Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the Winston Breakfast Club guest on Saturday morning. The following are highlights of his chat with the media: WHICH CAR ARE YOU RUNNING AT KANSAS THIS ...
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the Winston Breakfast Club guest on Saturday morning. The following are highlights of his chat with the media:
WHICH CAR ARE YOU RUNNING AT KANSAS THIS WEEKEND?
"We're running car #88. It's the one we won with at Chicago. We ran it pretty much the whole summer. It's a good car. We screwed up in qualifying yesterday. We qualified bad but we'll be fine in the race."
HOW IS THE TRACK?
"The track's not good. It's fun to drive around. It's smooth. It's just one groove. It's still going to be hard to pass. Hopefully in the Busch race it'll widen out and hopefully we'll be able to pass each other and ride around. But right now, you can't."
WHEN RICHARD CHILDRESS WENT HUNTING RECENTLY, HE SAID HE MADE A NEW LIST. DOES IT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU?
"It doesn't have anything to do with my car (laughs). No, everything is really good on the No. 29 car. The last four weeks we haven't finished very good. At Loudon we blew two tires. John Andretti blew up at Darlington and we wrecked. We've just had a lot of bad luck and now we just need to finish a race and get back to how we were three or four weeks ago. I think the only race we ran bad was Dover and we ran pitiful there. When you go through a year, you're going to have some (bad luck). I think that's the first time since half way that we've ran bad. So we're just going to keep going and do the things we've been doing."
AFTER YOUR PERFORMANCE LAST YEAR, DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE THIS YEAR?
"I don't feel any pressure. We just go out there to race. If somebody wants to put the pressure on me, they can put it on me. But I just go out and do what we're supposed to do."
PRESSURE HAS NEVER REALLY BOTHERED YOU, HAS IT?
"No. I can do my job and try to communicate the best I can and I need to be part of the solution not part of the problem. We tried to make the problem go away and we did. And we got back to the things we were doing. The sport can eat you up in a hurry. There's a lot of different ways that it can eat you up and if you let all the small things get to you, pretty soon you'll find yourself in some pretty big predicaments. You just have to take one day at a time and just do the things you know how to do. We've got a very capable organization and have very good communication with our team. We can get through anything."
HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THIS SEASON?
"Richard (Childress) and I were talking about this the other day. Somebody should be running away with it by about 400 - 500 points. It's been a really weird season - kind of like our second half has gone. Somebody will get on a streak and all of a sudden they'll just disappear. It's been strange. Sterling (Marlin) got up there and got out front early and then just basically fell off the map. Now Mark (Martin) is up there and he's been consistent - not consistent top five - but consistent top 15 all year long. It's hard to put a thumb on who's had the best car because at some point everybody in the top five has had the best car. (And then) it just falls off for a little bit. Jimmie (Johnson) fell off for a little while and then he won last week (Dover). It's been a weird year. There have been a lot of strange things happen with myself and with Tony (Stewart) and just in the sport in general."
WHOM DO YOU SEE AS THE NEXT CHAMPION AND DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
"It's hard to put your finger on one person because it's been such a strange year. This is Tony Stewart's time of the year. He always seems to run good from halfway on. If I had to choose, that's who I'd pick."
HAVING RACED WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON IN THE BUSCH SERIES, DID YOU EXPECT HIM HAVTO E THIS GREAT SEASON?
"Last year, when we went in to everything, it was hard to tell what we were going to do. Jimmie was in the Busch car and I don't think that was really a fair shot for Jimmie. Now, you put him in everything that he needs and he's storming the world. Once you install a little bit of confidence in somebody, it can take you a long way. Jimmie is full of talent and he's got a pretty good mentor (Jeff Gordon) to help him along. It's a good situation for Jimmie and it's making Jeff (Gordon) look bad (laughs)."
DOES SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE AND GOOD EQUIPMENT INSTILL THE CONFIDENCE TO HELP A DRIVER RUN WELL?
"I think so. Mental (attitude) in this sport means as much as what's your driving. Everybody can go out and buy Ronny Hopkins cars and the right spindles and the right trailing arms and put the bodies on where they need to be. But nobody can do anything with any of it until you have somebody around you who can tell you when you're doing something wrong and if you need to change something or can tell by the tone of your voice how loose the car is. It has more to do with chemistry because everybody in the Busch Series and the Cup Series can go out and buy whatever they need."
