NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest
January 16, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon. Here we go again. Leading off is Kevin Harvick, who is a former Daytona 500 winner, big off-season? I hear you killed some birds.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we went to Hermosillo, Mexico, went on a little dove hunt a couple days ago, and we went on a vacation for a week, which was rare. But we tried to enjoy our time, take some time off and really just be normal people for a little while. It was pretty enjoyable. It's kind of the first time that we've ever taken the time to do that and feel pretty relaxed, and next week it all begins for us.
We'll be testing three days in Orlando, and it all starts from there.
DENISE MALOOF: Big season coming up. Got to get RCR back in the Chase. Got to defend a truck title again, so you have plenty going on.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, for us this place has been good to us. I finished second in the 500 last year, won the Shootout, and obviously like I say, the truck stuff has gone very well, but just -- that's the way it's supposed to be. We missed the Chase for the first time last year in three years, and hopefully we can -- based upon the end of the season, hopefully we were headed in the right direction and led a bunch of laps and felt like we were capable Top 5 cars and felt good to be up in the right end of the pack again.
Went through a lot of struggles, a lot of team changes, economy, and the fourth team going away. So I felt like they've done a good job of getting everything settled, and time will tell.
Q. Last night Ron Hornaday talked about you giving Kyle Busch some advice about team ownership and everything. Can you just talk about what you talked about with him and what questions he asked of you?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I just told him some of the struggles that we went through in the beginning. They're approaching it a little bit different than what we did. They're jumping with both feet in with two teams and doing all their own fab work. So that's a big task. The bottom line is Kyle is going to get in whether he's racing for Billy Blue or whether he's racing for himself. He's going to be capable of winning races, and he'll win race.
It's like I told somebody earlier, the biggest judge of how your team does is when you put somebody in there to race for a championship, and if they can be competitive week in and week out, that's when you know that you've got things headed in the right direction.
He's been to the shop a couple times just looking around and seeing how we function. We talk about budgets and things, which is kind of strange, because Kyle is so young. But he's going to be a great addition to the Truck Series from the ownership side of it, and I think for him he's a lot like I was. You can kind of get yourself in trouble with some things that you say or do, and I think it teaches you a lot about the politics of the sport. It teaches you a lot about -- it makes you respect what you have on the Cup side and the effort that your Cup team has put into things, just understanding how much it costs to do certain things. I don't think he's got to that part yet because I'm sure all the bills aren't coming in yet.
So like I say, the two biggest different approaches, the two approaches are he's going all in, and we started with one race. We built a shop and then we started phasing it in with me driving it seven or eight times and then we went with a full-time driver, and then Tony wanted to run some Nationwide races so we phased that in. So we went through probably a seven- or eight-year span where we kind of phased things in. I was too scared to do it all at once. So that's the biggest difference.
Q. Two questions: First of all, what's it going to take for Ron to get that fifth championship this year in the trucks, and secondly, with RCR last year one of the main issues was that you guys were just slow all year long. What have you done, or what's the team doing to fix that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I'll answer the second question first. I think the end of the year just proved that they've definitely headed down the right direction. As a team we had several opportunities to win several of the last few races, Talladega; and Jeff had a great shot at Phoenix; and Homestead, we both had a great shot. So I mean, just to run in the Top 10, Top 5, I feel like they had things headed back in the right direction. They had speed back in the cars. I think everybody is going to kind of get -- it's going to kind of be open to see where everybody goes once we get the whole transition of wing to spoiler stuff going on.
I think, like I say, we're headed in the right direction, and we'll just have to see where it goes when we make that transition.
As far as Ron, I feel like we've gone through -- Truck Series is different. It seems like you go through cycles of people. Obviously with Ren moving on to take a management role at Kyle's, we obviously restructured the whole team, same system. We've done some development work over the off-season with the trucks that we haven't done in the past. Our particular team is responsible for about ten teams in the Truck Series as far as fabrication and things like that that we handle within our shop. From that part, we've just got to keep doing what we're doing for him. We've got to keep him from racing Kyle every week when he's driving a truck and just race his own race like he did last year. I think that's the most important thing, because we don't need to -- he doesn't need to beat Kyle. I feel like that's mine and Elliott's responsibility to take those one-off races with Kyle in the truck and try to do what we did at the end of the year by taking some of those wins away from him.
Dave Fuge is his crew chief, and he's won as many championships as we have as a team, so I feel like we've put a lot of experience around him. I feel like the depth of his team is twice as good as it was last year as far as depth and experience from the mechanics and things that are working on it. We've added some different pieces within the organizations to try to make the pit stops better with a pit stop coach. But we've got Ron, he's actually been in the gym, which is kind of scary to say. (Laughter)
I'd love to see he and Todd Bodine working out together. I haven't seen it yet, but it's got to be entertaining. But I'm really proud of him because he's taken the initiative to not only just -- it's not only for the race team, just to take care of himself a little bit better. Other than that, I think everything is running good. Hopefully we feel like we've made our speedway stuff better, which I felt was our weak point last year, and we'll go from there.
Q. As an owner how would you assess the overall health of the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series, say, compared to this time last year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the hot topic last year was whether the Truck Series would even show up to Daytona. I think the Truck Series is kind of what started a lot of the team rosters and the no scores and the team owners getting together. It's really where we saw the benefit as a sport as to how that could work. We had a lot of teams pop up new. There's a lot of new teams. We've built a total of three new teams of vehicles, of new owners, that are coming into the sport over the off-season.
Basically what has happened is it's gone back to where a guy that races in a region or a guy that races at a particular -- in a particular area can afford to build or go buy trucks and show up for one or two races and not be way out in right field. So it's kind of really gone back to how it started.
Budgets have dropped pretty dramatically in the Truck Series to race with the way that we have the engine program structured through NASCAR and how they keep track of all that. And you can only have a certain amount of people.
So it's become more affordable to race, and I think the series is going to be as healthy as it's ever been with Kyle's two or three teams coming in, we've got Turner Motorsports, got two fully competitive teams coming in. I know we had a couple teams that fell out, but I think there's more quality teams this year than there has been in a long time.
Q. How about Nationwide?
KEVIN HARVICK: The Nationwide stuff is obviously going to go through a transition here with the car. You know, our car is funded, and it'll race the whole season, and then we'll have Stewart's second car at Daytona. For the most part for us we're in a fortunate position to have all that stuff going. I think you're going to see Roush has -- I don't know, what's he have, 15 teams or something in the Nationwide Series? (Laughter.) I don't know how many, but it's a lot. So I think that series is going to be strong, as well.
Q. How do you go about going at RCR with one year left on your contract, and any chance you'll be back there in 2011?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm not getting in the middle of it. There's enough people that can handle all that stuff. When it all boils down to it, it's all about winning races, and that's all I care about. We're going to come into the season, and we're going to race a lot this year, and we're going to have fun. That's my main goal for the year is to have fun. How it all plays out, I couldn't tell you. It's just up to all the -- I'm not going to get into all of that right now. We haven't even got on the track. And we're going to come to Daytona and race, and we're going to have a good time this year.
Q. Do you feel for Casey and the other people involved in that '07 team, and have you talked to Casey at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I've talked to Casey quite a bit. Casey is probably one of the best things that we had at RCR as far as a person. You know, he's really, really good with -- obviously he can drive the race car, too, but he's really, really good with meshing with people and communicating with people, and to see how he does that is pretty remarkable as to all the different teams that he adapted with. Everybody that comes away from knowing Casey and getting to work with him is like, man, that's the best guy in the world. So it's just kind of like the nicest guy in the world is the guy that gets cancer or the guy that dies before the guy that's a complete creep. So it's one of those things where you feel like -- I feel bad for Casey, and it might be something hopefully -- if it all works out, maybe he can keep going, and I hope he gets something, because he's a really good person, and it's just unfortunate with how it all worked out.
Q. If you could, just talk about the importance of having an event like this in the off-season. There's a lot of excited fans here the last two days, and it's good to be able to do this and kind of just remember them in the off-season.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it's fun to kind of get everybody back in the swing of things. I know the fans are excited to get cars back on the racetrack. These events are good for them and good to come to.
Q. Did having four cars stretch resources thin at all? Was there any of that last year?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I don't think so. I think -- I don't know the whole ins and outs of how all that worked with how many people we had and different things like that. But we functioned -- I mean, we have functioned with four cars and run well before. You know, I don't think that going from four to three will really be that much different for us, just for the fact that we really haven't changed our engineering staff.
I think at the beginning of the year last year we went the wrong direction with our stuff and our cars, and we tried to cover it up with crew chief swaps and different things like that, and in the end it was just about making our cars right and doing the things that it took. If we didn't have the fourth team, could we have probably turned things -- once we went to Indy and we started coming out with our new cars, we probably could have adapted and made that new process a little bit faster, but that definitely wasn't the problem as we went into last year and didn't run well.
Q. With Scott Miller kind of taking over the competition stuff for the team, have you been able to notice anything in the off-season just about the way things are in the shop, or is that something you'll see more once you get on the track?
KEVIN HARVICK: Most of my communication is with Gil. I've tried to kind of just stand back and be the driver and really just -- you give your advice on how it all works and what you think is better or worse from a driver's perspective on how things are working. But you know, how the team runs and stuff like that and how it all functions, I try to stay out of that. I definitely think that Scott Miller is a great person for that additional position to help the performance go in the right direction, and I think a lot of that is just structure that he's going to help the most with.
Q. You're a Daytona 500 winner, and with some of the changes coming down the pike perhaps to the car and the racing surface, what's your sense of some of the new things we'll see this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think as we transition into the spoiler, I think that's just going to be a good thing. I don't think there's going to be any bad come out of that. I feel like NASCAR is working with the teams to make sure that the balance of the car is right before we even put it on the racetrack from the wind tunnel, that's going to be okay right off the bat. Just something about taking that wing off for me -- I've been a fan of spoilers from the beginning, and really after you see the Nationwide car and how it looked and how it drove on the racetrack at Talladega, that was -- it's going to be tough to see those things side by side. So I think there's a good plan. I think everybody is working together. I think loosening up some of these rules on the Superspeedway stuff is going to be good, because in the end there is risk involved in our sport, and that's what it's always been built about. So having it too tight and too many rules makes it take some of that excitement out of it, and I think everybody is working in the same direction to give everybody what we need, what we need to do different.
DENISE MALOOF: Kevin, thank you. We'll meet you back here in a couple weeks.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|