NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Toyota/Save Mart 350
Topics: Toyota/Save Mart 350
June 24, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We are joined here in the media center by our second and third place finishers. Second place finisher, Kevin Harvick, driver of the 29 Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet. Take us through your run out there.
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, it was a good day for everybody on the Shell Pennzoil team. Just made our strategy right, and you know, at the end Todd was a little nervous because the thing went green and we were banging on at least one caution there to make it to the end. So he came on the radio and said, "You know, you've got 20 laps to make up one."
So we backed off and let the 42 go and just put in second and third gear and just tried to stay in front of the 5 and 99 to just go fast enough.
So all in all, it was a good day and everybody played the strategy right and they wound up being good in the end.
THE MODERATOR: We also have our third place finisher today, driver of the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet, Jeff Burton. Take us through your run out there.
JEFF GORDON: Our run was exactly like Kevin's. We both had competitive cars. I'm not sure that we ever had the fastest cars but we had competitive cars. Our guys did a great job of playing the fuel mileage game. And you know, that didn't start yesterday; that started in December two years ago and real proud of the strategy. It's hard being crew chief here. Making those calls, it's really difficult, and today we made the right ones.
Q. For Kevin or for Jeff, with the new car now, we notice a lot of passes were made going into the hairpin because of the way the car handles, has that made it become the prime place more so than ever as a passing spot?
JEFF GORDON: I think you can pass more with this car than you could the old car just because it's so easy to slide the inside tire, and if you don't get in there, just right you slide up in the corner and the guys behind you are getting a good shot in there.
So, you know, the car, it just really easy to look the tire up and you have to -- as we went through the day, turn 11 got worse and worse as far as the inside tires sliding; and the paint got a lot of rubber on it and it would get slick as you would go in there. So you really had to slow down and some guys to get in there a little bit harder than the others but they could slide up the middle. That turn changed a lot as the day went on.
Q. For Jeff or Kevin, with you guys running so well and Clint, does this kick start get the momentum going, especially in the points situation with what else happened this week; does this give you optimism for the long summer run?
JEFF GORDON: Well, there's a lot of racing and a lot of things can happen, certainly, in particular with the AT&T team. We've had five or six weeks of not finishing very well, and we needed a little kick in the pants and today was it.
You know, I want to say something, too, about our road course program, we've worked pretty hard on it and Kevin has been the leader on that thing and he's really helped me and Clint, both. We spent a couple of days testing a few weeks ago and Kevin picked me up a good six, seven tenths, and that's a big help to us.
Kevin is our leader on the road course thing and really has made us as competitive as we are. That's as much to do with our performance today as anything is Kevin pushing them to get better fuel mileage to build better cars, to do all that and he's talented enough to take advantage of those things. And that's been a huge, huge effort for our road course program.
Q. Jeff, talk me through a little bit, what was Scott Miller saying to you on the radio as the laps were going on and the likelihood of a yellow flag was not going to come out?
JEFF GORDON: Slow down. He just kept saying "Slow down, slow down." It got to a point it's kind of funny and we slowed down and actually were going faster for a little while. Sometimes like when you push, you push too hard and speeds got faster. He's like, man, you've got to slow down.
But man that kind of started -- I kind of knew the strategy, I'm sure Kevin did, too, when the race started. When the caution came out I looked at the laps and started counting them back and I went, man, I knew we had to save because I knew that was going to be -- that was past our limit. Without saving, I don't think we would have -- you know, we had to save. Like Kevin said, you can't wait five laps to the end to say you've got to start a long time before the end. He just kept saying, "Slow down, slow down, short shift, just do everything you can to save fuel."
Q. Do you find any difference with the Car of Tomorrow versus the spoiler cars in past years?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the cars, they just -- they don't make as much side bite and they kind of slide all the way through the corners and really, they are actually pretty fun to drive to be honest with you. You can't just barrel them off in the corners and let off the brake and the things turns. You have to somewhat finesse the thing around, all the way around the racetrack to keep it from sliding off the track and sliding the front tires.
It's harder to drive. It harder to the setup where you need to have it, and just, you know, here, it's just hard to make grip going forward.
Q. Kevin, you've been friendly with Juan Pablo, do the tips end after today?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the tips ended when he decided to go on the outside after restart and I ran him off in the grass. (Laughter) I got tired of his good restarts, so I decided that that would end there.
