Michigan II: Winning team press conference, part 1

Michigan International Speedway August 15, 2010 An interview with: KEVIN HARVICK - Race winner GIL MARTIN - Crew chief RICHARD CHILDRESS - Owner HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by our race winners, Kevin Harvick, crew chief Gil Martin, and in a...

Michigan International Speedway
August 15, 2010

An interview with:
KEVIN HARVICK - Race winner
GIL MARTIN - Crew chief
RICHARD CHILDRESS - Owner

HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by our race winners, Kevin Harvick, crew chief Gil Martin, and in a few minutes Richard Childress will join us.

Guys, you win the race, still lead the points and you've made the Chase. Pretty good day. Kevin?

KEVIN HARVICK: It's been obviously a great day for us. It's really been a great weekend all around and a great year, for that fact. It's a lot of fun to come to the racetrack right now. Everybody is doing a great job of not only continuing to press but to put better things on the racetrack and put things together correctly and just do a great job at the shop.

That's really all you can ask for right now is to have a chance. You're going to have the flat tires, the miscues, stuff happen. It's just a matter of how you rebound. Today we didn't have to do anything. We were able to take advantage of a really fast racecar and put it where it was supposed to be, and that's in Victory Lane. So a good day.

HERB BRANHAM: Gil?

GIL MARTIN: It was a great day for us for more than one reason. The season has gone so well from last year, but to come to Michigan, be able to run the way did today, after the way we've run here the past three years, this shows how far the organization has come as a whole, not to mention the fact that Kevin did a great job today running the high line all day long. It takes a lot to do that here, to make that happen. Everything that happened in the pits today, the engines, the cars. I can't say enough about the whole organization.

HERB BRANHAM: Questions for our race winners.

Q: You have been pretty much great everywhere this year. There haven't been any weak spots. How come you're the one team that hasn't stumbled anywhere and doesn't have any weak spots in your game now?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it's a lot like we talked on Friday. I think the quality control we have at the shop is really good as far as analyzing the parts, making sure that the cars are within the tolerances. In the wind tunnel, the guys are doing a great job of making sure the numbers are what we need to be as to what Gil thinks they need to be for me to drive.

The quality control, the people touching the cars right now are doing a good job of making sure that the right stuff is leaving the shop. That's really what all these cars are all about.

Q: Kevin, you mentioned today, the next couple weeks, is really vacation, almost like a vacation. Besides Victory Lane, where else do you go on vacation?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, tomorrow I'm going to embarrass myself at the PGA TOUR event this week in Greensboro, Wyndham Championship. We have our foundation's golf tournament tomorrow morning. Hopefully I don't hit anybody. This will be a fun week. Become good friends with Jason Gore. To see those guys play is going to be fun. To hang out with them for a week, it's like a vacation, but that's what we're going to do for this week.

Q: Can you talk about what kind of a testament this is to Richard Childress and how you have rebuilt this organization in the last year? 20 years ago was the last time that a Childress car went to Victory Lane. What were you doing at that point?

KEVIN HARVICK: I told him a story today on the post race. The first time I came to Michigan was 1999. We announced our AC Delco sponsorship. That was the first time that I actually had met Earnhardt. I walked up in the lounge. Richard is, Come up in the lounge. Earnhardt is changing. Looks at you like, Who the hell are you?

I sat down in the lounge and just kind of didn't really have much to say. Then we went out and watched the race. To see all the people, I think we were in the last pit stall that day, watched the race, watched Earnhardt I think race at the front that day, just took it all in.

So that was a pretty cool moment just to get to spend some time with those guys. I'll remember that first day for a long time because it was something that everybody doesn't get to do every day.

But to come here and win is, like Gil said, great for RCR for the fact that this hasn't been our best racetrack. Our cars had run good here before, but I hadn't. Last couple times we've really committed ourselves to driving in different spots on the racetrack and doing different things from inside the car and trying to manage the practice as well as we can to not fool ourselves.

I think last time we fooled ourself at the first race, I think we did a good job of managing that this weekend as far as where to run in practice.

Q: And Childress, rebuilding the company?

KEVIN HARVICK: You can speak more to that, Gil.

GIL MARTIN: The commitment that Richard has given us all as far as whether it's financial support, moral support, equipment, everything that we've got right now as far as I'm concerned, there is not a better place to be right now as far as things that are going on, as far as technology in the sport.

I think we're on the cutting edge on a lot of things. Without his commitment and his drive and just being the racer that he is, I don't think we would be at the level we are right now, especially not rebounding from where we were last year to be here right now. It's a testament to how hard everybody has worked and the commitment that has been made.

HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by team owner Richard Childress. Maybe give us some opening thoughts about this day and we'll go back to questions.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'm just really proud of our whole organization. To come up here and win in Detroit, in Michigan, for GM, to win in that Chevy Impala is big for us. Like you say, it's been 20 years since RCR won. Kevin almost had the race several years ago. We broke a distributor. I can remember that one. We've had some really good runs. But to be able to put it together today, Kevin, he's figured out how to make this thing work in the groove. He's got his own groove better than anyone. He gets a lot of credit for today, too. Gil did a great call. Two tires (smiling).

Q: You seem to be a better driver now than perhaps anytime in your career. Any reason? You look very comfortable, more mature.

