KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed racing at Daytona, the new Nationwide cars, manufacturer identity, the business of owning a race team and other ...
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed racing at Daytona, the new Nationwide cars, manufacturer identity, the business of owning a race team and other topics.
TALK ABOUT COMING BACK TO DAYTONA: "We've been fortunate to have pretty good success here. I enjoy the superspeedway racing. I enjoy the handling aspect of the race track that it presents. Obviously this weekend is the last one for awhile, any way, that problem will present itself. I like the bumps, I like the sliding around and with the cars and restrictor plates and the way that everything is now, they slide around a lot. Definitely going to be a handling game this weekend and look forward to it."
TWO QUESTIONS AS POINTS LEADER, DO YOU BELIEVE THAT NASCAR NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING TO REWARD THAT POSITION AT THE START OF THE CHASE AND SECONDLY, AS FORMER NATIONWIDE CHAMPION, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE NEW CAR IS GOING TO HELP THE IDENTITY OF THAT SERIES? "I think that when you have a good first 26 races, I agree with you and I think that those conversations have come up in the team/NASCAR meetings to draw some importance to trying to get into that position and having it mean something. But, it is what it is and we have to go out and try to win another race or two before the Chase starts. In the end, you are looking at a deficit, whether it is 40 points like it is today, or 20 points, or 10 points, or 50 points or whatever it is, we just have to keep doing the same things that we are doing. We've run, what is this, the 18th race, the consistency and the top-fives. The top-fives are really what have put us where we are and making bad days into decent days is what you have to do when it is crunch time at the end. Really in the end, it is all about timing. You can do whatever you want in the first part of the season. The main objective is get your cars situated and your team situated and get to where you think you are the most competitive by the last 10 (races). You can win all the races and do all the things you want to do in the regular season, if you don't make it happen in the last 10, it really doesn't matter. Hopefully that is when we can get it going the best and keep doing the things that we are also doing right now.
"The new Nationwide car is cool. I'm really happy about the first thing which is the safety aspect of the car. Obviously you can't compare it, it isn't even comparable to the old car. When you get in and out of it, you have a lot of room. The cars are easy to build once you get your foundation setups of your grids and all the things and templates that go with it. The cars are actually, we are able to build them in four or five days. You can buy a lot of the pieces and parts already pre-made. You can't move the bodies around and things here and there. It is what it is. You have low tolerances, everything is built very straight up, very straight forward, very simple. Obviously, they are sliding around a lot. They are new and hard to get a handle on the race track right now, but when we first started the Cup car, they were hard to get a handle on as well so it's not anywhere near that bad.
"I think the identity for the manufacturers is great. Anytime we can more similarities to the cars on the race track to the cars in the showroom like we have with these cars is something that I think is very important to the sport. The cars just look really cool so that's great for a sport that revolves around cool cars."
WITH THE SPOILER PACKAGE LIKE THE ONE AT TALLADEGA WHEN YOU WON MAKE FOR A WILDER RACE HERE ON SATURDAY NIGHT OR WILL THE FIELD SEPARATE OUT MORE THAN IT DID AT TALLADEGA BECAUSE OF HANDLING? "They are definitely going to spread out a lot more than Talladega that is for sure. I think after seven or eight laps, the handling will be king. Speed is not going to be something that you really need. Handling is going to result into that speed. With the balance and the downforce that has been put on the car with the rear spoiler it has added pretty equal downforce to the front and the back of the cars. You've got more side force than what you had before. In turn, you put a bigger restrictor plate on so the closure rate should be just a touch faster than what it was here at the beginning of the year. It will be much like Talladega, probably a little bit better than Talladega because you have a little more power. Should be an exciting race, but I still think handling is going to be the main aspect of what is going to happen on Saturday night."
WILL THE HANDLING MAKE IT NOT SO MUCH A WRECKING RACE? "The bump drafting takes care of itself because of the bumps in the corners and the handling of the cars are so lose in the corners you can't bump draft through the corners here like you can at Talladega. The race track itself takes care of that aspect of it. It's more like Atlanta than it is Talladega."
WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE HERE IN FEBRUARY WITH THE NEW SURFACE AND WILL THE DRIVERS BE MORE OR LESS IMPORTANT? "I think the driver will be less important than it is right now just for the fact that handling is totally out the window. There will be no handling aspect of it. It will be just like Talladega and getting your car as fast as you can make it is going to make packs just like Talladega with half the width of the race track than what you are used to there. You are going to see the bump drafting through the corners. You are going to see bump drafting through the tri-oval, straighaways and all those things, just like Talladega. In the end, you still have to play that chess match. You still have to put yourself in position. You still have to survive the wrecks. You still have to do all the things to get you to the end of the race. Just like you do here and just like you do at Talladega. One aspect will be removed from that picture."
ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THE BUMPS AND IDENTITY OF THIS TRACK? IS REPAVING THE RIGHT THING TO DO? "I don't think anybody would repave it unless you had to. Obviously there are some issues that are deeper than what everybody can see underneath the asphalt. Nobody is going to spend $20 million to repave a race track if you don't have to. I think it is more probably a safety concern than it is anything. It is no different than a pair of tennis shoes, if you wear them out and you have holes in the bottom of them, you have to go get some new ones or you are going to be walking barefoot. Time has taken its toll on the race track and you just have to start over with a fresh coat of asphalt. You can talk about the bumps and things of Daytona but the identity of Daytona is Daytona itself and the history of the race and all the things that have happened, no matter what the asphalt is on the race track."
KNOWING YOU HAVE YOUR FOUNDATION VOLLEYBALL GAME THIS WEEKEND, IF YOU WIN THE RACE, ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE VOLLEYBALL A COMPONENT OF YOUR PHYSICAL REGIME? "(LAUGHS) I don't think so. I think as bad as I am at playing volleyball, I think I need to keep it on the race track. We had a good event this morning. We brought the Boys and Girls Club, a bunch of the kids out and had a little volleyball game on the beach this morning. Had a lot of fans come out. Wiley X and Rheem were kind enough to donate $50,000 to the Kevin Harvick Foundation to help put the event on and everybody had a good time. It is just something to break the ice and really for us it all about the kids having fun and I think they did that so that was cool."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TAPERED SPACER IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? KYLE BUSCH WAS TELLING ME YESTERDAY THAT HE THINKS THAT THE DODGES HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OF THE TOYOTAS AND SOMEBODY FROM CHEVY SAID THE SAME THING, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THAT BROUGHT INTO THE CUP SERIES AS WELL OVER THE RESTRICTOR PLATE? "I've heard Kyle complain about the restrictor plate since we had the other car. We run the same restrictor plates. I mean, the guy has won like 30 races in the last three years, he needs to go complain to somebody else in a different series about something else. (SMILES) Geez-o-Pete, if anybody is going to complain, it should be everybody but Kyle Busch (LAUGHTER) about winning anything in the Nationwide Series. I mean if somebody else was complaining about it, it would be...I don't even really know how to answer that. (LAUGHS) I'm trying not to be mean.
"The tapered spacer thing is neat because you don't have to put the restrictor plates on. I think we have all be pretty vocal about wanting to open the tapered spacer up on a lot of the downforce tracks because I think the racing would be better if we added 40 or 50 more horsepower back to the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series. I think the engine builders, I know that all of that was done for cost containment. I think we could still keep the same engine rules and add a little bit of horsepower back and make it so the cars aren't wide open at a lot of these race tracks. Daytona and Talladega should be the only two places you are wide open at any race track. I think we need a little bit more power across the board for all manufacturers. The engines go back to NASCAR and get dyno'd with whatever the particular plates are. The Toyotas and the Chevys have the small plates with their engines. I've heard (Carl) Edwards complain about his car not having enough power so it is just a matter of where NASCAR thinks all that stuff is from a power standpoint. This is the way I look at it. I don't make the rules. It is NASCAR's job to listen to all the people want to have opinions and complain or whatever it is and then try to make it as fair as possible. When somebody gets a bigger plate, I say "Well, they must have been way off". We've been in that particular situation before and it is just trying to keep the playing field level. The Fords and the Dodges came back with bigger restrictor plates to this race. I would assume that was because of the performance on the race track. As long as it is a good race, I don't really care what restrictor plate they put on us. We're going to work with whatever the rules give us. They take the engines seven, eight, nine times a year, they take them straight out of the cars, put them straight on their dynos and that is where the rules are made."