HOW IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE RCR TEAMMATES?
"We have a good relationship. We've all gotten along really well. When we swapped the teams, the teams really started getting along well. They get along well in the shop. That was our strongest point last year in the Busch Series. We had two-race team and basically they all worked on everything and got along really well. That's where we are right now with all three race teams. The crew chiefs communicate really well and the drivers are on the same lines with where we need to be with our goals. We're all in this together and it's a lot easier to have three cars to relate to and understand what's underneath them. If one guys is running good and one guy is running bad, you can take the set-up out of his car and put it in your car and you should be somewhere close. That's what we need to make our teams where they need to be next year. That's our main focus right now. We're trying to put the teams where they need to be and make them as strong as we can by the end of the season."
DOES IS SURPRISE YOU THAT JEFF GREEN IS THE LEADING RCR DRIVER AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?
"We started off the year bad and they've been pretty consistent. I don't really care who is leading the team. None of us are where we need to be. We need to be in the top 10 in the points. For our part, I know you've got to run all the races first."
DO YOU THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE EXPECTED YOU TO JUST PICK UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF LAST SEASON?
"Yeah, well I think a lot of people expected Jeff Gordon to do that too and he's pretty fortunate to be where he's at. A lot of us are just not where we expected to be from last year to this year. You're going to have bad years. It's how you handle the bad years to make the good years better. Richard (Childress) has told me from the beginning that it's how you handle the bad days that make you better. Unfortunately in this sport, you're going to have a lot more bad days than good."
DID YOU CALL FOR THE SWAPPING OF THE TEAMS - WAS THAT YOUR IDEA?
"I don't know that anybody really called for it. I was just calling for a fix. The communication wasn't there. Things weren't clicking and we just had to do something. Sometimes you've got to do things that are kind of off the wall to make it work. At this point, I think it's been a huge plus. We just have to make sure that we take all the momentum that we gained in the second half of the year and end the year with it and come on to the next year."
WHO IS YOUR PICK TO WIN THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR BATTLE?
"I'd like them to race two series. They're both really good drivers and have good teams. It's hard to pick one at this point. Ryan (Newman) hasn't won as many races, but he's almost had a better year than Jimmie (Johnson) if you look at the numbers and take out the win column. But Jimmie has won three races so it's kind of a toss up. I don't know if you need to have a tie at the end of the year, but Jeff Gordon sits on the panel so it might be leaning a little bit Jimmie's way."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN A ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONOR?
"Basically, I think your rookie is easier than your second year because you have a lot less tugging at you. The second year, you have a lot more coming from different angles and everyone wants a piece of you. The first year, you just go out and race the car and then over the winter they put the clamps on you."
HAVE YOU TESTED THE NEW CHEVROLET?
"I have not tested the new Chevrolet yet. Robby (Gordon) tested it last week. He's actually tested it twice. He tested the first one too."
IS THE BALANCE BETTER ON THE '03 MONTE CARLO?
"We'll be able to race a lot better. Right now, we're basically racing against race cars with our street car. We've tried to compromise with the rules so that we can keep up aerodynamically with the other brands. Our cars are either on or off. It's so hard to make the balance right because when this car was designed, it was designed with a lot of rear downforce. It wasn't designed with the nose kicked out four and a half inches. Basically when you kick the nose out on that car, you've changed your whole set-up on the race car. Ever since they kicked the nose out, we've been off a little bit. It throws the whole balance off. Basically you have to start over on what you want to do with your set-ups and springs and shocks. It makes it tough to do something like that in the middle of the year."
WHAT CAN OTHER CARS DO THAT YOUR CAR CAN'T DO RIGHT NOW?
"At Michigan, Bill Elliott was a good example at the beginning of the race. Our car was really good but he could drive into the corner five or six cars deeper than we could and then stand on the gas and be able to turn the car in the middle of the corner. If I'd driven my car in that deep, it would have gone straight into the wall. We've got really good horsepower right now. They (other brands) can run with their fenders 75 inches wide, we have to run ours 77 inches wide. So basically we're pushing a big freight train down the race track. They can run with the fenders in and still make the car turn. It'll be a lot better next year and we'll be where we need to be."
