in them, and soon as the fuel burns off, you've got to change the way you drive. I enjoy it, and had a good time doing it.
Q: Did you know the championship scenario during the race?
Harvick: I paid a lot of attention to it the last couple of weeks and there were a lot of different scenarios in my head. The racer in me wanted to pass Buddy (Lazier), but the smart thing to do was to just stay behind him and not force the issue. I got up under him a couple of times, and he came down, and I didn't really think it was a point I needed to make to pass him. We just tried to play it as smart as we could and look at the big picture. The first lap I about spun out. I ran into the back of Sam Hornish Jr. and about ended the day in the first corner. There were are few points there where we were three-wide. Usually most of the passing that you can do, the cars are so close, you really have to set a guy up late in the race to get by him and he kind of has to make a mistake. You can be aggressive the first four or five laps and abuse the thing and try to pass as many cars as you can, because after that you really have to set somebody up.
Q: Where does the IROC title rank?
Harvick: It's something that's obviously a huge accomplishment I can put right next to the Busch Grand National trophy. There's not very many people who can say they've won IROC race, let alone a championship. It's something that means a lot to me. I feel you beat the best drivers in your sport, in Winston Cup race, (NASCAR Craftsman) Trucks, Busch, IRL and things like that. It's something I think I'll put up there with the championships I've won in the past."
Q: Talk about track conditions for the Brickyard 400.
Harvick: It seemed like last year when you get on the gas after 15 laps in a run, the front end would just take off if you nailed the gas and know it feels like there's some grip for the front tires to grab onto and you can run a consistent pace, and it's not just two-tenth (of a second) slower every lap.
Q: Dale, compare conditions today to tomorrow.
Jarrett: I saw that if you have a good race car. The surface isn't going to make up for the car not driving well. If you got a good car, you can certainly make passes. You can set people up. Once the tires get a little bit of wear to them, you can set people up and then find your strong point where your car is really good. Obviously, off of (Turn) 2 and (Turn) 4 is where you would like for that to happen because you've got a whole straightaway to make the pass. I see the track is going to make for a very competitive race for the guys that have good cars.
Q: After winning today, what is your strategy for tomorrow?
Jarrett: "Obviously with 42 other guys out there, it's going to be a difficult task. As I've said in the past, to win this race, as it is in most, but in particular here, you have to do everything just right. You can't have any problems. I have to do my job on the racetrack. We have a good race car, so we know that part of it. The next thing is our strategy that we use. There may be some circumstance that may dictate exactly what we'll do pit-wise, when we'll pit and what we'll do when we get in there. The key is getting in the top five or at least the top 10 when you make that final pit stop.
Q: Castroneves got into a stock car for the first time and finished 11th, then he moved up to seventh, then third and now second. How do you see him as a driver?
Jarrett: There is a lot of talent there. I think that he could probably get into any type of motorsports, in any type of car and do well at it. If he put his mind to it and decided that he wanted to come to Winston Cup racing, I feel quite certain that he could do that. He seems to have a really good feel. I practiced with him yesterday and was running behind and in front of him, and it was interesting to see today at different times where he was working and making his car better and how he was making his runs at me. There's just a lot of talent there. Again, whatever he chooses to do full time, all the time, he's going to be very successful at it.
Harvick: I have a funny story to tell. We were in Chicago practicing, and me and Helio were there the day before, and he's like, "Man, I slow down," ... you know how he talks ... he says, "I slow down a lot after five or six laps". I said, "You know, Helio, if you'd just let off the gas pedal -- " He said: "Let off the gas pedal? Why would I do that? I must make the car work by not letting off the gas pedal." I told him: "This isn't an Indy car, Bud. You've got to let off the gas pedal. You must go slower to go faster." "Ahhh," he said. "I must go slower to go faster." I thought that was pretty funny.
Q: Would you guys like to see the format change for IROC? Perhaps some other races, some short ovals and maybe some road courses to give it a bit more variety?
Harvick: It just depends on the circumstances. I'm game for whatever they come up with. Whatever they decide to do, I'll be more than happy to do it. A road race is one thing. If it's a short track, the thing I think the open-wheel guys will be at more of a disadvantage if we went somewhere like a Richmond or a Bristol than they will be at an Indianapolis or a Chicago or somewhere like that. Those are some of the things that have to be taken into mind when you choose a racetrack, but wherever they want to go, I'll go.
Jarrett: It's tough because you have to make 12 cars attain the same speed and drive the same for different types of drivers who drive different types of cars. I think we need to keep it interesting for the fans and for the TV audience. You talk about going to a road course, I'm not sure. I know they used to run at a couple of road courses. That would be interesting. But whatever we could do to make it a good show for the fans.
Q: Kevin, since it didn't turn out to be your year for the Winston Cup championship, does that make the IROC championship more special?
Harvick: Well, I think there are a lot of things since we've kind of turned around, and everything is kind of special since then. To climb back up in the points has been fun so far, and the communication between everybody on the race team, but yeah, in IROC we won the race in California, and that helped a bunch, confidence-wise. Anytime you win a championship, anywhere, it means something. You don't get to win a lot of them, so anytime you win one, it's something you cherish.
Q: Given that this series is supposed to be 12 of the best drivers in North America in identical race cars, was your win today perhaps too easy?
Jarrett: It wasn't very easy for me from where I was sitting. It might have looked like it was because there wasn't a pass for the lead, but I was working pretty hard on every lap. It just that you get at a place like this where the cars are very dependent on the air ... we have a hard enough time in Winston Cup making our own car drive good, so trying to make 12 of them drive like that is very, very difficult. I've had cars that I felt weren't quite as good in some places, and my car today was just great. I couldn't have done anything to have made my car any better. I was just fortunate to have that car and start up front to get myself in that position today. It's almost an impossible job that they have to please 12 drivers at every racetrack.
Q: This is kind of a similar question, but you hear fans argue all the time about 'You take Kevin Harvick and put him in this car, or you take Dale Jarrett and put him in that car, could they run the same?' Given that these cars are identical, how do you gauge how good the drivers are based on how well you've done with this? Do you say, 'Well, now I'd like to see how that guys runs against me in an IROC championship race?'
Harvick: I think there are a lot of times when you see who can adjust to different conditions. I know from the beginning of this race to the end, my driving changed 180 degrees from the way it started the race. A lot of times it just takes some people longer to adapt to something than it does someone else. Some guys can adapt in one lap and change driving styles on the next lap. I've been pretty fortunate through my whole career to go from thing to thing and race a lot. I've been pretty fortunate to adjust to things. Some guys don't and some guys do. It just depends. You could look at it a bunch of different ways.
Jarrett: In Winston Cup cars, we have our teams giving us lap times, lap by lap. If I make a change, I'll tell them on the radio, 'Hey, I'm going to change what I'm doing a bit, how does it affect my lap time?' Sometimes you can tell, and other times it's just a very small amount that you're trying to change to go just a little bit faster. Out there, in these (IROC) cars, you've got to go totally by your feel and what you think in whether you're making your car any better, or not. That's why winning one of these championships, when there are only four places you can make something happen, is very special. I know that Kevin is very proud of what he did, and that's quite an accomplishment to do that. You really have to be ready to adjust on your own and, at times, take chances in making that adjustment.
Harvick: Let me explain something. We work on our Winston Cup car and change the nose weight, and we may change it two-tenths of a percent of a half of a percent. When these IROC cars get done racing, they have five to six percent more nose weight on them because they're burning 30 gallons of fuel. That's a big change. I know if you change five or six percent from the nose in my car right now, it's going to be a nightmare tomorrow. That's just one of the challenges of the series, and that's something that I don't know if a lot of people know about. But that's a big change from the beginning of the race to the end.