THE EARLY PART OF THIS DECADE IT SEEMED THAT ONE ORGANIZATION AND TWO GUYS WON ALL THE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES. LOOKING AS THE DECADE HAS EVOLVED, THE LAST FIVE RACES HERE HAVE HAD FIVE DIFFERENT WINNERS. IS THERE ONE GUY ANYMORE THAT IS THE "KING OF RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING?" IF NOT, WHY HAS THAT CHANGED? "I think there is just so many competitive cars that everybody has really stepped up their restrictor plate racing program because you know if you have a fast enough car you can run at the front of the pack and your chances of wrecking at 70%/30% instead of 50%/50%. Everybody puts a lot of time and effort into the cars now, where you used to just say, 'Well those are four races a year and you've got what you got, and we don't want to spend a bunch of money on it outside of Daytona.' Now it's a year-round program that everybody spends the whole year constantly evolving whatever cars that they have to make them better. I think everybody has spent a lot of time trying to figure out why those guys that were dominating those races at the beginning of the decade were better than everybody else. Yeah, they're good restrictor plate racers, but usually the faster cars run better. I think the cars have just gotten better and that's pretty much it."
ON THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS AND RUNNING YOUR OWN TEAM, EVERYBODY HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE ECONOMY SLOWLY INCHING ITSELF BACK UP, IT SEEMS LIKE THIS TIME LAST YEAR EVERYBODY WAS FLYING COMMERCIAL AND THEY WERE DOING ALL THESE CUTBACKS. HAVE YOU NOTICED A LITTLE UPTURN ON YOUR BUSINESS-SIDE OF THINGS? OR WAS YOUR COMPANY EVER REALLY AFFECTED?"Oh it was affected tremendously, and the way that we run our company and that it is still intact of how we made all those cutbacks. We still run the company the way that we cut all those positions and salaries. You go and you spend the time to call ten hotel rooms instead of three hotel rooms to see if you can save money there. You try to contract stuff through the whole year to get the prices down. We've become a better more efficient company just because of those times. In the last two or three weeks we've probably seen things loosen up a little bit. We've been able to sell all of the remaining truck races that we had in the last two or three weeks, so that's a good thing. So those trucks are fully-funded for the rest of the year. Now we can start working on next year. The phone is ringing a little bit more, but it's still the prices and things that you're used to seeing are down compared to what they have been in the past. You just had to lower your overhead costs to make your company run more efficiently with the new price point that everyone is willing to spend. Just like us and redoing our teams and trying to condense everything and run it more efficiently, everybody else is doing the same thing with their company. The amount to spend is just less than what it used to be."
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT IS IT HAVING AS A BUSINESS OWNER TO TRANSITION FROM THE OLD NATIONWIDE SERIES CAR TO THE NEW CAR? ARE YOU HAVING TO OPERATE SIMULTANEOUSLY ON TWO PLATFORMS WHILE THAT GETS INTEGRATED? ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR NEW NATIONWIDE CARS FROM THE GROUND UP, OR ARE YOU ALSO INTEGRATING SOME OF THE OLD CUP CHASSIS? "Yeah, we made the commitment from the beginning--it's probably been a year ago--that we made the commitment to just trying to build things because we don't have the people and the power that a cup organization would have. So the only way for us to do it right was to start earlier and spread that out. It's tough. Our guys have been spread pretty thin over the past couple of months with all the testing, wind tunnel time, and things with both cars. We knew it was coming and we got an early start on it. We feel like we're as prepared as we need to be when we got to the race track. That hasn't been too bad. The good thing about it is when we get done, we'll have our speedway cars that are built for here. You'll be able to at least have one when you come back in February. So you'll have those and then you'll have some downforce cars that are already built and ready to race too. We do build them; obviously we're in a transition phase too. All of our stuff is going to RCR Chassis, so all the stuff that we currently have is not going to be used and we had to get rid of some of it because our Nationwide car is going to be like our Cup cars with RCR Chassis and RCR parts. We're trying to get all those fleets prepared and ready to go. Everything is new."
WE CAME HERE FOR THE DAYTONA WITH NASCAR HAVING ALREADY ANNOUNCED THEIR LOOSENING OF THE REIGNS AND 'BOYS HAVE AT IT.' IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, WE'VE HAD A LOT OF PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT NO RESPECT AND HOW THINGS HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE ON THE TRACK. DO YOU EXPECT THIS DAYTONA RACE TO BE DIFFERENT FROM THE 500 IN HOW IT IS CONDUCTED AMONG THE DRIVERS? "I don't think you'll see as much of that here just because of the nature of the beast on the restrictor plate side is quite a bit different than what you would see at a normal race track. It is still going to be everybody trying to do everything they can for themselves, and it's getting close to the time when the Chase is getting close and everybody wants to make something happen. I think it will be just your normal restrictor plate race that you see here, but I still think handling is going to be the main aspect of it."
-source: gm racing