WILL IT THEN BE LIKE A SPEC SERIES?
"No, there are too many variables that you can throw under the car in springs an shocks and things like that to call it something like that. You're still going to have that competitive nature. The noses are still different on the cars. But it will be a lot more in the teams and drivers hands next year."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE CHEVROLETS WILL DO NEXT WEEK AT TALLADEGA?
"It'll still be the same deal where you've got to go beat the DEI cars. The Chevrolets will qualify good and we'll all run in a pack. The fuel cells are going to throw a pretty big loop in it. It'll probably spread things out a little bit."
IS THAT A GOOD IDEA?
"I think it's a good idea. I think they should put the roof fins on there with the fuel cells because the problem we're going to have now is that things will get spread out and we're not going to be able to catch up. You're probably going to see groups all over the race track and I don't think that's what anybody wants to see at Talladega."
HOW MUCH CAN THE NEXT FEW RACES CHANGE THE POINTS CHASE?
"Talladega can change everything. You basically go into that race knowing you've got a fifty-fifty change of finishing the race. You're either going to wreck or have a good finish.
"And then Martinsville is kind of the same thing. You've got to make sure - especially if you're in the championship race - that you finish that race. You've got to finish all the races, but those are two that can really turn the points upside down."
NOW THAT THE BAD BOY LABEL HAS TURNED OVER TO TONY STEWART, HAVE YOU GIVEN HIM ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO HANDLE IT?
"Tony knows how to handle it. He's doing everything that he can to make it better. I talk to him every once in a while about what's going on and we compare notes (laughs)."
HAVE YOU SETTLED DOWN AT ALL OR IS IT JUST THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE MAKING HTHE EADLINES AND YOU'RE THE SAME GUY?
"Between Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, I don't know that I've been forgotten but I can walk through with my head up high and not dodge anybody. Since Kurt went on his rage in the summer, that really took things off my shoulders."
DO YOU LIKE THAT?
"I love it. That makes my life a lot easier."
ARE YOU A POINTS RACER OR A RACER?
"I'm one of the people that says to do what got you to this point and that everything else will fall into place. A racer is somebody who goes out and tries to win every race. That's everyone's goal. But when you realize you can't win the race, you have to take what you can for the weekend. If you've got a fifth place car and you're going to wreck it trying to finish third, that's bad points racing."
ARE YOU A GOOD POINTS RACER? DO YOU RACE WITH A CALCULATOR?
"I don't race with a calculator, I can promise you that. Our theory is that if you have a 10th place car and you can finish eighth without tearing it up, that's a good points weekend. But I'm not going to sit back and calculate until the last race - maybe the last two races."
HOW SHOULD A GUY LIKE TONY STEWART DEAL WITH THE DISTRACTIONS?
"I think the racing actually takes your mind off of it. If it takes two or three minutes of sitting in the car to make sure you understand what you need to do when you get out. If you're mad at somebody, you've just got to take a couple of deep breaths and go back to the trailer and find your airplane and go home because it's not worth causing something that needs to be talked about. I know he realizes that and he understands that. If any of your have ever sat and talked to Tony one-on-one when he's not in practice or around the race track afterwards, Tony's the nicest guy you'll ever talk to in the garage. He understands that the things he does sometimes are not right. He'll be the first one to tell you he should have handled it different. Unfortunately, when you get out of these things, there's a lot of Adrenalin flowing and there's a lot of things going on. You want to just go away and sometimes that's just not possible. You have to accept the position you're in and learn how to handle the situation. I think he's doing that. For me, I know that I had to hurry up and realize what I wanted to do, and if I wanted to keep doing it I had to learn how to handle things differently."
IF TONY STEWART AND KURT BUSCH HAD BEHAVED DIFFERENTLY, WOULD YOU STILL BE LABLED AS NASCAR'S BAD BOY?
"I don't think so. I think we've done everything that we've needed to do to make our situation with NASCAR right. The label is going to be there. There are going to be people that don't like me no matter what. When I go out and do something right, they (the media) are still going to write something that I did wrong. The biggest thing I've learned in this situation is that you have to accept the things that you do. If Richard (Childress) is satisfied and the people around me that need to be satisfied are satisfied, the rest of it really doesn't matter. That's the biggest thing that I had to understand. You can't make everyone happy."
-team monte carlo-