But no, he's been -- I've been a big fan of Montoya since he came over. I think he's obviously a very good road racer and he ran okay today but they played the strategy right and that's what won him the race is the strategy, not because they were faster than everybody like they were in México.
But he brings a lot to the series, and obviously you know, they have struggled a little bit lately and you knew that was going to come on the ovals, but you knew they would shine when they came here. He's a very good road racer and seems like he's having a lot of fun here.
Q. Was your team pretty confident that they would both -- Jamie and Juan Pablo would run out of fuel?
KEVIN HARVICK: They came on the radio and told me, you have 20 laps to make up one lap of fuel on both cars in front of you are three laps short. So I let the 42 go and figured they were both going to run out of gas and I just needed to stay in front of the 99 is what they told me on the radio. Obviously he ran out of gas, too.
You know, that's how we played it, and he didn't run out of gas. (Laughter)
Q. Jeff, a lot of folks said going into this race that we're going to see splitters all over the ground littering the track and we just didn't see that. Does that surprise you?
JEFF GORDON: No, we're not surprised at all. I think that this car has proven to be -- you know it has its problems, there's no question. It's not a perfect car. But this car is proving to be pretty resilient and you know, these splitters are really tough. They are very tough. All of the problems -- there are still problems with the car because it's a brand new piece, but all in all, especially considering how new it is, it's pretty tough.
We didn't expect, you know, to be tearing up pieces because of the Car of Tomorrow.
Q. You talked about how your team needed a kick in the pants in the points; it was a road course and whacky race with the fuel mileage, how much can you take forward from this in terms of momentum?
JEFF GORDON: First of all they add points up at the end of 26 races and determine where you are. Winning this race today doesn't make you run well at Loudon running 35th at this race doesn't make you run well at Loudon. Running well is a factor when you're driving the corner, what your car does, not what you did before. It goes no further than that in my eyes. It goes no further than that.
It allows us -- it's a third place finish and we get third place points. If we would have finished dead last we would go to Loudon with the same I tension to run the best we could and that's based on how the car drives, not based on what we did the week before.
A lot is made about momentum and a lot is made about confidence, but confidence is earned one corner at a time. It's not earned one week at a time; it's one corner at a time in our business.
Q. Kevin, were you able to see much of the battle of Juan and Jamie? And there's one point where Juan tried to make the pass and couldn't complete it a few laps before he actually did. Was there any thought in your mind, well, would he be able to --
KEVIN HARVICK: I was just hoping they would keep racing hard so they would run out of gas. (Laughter).
I was just -- I was in conservation mode, and I thought my car was where it needed to be, and we thought we were where we needed to be to win the race.
You know, those guys, more power to them. They were able to run hard and, you know, not run out of gas and you know we just -- we couldn't run out of gas. We just had to make sure that we were -- that we were where we needed to be. We needed to finish at the end of the race, and we had to -- we couldn't take that risk. So it's just the way it is. But it was fun to watch. (Laughter).
Q. Kevin, your road racing has gotten really, really good. The pass last year at turn one at Watkins Glen to win the race and now you're a favorite to win; there something that's clicked over the last year or so that's given you that confidence made you feel much better behind the wheel at a road course?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we should have won this race in 2003 and Robby Gordon passed us under the yellow and we finished third. It's one of those deals where our road racing stuff has been good since Robby came here, came to RCR and then he left.
When Robby came, we really started putting a lot of emphasis; whereas before we didn't put any emphasis on our road race stuff. We just built some cars and maybe went and shook them down. Once Robby came, we put emphasis from every nut and bolt that went on the car to spindles to bodies to fuel mileage to everything that goes in the car. From that day that Robby came, we've put emphasis in the road race program like that every year.
So it's something that I enjoy and have been fortunate to be somewhat successful at and hopefully we can continue that as we go forward.
Q. Just want to make sure I understand what you're saying. Because of your points situation, you could not run out of fuel, but because of Juan's situation, he could risk it?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's just one of those things where we played our strategy from lap one. We pitted when we thought we needed to pit. We pitted at the absolute earliest we thought we could pit going to the end, and the first part of our run was substantially faster than any other run that we had had with our fuel mileage.
So we had to get those laps back base on the speed that we were running. And based upon the information that we had, those two cars were going to run out of gas. So there was no reason to race them. So I let the 42 go just because of the fact that we thought we were in a position where we could win a race and where it all shook out in the end we were going to be in the right spot.
They overcame what they thought that they didn't have, and they wound up winning. So we as a team did exactly what we thought was in our tank.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Kevin.
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