Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo - qualified 2nd: What do you think of RCR having three cars in the top 10? "The drivers are changing and everyone is a lot longer including the crew chiefs and the crew members. ...
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo - qualified 2nd:
What do you think of RCR having three cars in the top 10?
"The drivers are changing and everyone is a lot longer including the crew chiefs and the crew members. I think Richard thought he needed a third team to keep up with some of the other teams. Right now, everybody is in one race shop and everyone works on everyone's car. We think we've made everything better, but so does everybody else in the garage."
Are you disappointed to come that close to the pole and not win it?
"No, not when you didn't expect it. So that was a pleasant surprise for us."
What do you know of Jimmie Johnson?
"We come from the same side of the country. Bakersfield and El Cajon (California). We were both fortunate enough to have Ron Hornaday to take both of us under his wing and he's part of the reason why we're both sitting up here today. I was living on Hornaday's couch and Jimmie was getting ready to live on his couch. We raced in the Busch Series at the same time.
"In 1998 I was racing the Craftsman Truck Series and Hornaday took me under his wing. I stayed there - living on his couch - for about six months. That was when I got the ride with the No. 98 truck and then the ride with Richard Childress and so on. That was all a California connection. Ron also raced on the west coast."
How has the winter break affected you after such a tough 2001 season?
"It was nice to go home and all I did for the first two weeks was sleep. I lost about 15 pounds last year, which was not good for me. I feel a lot better and I'm relaxed and enjoying being at the racetrack. I'm looking forward to getting the year started. This week is a lot of 'firsts' for me - my first Daytona 500 and the IROC race and I get to sit behind the fence and watch what I've purchased in the (Craftsman) truck and (driver) Rick Carelli. I don't know if I'll enjoy that one too much. There are a lot of positive thing happening."
What are your thoughts on Chevrolet and Ford and the sandbagging
"It's like a chess game. It takes a long time. Sometimes it's boring. But this is the most prestigious race you can be in and race at. It's the Daytona 500. If you look back to 2000, the Fords pretty much dominated the Daytona 500. It seems like it goes in cycles. NASCAR does the best job they can to make the ground as equal as possible. You never know what anybody's got until you run those two laps out here (qualifying). A lot of people complain about superspeedway racing that don't have any answers on how to make it better. You might as well not gripe about it. I'm just glad to be here."
What do you think of last year's rookie of the year starting next to this
year's rookie of the year contender?
"They keep joking with me about putting a yellow stripe on my bumper. It's really neat because Jimmie is on the front row and Jeff Gordon's third. Jeff is slowly going into Rick Hendrick's position (owner) and Jimmie is in the same spot as I am in my career. It's pretty neat to see how everything changes."
How important is being on the front row in the Daytona 500?
"I'm still not sure how all this works. But from what I understand, we're on the front row for the Daytona 500 no matter what happens in the 125's. So basically, that means I don't have to worry about anything for a whole week. All we have to do is concentrate on the racecar."
Can you be rookie of the year and then Winston Cup champion in consecutive
"Putting yourself in contention to race for a championship is hard enough - let alone trying to win a championship. If I told you I didn't think we could beat any of the guys on the racetrack, I'd be lying to you because we think we're as good as anybody out there. Forty or 50 guys in the garage think the same thing. It's pretty tough."
What does it feel like to start on the front row of the Daytona 500?
"We didn't expect it. We expected to have a top 10 car and now we're on the front row and since we were 7th in points means we would have a provisional. I've been happy about that for two months. And I'm as proud of the guys on our race team as I've ever been. They should be proud because they are the ones responsible for it."