NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick climbed up to third in the championship points standings last weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City with a trip to victory lane. On Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Harvick sat down with the media to discuss his season, racing at Charlotte, and other NASCAR-related topics. Here’s what he had to say:
TALK ABOUT YOUR MOMENTUM AFTER LAST WEEK’S WIN AND COMING BACK TO CHARLOTTE:
“Yeah well obviously last week went about as well as you could write it down on a piece of paper for us. Sitting on the pole and winning the race is a little bit out of character from what we have done in the past. But I think for us it gives us a lot of confidence in the things that we can do and need to do to keep ourself in position to continue to race for this championship over the next several weeks. We have went to a few race tracks that obviously haven’t been great for us in the past and we had a good run in Chicago, didn’t fare so well in Loudon, and had a decent run in Dover and Kansas. We just need to continue that and I think as the schedule goes toward the end of the year the race tracks get better for us as we move further down the line.”
A COUPLE OF YEARS I THINK IT WAS WHEN YOU WON THE ALL-STAR RACE YOU SAID YOU HATED THIS PLACE EVEN THOUGH YOU WON IT. YOU ALWAYS STRUGGLED HERE AND SINCE THEN YOU’VE WON THE COKE 600 A COUPLE OF TIMES. ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE AT THIS TRACK? DO YOU LIKE IT BETTER NOW?
“I think for us that was a few years ago that was one of our goals was to figure out what we needed to do. I think probably see in our Nationwide schedule it’s a race track that we run a couple of times a year. We have focused a lot on trying to not have that be the stigma that sticks in our minds as we come to this particular place. We have run a lot better since the car changed I think for us was a good thing. It created new set-up packages and things that fit more of my driving style and the things that I felt in the car were better for me once we switched cars. It’s been a good place for us over the last several years and feel good about coming into the weekend. Obviously we won the first race here so we just have to keep doing the things that we have been doing. Feel good about where we are and coming to the track.”
ABOUT A DECADE AGO THERE WAS A STRETCH OF YEARS THERE WHERE ROOKIES CAME IN AND THEY SUCCEEDED RIGHT AWAY. WE DON’T SEE THAT AS MUCH ANYMORE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HAS CHANGED? WHY CAN’T ROOKIES GET TO VICTORY LANE LIKE THEY USED TO?
“I think there is really not as good of a training ground that there used to be. I think that the Nationwide cars and Trucks are so slow. You get into a Cup car and the driving style that has been created for the younger drivers is so drastically different than what a Cup car is and has made the experience of the Cup drivers more valuable. Just for the fact that the driving style is so unique. I think you know when I was coming in the cars were more similar. You raced on pretty much the same tire, pretty much every week. The cars were a little bit faster. I have definitely mentioned that and I think it would be good for our sport to see some of the guys come in. Obviously Kyle Larson is running this week, I think he is going to be successful in the sport and hopefully they give him the time to do what he needs to do. It’s just hard. Obviously the chances with the economy and the things of people taking chances aren’t there, but the training ground is just not as good as it used to be.”
THE HISTORY AND THE NUMBERS SAY IT’S VERY DIFFICULT AFTER FOUR RACES TO COME FROM BEHIND TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH THIS FORMAT. GIVE US AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF YOUR CHANCES AND HOW IMPORTANT MOMENTUM IS?
“Well the thing that I relate it to. I saw two of you when I sat in my media session coming into Daytona. Everybody has written us off from the beginning of the year to not be in the Chase and let along be competitive and winning race in the Chase. We will just keep bucking the system and hopefully it works out.”
HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT FOR YOU TO TRY TO GET MAX POINTS AND GET BACK IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND THOSE GUYS (JIMMIE JOHNSON) ALWAYS SEEM TO HAVE THE GOOD LUCK OR IS IT A CASE WHERE JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND THE NO. 48 THEY MAKE THEIR OWN LUCK?
“I think for us we controlled the things that we could control last week and that was by scoring max points. You have to have some luck on your side to be around at Homestead. Hopefully you catch some of those breaks whether it be at Talladega or Martinsville and hopefully you can counter balance that with some lucky breaks of your own. Running good and running up front you will probably get more good breaks than you will running mid-pack because you will just have more options. That is just like qualifying last week. I think that really opened our eyes to realizing when you have a qualifying day like that you had a lot more options when it came time to come down pit road and not having to scramble all day to keep yourself in the game. You’ve just got to try to create some of your own opportunities, but you also have to have some luck go on your side. Obviously, Jimmie (Johnson) had some luck go on his side, but that is just part of winning this championship. I think that is probably something that we’ve learned. You are going to get some bad breaks and it’s just how you overcome those and then when you get the good breaks it’s how do you capitalize on those.”
IS PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY A TRACK THAT YOU NORMALLY RUN WELL AT OR IS IT KIND OF A HOT AND COLD TRACK FOR YOU? HOW WOULD YOU CLASSIFY THAT?
“I don’t even know when that race is. Right now I’m concentrating on Charlotte. Phoenix has been a good place for us. We won this race last year.”
IT’S BEEN ABOUT A MONTH SINCE THE CHEATING SCANDAL. I’M WONDERING IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT LINGERS FROM THAT AND IF THERE IS GOING TO HAVE ANY SORT OF LASTING IMPACT CHANGING THIS SPORT MOVING FORWARD?
“That’s a great question. I think as you look at it I think obviously from the outside looking in there was probably a hundred different things that you could have done to handle the situation different from a sanctioning body standpoint, from a team standpoint. There are just a lot of things that happened that everybody I’m sure looks back on it and say’s I would have done ‘this, this or this different’. I’m sure that you could say that about the NFL too. They look back on the concussion thing and the way that it’s been handled and so you have to make reactions at the moment to make decisions and the sanctioning body made the decision. Obviously for us not sitting in that position to make those decisions I think it’s easy to criticize, but they are tough decisions to make. I think that the repercussions that the team has seen from it are obviously pretty big. I think if they look back on it they would probably say that they would have done things a little bit differently to protect the things and the sponsors that are expected from their fans. You listen to the reaction to Clint (Bowyer) and you hear the fans boo and you hear the things that they think about it. I know that bothers him, but it’s had a lot of repercussions. I think if everybody had it to do over again I’m sure that they would do things differently, but you have to make decisions at the time and those were the decisions that were made. Everybody is trying to move on and it will definitely be something that is talked about for a long time.”
THERE WAS RARE NEWS THIS WEEK OF A SPRINT CUP DRIVER GETTING ARRESTED SO MANY TIMES NASCAR HAS SORT OF BEEN HAILED AS BEING UNLIKE OTHER SPORTS WHOSE ATHLETES MIGHT BE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO BEING CAUGHT IN A POLICE BLOTTER OR HEADLINES FOR THE WRONG REASON. WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPENS DO YOU HAVE CONCERN ABOUT HOW IT REFLECTS ON THE BRAND OF NASCAR DRIVERS COLLECTIVELY? AND DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD TAKE ACTION?
“Well I don’t think anybody knows all the details yet. It would be hard for me to comment exactly on what did or didn’t happen. I think everybody wants the sport to be represented in the right way, but without knowing all the details it would be hard to give an opinion.”
THEY ARE HAVING THE MODIFICATION TEST OUT HERE ON MONDAY. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR TO COMING OUT OF THAT OR WHAT DO YOU SEE FROM THAT?
“I don’t even know what it’s for to be honest with you. I have no idea. I know my current team isn’t inviting me and I know that my future team can’t. I hadn’t been involved in many of those discussions if any.”
CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR WITH THE CARS TO HELP OUT THE RACING OR THAT KIND OF THING:
“I hadn’t been paying attention to it to be honest with you. I have a tough time keeping up with what I’ve got going on.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR