NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400
Topics: Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400
May 1, 2010
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post-race press conference. Our third-place finisher is Kevin Harvick. He drives the No. 29 Reese's Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He's also our new points leader.
Kevin talk about the race out there this evening.
KEVIN HARVICK: It was a solid night for us. We were right in the middle of the top five all night, which is where you got to be to have a chance. We had a chance there at the end. 18, he could run the outside where none of the rest of us could. He could carry that momentum.
Had a couple lap fresher tires than we all did and was able to really make the move on the outside, make it stick. But all in all, it was a solid night and we'll take it.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Kevin Harvick.
Q. How hard were you willing to push Gordon heading toward the finish?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, I wasn't going to do anything silly. I mean, you just push as hard as you can to the point where you can get up underneath him and hope that he slips. Just wasn't able to carry the middle of the corner like I needed to. I was a little bit loose getting to the middle of the corner, couldn't carry the speed I needed to underneath him like that.
Just had to really tiptoe through there.
Q. Good night for RC. All three cars ran well. This wasn't a typical Richmond race. You weren't knocking the heck out of each other like usual. Seemed more a strategy race. That's unusual for Richmond, isn't it?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it was a very unusual race compared to what it usually is. We had a couple cautions late. But really other than that, it was a lot of green flag racing. The cars would lose the handle extremely -- a lot quicker than they usually did and a lot more extreme than they usually did. You had to finesse the things around there which is why I think they probably get spread out more because you have to go so slow to keep your car driving straight up through the corner. You got to slow the car down so much. I think that's probably why there were less cautions.
Q. Kevin, speak in general to all three teammates running in the top 10 and what Scott Miller's role has had to the success of the organization so far?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think that's been typical of our cars running good this year. As far as the management structure, I don't think it's just Scott. But Scott in specific takes a lot of stress off of Richard of having to listen to opinions from each different person. Scott gathers all those opinions and makes his best recommendation to Richard.
So it's a much different structure and process than the way it used to work. Scott, he can relate to me. He can relate to the crew chiefs. He can decipher through all the BS before it goes to Richard. We don't have to go down a road because it was thought to be a good idea on that day. Then you have Kent Day who has done a good job with the engineering group, placing the right people in the right spots to make our simulation and seven-posts useful, tools that we have and we can actually use them and know what they're doing.
KERRY THARP: We're joined by our race runner-up, Jeff Gordon. Jeff, certainly had a good car out there tonight. Talk about your performance.
JEFF GORDON: It was a good one. You know, we took off there at the beginning, got into second. I thought we might have something for Kyle early. Then that second run, boy, he just was gone. You know, I felt like at that point we were just pretty much battling for a top two or three.
Then Burton came up in there. I saw Kevin back there. Every once in a while he would make a charge. On the long runs, it got so slick, just seemed like it was so hard to make up ground. But then Burton got up there. I was impressed how good he was. He got by the 18. We weren't that good at that time.
But somehow those guys both faded. I was driving by Burton going, I don't know how in the world we're taking the lead right now because I was absolutely sideways, couldn't even touch the gas. It was a real finesse, like Kevin said, race tonight. That kind of fell in our direction with our setup and everything else.
Unfortunately, those cautions came out. I got two good restarts. Then, you know, the guy I did not want to have to race on the restarts, who was unbelievable on restarts earlier in the day, was Kyle. When I went, he timed it perfect, got to my outside. I was a little bit loose. We weren't that good on restarts anyway. He just smoked us.
So, you know, it was still a great finish. Great run for us. After the last couple weeks, we certainly needed this. We keep running like this, I think the wins will come.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Jeff, it's not just one of those things where we could have. You very easily almost should have won four times. Last week you were talking about it doesn't take much to tick you off, but you were ticked off at Jimmie. How ticked off are you not being able to pull it off?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I've been doing this long enough to know they don't give out trophies for leading any lap other than the last one. You know, we're a team that's made huge strides, in my opinion, from last year. Even though we finished third in the points last year, I don't feel we were near as competitive as we are right now. That's what I'm excited about. We're leading laps, a bunch of laps, at a lot of different types of tracks. I think our team is really on top of our game.
Yeah, you know, it's a little disappointing we haven't won some races yet. If we keep doing this, those will come. We got to keep putting ourselves in position. Our cars that we've been leading those laps are not the kind of cars that you want a green-white-checkered or a late caution. That's something you have to think about. You have to try to figure out how to make an air pressure adjustment or do certain things to make your car really good on those short runs because we're seeing them every weekend and that's how you're going to have to win races. Just keeps us working harder, and myself.
The last couple times we were leading on those green-white-checkereds, I didn't get very good restarts. Tonight I thought I pretty good one, but we just didn't have the car. We'll keep working at it. But I'm not ticked off. I'm pretty excited about the way we're running.
Q. Jeff, how frustrating is the first half of that race, looking at Kyle clipping away at the field, not being able to get him, not getting those caution flags?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we saw in practice he was really strong. He obviously qualified real well. He runs well here. The Gibbs cars run well here. That wasn't any big surprise to me.
A lot changes here. I was just hoping we could stay on top of our adjustments. I thought for the most part we did. We had a solid car all night long. I don't think we were ever worse than third all night long. You know, that's why we came home second. That's a great effort by us.
You know, I think the only frustrating part is Kyle was really strong, and I don't know they made an adjustment or something, he went backwards, and we had an opportunity to beat him. I felt like he really was the guy to beat all night. They were able to gather it back together and get back up there and, you know, win the race. They were the best car, except for that one run towards the end.
Q. Jeff, on the final restart, do you think if you had taken the outside line it would have held him off a little better or was your car not able to work up there?
JEFF GORDON: Kyle was just unbelievable on the restarts. You know, I followed him enough times early in the race to watch him run around the bottom on the inside. I knew that if I gave him the inside, he was going to drive by me faster than he did on the outside (laughter).
I was struggling on that last restart. Kevin almost got by me, too. Luckily he raced me clean. I couldn't stay down on the bottom in front of him. I was just real loose on that last restart. You know, just an unfortunate sequence of cautions for us that wasn't to our favor and we finished second. That's bottom line.
Q. You both pitted around 155 where you had this weird caution where 19 cars got waved around the lead lap. You only pitted 15 laps earlier under green. Would you ever give any consideration to staying out? You don't get 19 cars back on the lead lap. Does that ever come into play on strategy?
KEVIN HARVICK: For me, none of those cars were the cars we were racing. They were just not in any consideration of what we needed to do strategy-wise. We needed to stay in the strategy with the 31, 24, the 18, because those were the cars we raced all night. So no.
JEFF GORDON: I think there were 15 cars. I was running second at the time. There were about 15 cars between me and Kyle. So when Kyle comes in here, ask him that question. They could have possibly kept a lot of those guys down.
But I'm sure they're going to tell you they knew they were racing us. We were going to come in regardless and get four tires. It was the right time. With only eight cars on the lead lap, you think you're in pretty good shape to come back out towards the front. It was a little bit of a crazy race tonight. I mean, we were really picking 'em off there, especially Kyle. Kyle was in another zone at that time.
You'll have to ask him.
Q. Kevin, can you assess your team after 10 races. I know you're leading the points. Where do you feel you are at and where you need to go? Jeff, last year you were strong early portion of the season, led points, kind of faded away a little bit. Where do you feel like your team is and how you can progress from this point on?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think for us, you know, it's 10 races. The last 10 is 10 races as well. You look at that and you say, We can lead the points after 10 races. But I think in order to get better, we got to get a little better on pit road, be more consistent. When we make mistakes, we make big mistakes. We can't do that. We just got to keep pushing ahead. You can't just sit on your hands. I don't think we're doing that. I think we're constantly, the R&D department is doing what they need to do to make things better. We got to keep pushing forward. The cars we race in the first 10, hopefully they're no good for the last 10, that you have progressed that far, and you're ready to go.
JEFF GORDON: For us, I think we're way ahead of where we were last year. I think because the Chase format, you know, we're approaching this season different than we ever have before. Last year we came out, we were consistent, we were running okay, we won a race at Texas. I didn't think we were near dominant enough, leading enough laps, or diverse enough to run good at a lot of different types of tracks to compete for the championship.
I feel like that's the difference for us this year. Other than the win column, I feel like we're dominating races at times, we're leading laps pretty much everywhere we go. We're running up front. We're putting ourselves to win races late in races. Our pit crew is strong. Everything is going good, other than getting the win. I'm extremely happy with the way things are going. I think we're a better team than we were this time last year.
Q. Jeff, how surprised were you that this race didn't end with a green-white-checkered finish, given the run we've had this season?
JEFF GORDON: Well, it basically was. If you look at it, those late cautions, more cautions came because of 'em. I don't know what happened. You know, it was, what, five to go. I guess I was a little bit surprised. I didn't want to see any more cautions, I can tell you that. I had enough of them there. You know, we had one too many in my opinion. I think we could have held 'em off that second to last one. But I didn't want to see that last one. I don't think I would have wanted to see another one. I would have been starting on the outside lane, then I would have had Kevin on the inside, I probably would have fell back another spot.
Q. Kevin, did you have some issues in the pits early in the race today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what was going on.
KEVIN HARVICK: I couldn't tell you. Never saw. I know the rear had trouble. I don't know exactly what exactly it was.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations on a nice run tonight. We'll see you at Darlington.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|