KEVIN HARVICK: It's like living everyday life. As you get older, you experience more things. As you race more, you get to experience more things and go through situations, understand how the world turns.

I think I've learned to relate it to everyday life. When you talk about this particular subject, just for the fact that's the truth. You learn how to deal with things better and you learn what to do, what not to do, when to do it. I think it's just a natural progression of listening to the people around you and trying to take everything in and learn by your mistakes to go forward.

That's really all we're doing different, trying to get away from racing during the week to take my mind away from things, relax more. Other than that, it's fun.

Q: Gil, did you do any significant changes from qualifying to the race with the car?

GIL MARTIN: Well, from qualifying to the race, there's quite a few changes you make just to make a qualifying lap. But basically we had a game plan that when we got here what we were going to practice with, race trim, for a little while on Friday, then what we were going to do on Saturday. We went through a couple different scenarios trying to see how the car was going to react in the sun and clouds. We had both situations on Saturday. We kind of had an idea of what we were going to do.

Luckily this is one of the weekends that a lot of preparation, a good game plan and our engineering staff, the simulation they did, a lot of that stuff played out good this weekend.

Q: You're on the verge of making a sponsor announcement. You've been leading the points all year. You won two of the last six races when neither Hamlin or Johnson have won any of those six races. The Chase is three races away. Can your timing be that good or is this just a matter of getting better and reaching it at the right time? Can you orchestrate something like that, the fact you're so good at the right time, is that an accident or intentional?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think the reason for it is is we were so damn bad last year. That's probably the reason (laughter). For everybody to know that and work towards getting better, it all started in Indianapolis last year. Everybody in every department, and Richard was on 'em pretty hard, along with everybody else.

So I think it's just a matter of everybody was embarrassed last year. We've really been running pretty well since probably the last six or eight weeks of last year. It didn't just happen today.

One of the best things that we all went through last year was the fact that we I realized everybody didn't like losing as much as I did and we all wanted to achieve the same goals. We were headed in the right direction to do those things. I think it's just coincidental timing.

What do you guys think?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I agree. We got way off last year, started coming back towards the end of the year. Kevin and I talked. We knew a lot of things we wanted to change, work on, fix. We fixed a lot of 'em. I'm just happy to have him back here for three more years.

We're gonna be contenders, for sure.

Q: How much more confident does a win like this, at this track, give you in the big picture?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's really been a lot of the places we would classify places we don't run good, we've ran as good as those places this year as we do at the short tracks, road courses, the places you can typically count on us running good.

The really the worst race we had was the first one here. That was just because we felt like we made a couple mistakes from practice and the way we practiced. It just led to some bad decisions we made with the car over the course of the day. We just got off and never could fix it in the race.

I don't feel like there's anywhere we go right now that our cars should be off just because I know we've run good on every type of racetrack. If it's off, the information I'm giving 'em is not right or I got to give 'em the right information to lead them down the road to get it where it needs to be.

We can be off, but our cars are all capable, no matter where we're at, to get 'em right.

Q: Gil, going back to earlier points about few weaknesses and quality control. Did it ever bother you that the wins didn't come with more regularity this year as good as the cars have been? Is this a validation that you can do this beyond restrictor plate tracks?

GIL MARTIN: Of course, everybody wants to win every week. The bottom line is there's a lot of good race teams out here. It's hard to win at this level. The things that we do, the preparation we do every week, the 33 and 31 prepare just like we do. Sometimes the breaks just don't happen like they need to or, like Kevin said, the road you go down on Friday and Saturday lead you into Sunday. You've got to be extremely careful not to fool yourself on leading into Saturday morning.

We've done that better this year. We've prepared ourself better for Saturday practice than we did probably last year. I think we've also looked forward and looked back into history more and have prepared a race strategy I think that's been better, too, because I think last year maybe we played it off the cuff a little too much on some of our decisions we made on pit road. This year we've really looked at them. Before we go to the race, we have a meeting every Monday, try to replay what we think is going to happen, what has happened in the past, and that's worked out for us.

KEVIN HARVICK: I think the other thing you have to look at, too, we started out winning the Bud Shootout, the Daytona 500, circumstances, we had a chance, leading the race when the 500 miles ended, we were leading the race when the 510 ended. You go to California, and I think California should have been for sure the first win. We hadn't won so long that I forced the issue. That for me was the best point the year, remembering and telling myself, You can't force winning; winning just happens, it comes in cycles. Those circumstances all of a sudden start going your way.

When I tried to force it at California, waited two laps, drove right by him, that would have been the first win. I tried to force it too soon. That was what got me going back on the right path, trying to think, not force those things.

Q: Gil, 30 laps to go, you don't pit, everybody else does. We're thinking, They might have made a mistake. Kevin, you faded a little bit. Any second thoughts or did the computer simulation say this is right on and everybody else is screwing up?

GIL MARTIN: Heck no. I had somebody right here next to me that would have killed me if I would have pitted. Clean air was a big bonus today. With Tony staying out, knowing we had somebody to draft with, then hopefully a lot of guys would get two in between us, and they d the way everybody fanned out, it almost gave a parachute effect to the back portion of the field, that the tires couldn't overcome the aero push. Not having any cautions at the end led us to where we could stretch out. If we could get four or five laps, let the tires heat up, we could stretch it out, because we were probably on average about 2/10ths better than the field most of the run. When it got deeper in the run, it came more than that.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick