Michigan II: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 HERB BRANHAM: We'll go ahead and excuse Gil and continue with questions for Kevin and Richard. Q: Richard, Kevin talked a little bit about the maturity factor that he has shown during the course of this year. I was...

Continued from part 1

HERB BRANHAM: We'll go ahead and excuse Gil and continue with questions for Kevin and Richard.

Q: Richard, Kevin talked a little bit about the maturity factor that he has shown during the course of this year. I was wondering if you could talk about some of the differences you've noticed in Kevin maybe on and off the track.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I mean, Kevin's always had his head into it good as a racer. I think he's bringing more and more to our whole organization now.

Last year he talked to me about areas we needed to work on, we needed to fix. We went in there and we all worked on them together. He's a big reason we got our engines running where we are today.

It's not complaining, it's how he came to us and said it's how we got to get them fixed. We just worked through a lot of those things. Today he's a big role at RCR as well.

Q: Do you see yourselves as the team to beat going into the Chase?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I said at our luncheon, Somebody has to beat Jimmie this year, and it might as well be RCR.

You never say, We're the team to beat. You got to have confidence, but so many factors play in. We know we're going to be a contender. That's all we can ask for is to be a contender. If we're that, we'll have a shot at winning it.

Q: Richard and Kevin, this is the No. 29's first victory on a track of at least one and a half miles in length with an unrestricted engine since 2003. Can you describe any significance to that given that five of the tracks in the Chase are similar? Is it good to get the win on a track like that heading into the Chase?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's good to get it out of the way. Like I say, there were opportunities to do that. You just can't force it. I think that's more coincidence than anything. We won the All-Star Race in '07 on a mile-and-a-half racetrack in Charlotte. We've been in contention to win a bunch of 'em this year.

You just go racing. If they come at Daytona, I'm happy. If they come at Talladega, whatever. If they come at Martinsville, fine too. It's okay. I'm glad to win here today. But wherever they are, I'm happy in this deal.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: Like he said, we had won at Charlotte, the All-Star, Atlanta till that caution came out there right at the end, mile-and-a-half, he was the class of the field there. We just couldn't take off on that restart. Indy we were really good.

We've had some great opportunities, but we're able to capitalize right now. If we keep being able to capitalize, we'll be a contender.

Q: Richard, a little more than a year ago there was a lot of fighting going on, the team lost its way, you had to do a couple rebuilding jobs over the last decade. When something like that happens, how the hell do you know where to start and how hard is it to get a ship turned where you have 400 or 500 people and it's not really working, in short order get it moving in the right direction?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: It actually started mid-season or before. My story on what happened last year, 2008, Kevin was one of the contenders for the championship. The Hendrick group had phenomenal years. 2007, Bowyer was there. 2008, Kevin was there. We were contenders at that point for the championship.

We went down a road going into 2009 with some people and some things. We ended 2008 well enough. We took the wrong path. When NASCAR pulled the testing, our simulation program would not work anymore.

It's just accumulation of so many things. Done a lot of changing in personnel. Changed our engineering. You see your weak points. Kevin and I talked about the areas we knew we had to work on. Jeff Burton played a big role. I asked him what he thought on some things. It's a big team effort. I don't get the credit for it. It's everybody going in there trying to turn that ship and we all turned it together.

Q: Kevin, a couple times where you were getting ready to take the lead, your spotter or crew chief said just keep doing that and you're going to leave everybody behind. Are the engines just that strong now? Do you have a better package better? Is it different than you've had for the rest of the season?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think the good engines are coming. They're all good, but I think the other ones are coming still in the pipeline. The engine program has been so strong over the past couple years since those guys have really got their stuff together. Now it's just a constant evolution of better stuff always in the pipeline. They do a great job of doing all that.

You know, today it was a combination of a great engine, a great car. When you run the top like that, you're able to make it work, it looks like you have a hundred more horsepower. We probably do have as much horsepower as anybody, and today it looked like we had a bunch more because we were able to run the top.

Q: Richard, your first win here since Dale in 1990. Would you share some of your more vivid memories of that day.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: 1990? You know, that's 20 years ago. Memory isn't as good as it was. I remember winning here, how proud we was to win for GM Goodwrench back in those days, to win in a GM product up here. There's a lot of pride. It's great to be here today and win today.

But that was a great win, too. Like I say, we've been in a position to win here before. They just always seemed to slip away.

Q: Richard, Clint Bowyer got back in the top 12, 35 points up on Mark Martin. How would you assess his chances to get in the Chase and how big was it for him to get back in the top 12 today?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: That's going to be a battle. It's not just racing two guys. It's about four guys that can still win that. Clint still is pretty wired. Like Kevin said, you got to mature through these things. That's one thing that Clint's working on, we're working on with him.

The pressure that goes along with where he's sitting now, we've sat in that situation before going into Richmond. It's a tough deal, tough on the drivers. He and I are going to talk tomorrow. Hopefully we can do some things that will get him focused in on what he's got to accomplish these next three races. It's a lot about being right there and having the focus and concentration.

Q: What is the game plan now for the 29 for the next three weeks? You're in the Chase. Is it go out and win and have fun?

KEVIN HARVICK: Do you think it would go over well if we went on vacation? Probably not (smiling).

I think it's to do the same thing we did today. It's fun. I mean, right now we're in a fortunate position to be doing what we're doing. I've been in that 12th, 13th place battle and it sucks, to be honest with you. You can't sleep at night, you can't do anything to get your mind off of that.

We're going to enjoy it. We're going to go and race hard. We're going to try to gain 30 more bonus points. Hopefully we can have a couple things that we can try. For sure now, whether it's engines, parts, pieces, over the next three weeks, try to get a little bit better.

We're going to enjoy it and we're going to hopefully be ready for the last 10 weeks.

Q: Kevin, you went after Denny on the high side, passed him on the turn. Here at Michigan, how did you figure that out?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it's just a lot of years of getting beat by people running up there to be honest with you. I never really could figure it out. So probably end of last year, middle of last year, first or second race of last year, I went home and watched some tapes of Dale Jr., to be honest with you, some of his previous races here, because he always seemed to have a good handle on running the top groove. It was just more of a rhythm thing and some things that I needed to change in my approach to run up there.

For us, I think the biggest change was not only the racecars being good, but just the approach to where we ran on the racetrack during the race and making that commitment. It worked out for us today.

Q: You talked earlier about learning from the California experience. Was that learning from your own self when you were flying back or somebody talking to you? Can you relate how that helped you with chasing down Denny?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, the California thing was just more of a wake-up call. If you're going to have fast cars, there's no reason to ruin them. We were going to win the race hands down if I was just patient. You want to force the issue, take advantage when you can. That was just a huge reminder for me that these things go in cycles. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You can't let the highs be too high and the lows be too low. Sometimes you just finish second.

When you're that much faster than the guy in front of you, you got to take your time until the laps are out. That's kind of what I did today. I didn't want to make a mistake by running into the wall. When Denny rolled up to the top, I didn't want to do the same thing I did behind Jimmie and push into the fence off the corner. I tried to take care of my car and just kind of let time take care of his. Mine got better as it progressed, I knew that. There was no reason to force it until it was very clear we were going to make the move and go by.

So that was a big key in the way that the year has gone so far. There's been instances where we could have pushed the issue a little bit more, but it really wasn't worth the risk at that particular time just for the fact you got a lot of laps left in the race and today we had a lot of time to work Denny over and try to get by.

Q: Why wouldn't you say you're the team to beat at this point? You've led the points. Those other guys have a couple more wins. You've shown improvements from the last race here. Why wouldn't you put the gauntlet down and say, Hell, yeah, we are the team to beat?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think over the last four years, you can look at the 48 and they've done the same thing and won the championship. Until you beat the guy that's won the last four championships, you know, we're fast enough to beat 'em, but the circumstances and all the things have to go your way over the last 10 weeks. It's not about a whole season anymore; it's about 10 weeks.

They're going to start pretty much dead even or a little bit ahead of us. Hopefully we can keep doing the same thing that we're doing. It's like saying you're going to beat somebody that's won the last four Super Bowls. Until you beat that guy, there's no reason to put that pressure on ourselves, I don't think.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, that's just saying -- I don't ever want to be cocky and sit up here and say we're the team to beat. Then you have to put your head between your tail when you leave Homestead. We don't want to do that. We want to let our teams keep talking and put ourselves in a position to win. Sure, we think we've got the cars and everything to contend for the championship. But we ain't going to be cocky about it.

Q: It's a cyclical sport.

KEVIN HARVICK: That's a big word for me.

Q: It goes in cycles.

KEVIN HARVICK: Okay, thank you (smiling).

Q: One year ago when you left here, could you ever have imagined that it would have cycled this well for you; that you would be in a position where you had these victories, look like a legitimate shot to win your first title?

KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. I think you guys would all look at us. I think you still have a hard time believing it turned around. We got over that the first few weeks of the season and realized we were headed down the right path.

When you look at the statistics, you look at the situations, all the things that you take from a year ago, it's hard to believe. But it's from a lot of effort and from a lot of people doing their jobs, making changes on Richard's part, me trying to do things differently.

It's so deep with the people that it's hard to explain how much effort goes into turning a company of the magnitude of RCR around in a different direction when basically it's a huge factory of producing stuff and you basically shut the factory down and say, Okay, you can't build anything else until we figure out what you're going to build, then we want you to build 60 of 'em in the shortest amount of time you can, then we have to change all the processes, all the things, all the people. It's a huge, huge, huge undertaking. For me owning a race team, I understand that. It's hard to fathom how big that turnaround is when you really get into looking at it.

HERB BRANHAM: Thanks, guys. Congratulations on a great day.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Clint Bowyer