NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Carfax 400
Topics: Carfax 400
August 15, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by our race winners, Kevin Harvick, crew chief Gil Martin, and in a few minutes Richard Childress will join us.
Guys, you win the race, still lead the points and you've made the Chase. Pretty good day. Kevin?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's been obviously a great day for us. It's really been a great weekend all around and a great year, for that fact. It's a lot of fun to come to the racetrack right now. Everybody is doing a great job of not only continuing to press but to put better things on the racetrack and put things together correctly and just do a great job at the shop.
That's really all you can ask for right now is to have a chance. You're going to have the flat tires, the miscues, stuff happen. It's just a matter of how you rebound. Today we didn't have to do anything. We were able to take advantage of a really fast racecar and put it where it was supposed to be, and that's in Victory Lane. So a good day.
HERB BRANHAM: Gil?
GIL MARTIN: It was a great day for us for more than one reason. The season has gone so well from last year, but to come to Michigan, be able to run the way did today, after the way we've run here the past three years, this shows how far the organization has come as a whole, not to mention the fact that Kevin did a great job today running the high line all day long. It takes a lot to do that here, to make that happen. Everything that happened in the pits today, the engines, the cars. I can't say enough about the whole organization.
HERB BRANHAM: Questions for our race winners.
Q. You have been pretty much great everywhere this year. There haven't been any weak spots. How come you're the one team that hasn't stumbled anywhere and doesn't have any weak spots in your game now?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it's a lot like we talked on Friday. I think the quality control we have at the shop is really good as far as analyzing the parts, making sure that the cars are within the tolerances. In the wind tunnel, the guys are doing a great job of making sure the numbers are what we need to be as to what Gil thinks they need to be for me to drive.
The quality control, the people touching the cars right now are doing a good job of making sure that the right stuff is leaving the shop. That's really what all these cars are all about.
Q. Kevin, you mentioned today, the next couple weeks, is really vacation, almost like a vacation. Besides Victory Lane, where else do you go on vacation?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, tomorrow I'm going to embarrass myself at the PGA TOUR event this week in Greensboro, Wyndham Championship. We have our foundation's golf tournament tomorrow morning. Hopefully I don't hit anybody. This will be a fun week. Become good friends with Jason Gore. To see those guys play is going to be fun. To hang out with them for a week, it's like a vacation, but that's what we're going to do for this week.
Q. Can you talk about what kind of a testament this is to Richard Childress and how you have rebuilt this organization in the last year? 20 years ago was the last time that a Childress car went to Victory Lane. What were you doing at that point?
KEVIN HARVICK: I told him a story today on the post race. The first time I came to Michigan was 1999. We announced our AC Delco sponsorship. That was the first time that I actually had met Earnhardt. I walked up in the lounge. Richard is, Come up in the lounge. Earnhardt is changing. Looks at you like, Who the hell are you?
I sat down in the lounge and just kind of didn't really have much to say. Then we went out and watched the race. To see all the people, I think we were in the last pit stall that day, watched the race, watched Earnhardt I think race at the front that day, just took it all in.
So that was a pretty cool moment just to get to spend some time with those guys. I'll remember that first day for a long time because it was something that everybody doesn't get to do every day.
But to come here and win is, like Gil said, great for RCR for the fact that this hasn't been our best racetrack. Our cars had run good here before, but I hadn't. Last couple times we've really committed ourselves to driving in different spots on the racetrack and doing different things from inside the car and trying to manage the practice as well as we can to not fool ourselves.
I think last time we fooled ourself at the first race, I think we did a good job of managing that this weekend as far as where to run in practice.
Q. And Childress, rebuilding the company?
KEVIN HARVICK: You can speak more to that, Gil.
GIL MARTIN: The commitment that Richard has given us all as far as whether it's financial support, moral support, equipment, everything that we've got right now as far as I'm concerned, there is not a better place to be right now as far as things that are going on, as far as technology in the sport.
I think we're on the cutting edge on a lot of things. Without his commitment and his drive and just being the racer that he is, I don't think we would be at the level we are right now, especially not rebounding from where we were last year to be here right now. It's a testament to how hard everybody has worked and the commitment that has been made.
HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by team owner Richard Childress. Maybe give us some opening thoughts about this day and we'll go back to questions.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'm just really proud of our whole organization. To come up here and win in Detroit, in Michigan, for GM, to win in that Chevy Impala is big for us. Like you say, it's been 20 years since RCR won. Kevin almost had the race several years ago. We broke a distributor. I can remember that one. We've had some really good runs. But to be able to put it together today, Kevin, he's figured out how to make this thing work in the groove. He's got his own groove better than anyone. He gets a lot of credit for today, too. Gil did a great call. Two tires (smiling).
Q. You seem to be a better driver now than perhaps anytime in your career. Any reason? You look very comfortable, more mature.
KEVIN HARVICK: It's like living everyday life. As you get older, you experience more things. As you race more, you get to experience more things and go through situations, understand how the world turns.
I think I've learned to relate it to everyday life. When you talk about this particular subject, just for the fact that's the truth. You learn how to deal with things better and you learn what to do, what not to do, when to do it. I think it's just a natural progression of listening to the people around you and trying to take everything in and learn by your mistakes to go forward.
That's really all we're doing different, trying to get away from racing during the week to take my mind away from things, relax more. Other than that, it's fun.
Q. Gil, did you do any significant changes from qualifying to the race with the car?
GIL MARTIN: Well, from qualifying to the race, there's quite a few changes you make just to make a qualifying lap. But basically we had a game plan that when we got here what we were going to practice with, race trim, for a little while on Friday, then what we were going to do on Saturday. We went through a couple different scenarios trying to see how the car was going to react in the sun and clouds. We had both situations on Saturday. We kind of had an idea of what we were going to do.
Luckily this is one of the weekends that a lot of preparation, a good game plan and our engineering staff, the simulation they did, a lot of that stuff played out good this weekend.
Q. You're on the verge of making a sponsor announcement. You've been leading the points all year. You won two of the last six races when neither Hamlin or Johnson have won any of those six races. The Chase is three races away. Can your timing be that good or is this just a matter of getting better and reaching it at the right time? Can you orchestrate something like that, the fact you're so good at the right time, is that an accident or intentional?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the reason for it is is we were so damn bad last year. That's probably the reason (laughter). For everybody to know that and work towards getting better, it all started in Indianapolis last year. Everybody in every department, and Richard was on 'em pretty hard, along with everybody else.
So I think it's just a matter of everybody was embarrassed last year. We've really been running pretty well since probably the last six or eight weeks of last year. It didn't just happen today.
One of the best things that we all went through last year was the fact that we I realized everybody didn't like losing as much as I did and we all wanted to achieve the same goals. We were headed in the right direction to do those things. I think it's just coincidental timing.
What do you guys think?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I agree. We got way off last year, started coming back towards the end of the year. Kevin and I talked. We knew a lot of things we wanted to change, work on, fix. We fixed a lot of 'em. I'm just happy to have him back here for three more years.
We're gonna be contenders, for sure.
Q. How much more confident does a win like this, at this track, give you in the big picture?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's really been a lot of the places we would classify places we don't run good, we've ran as good as those places this year as we do at the short tracks, road courses, the places you can typically count on us running good.
The really the worst race we had was the first one here. That was just because we felt like we made a couple mistakes from practice and the way we practiced. It just led to some bad decisions we made with the car over the course of the day. We just got off and never could fix it in the race.
I don't feel like there's anywhere we go right now that our cars should be off just because I know we've run good on every type of racetrack. If it's off, the information I'm giving 'em is not right or I got to give 'em the right information to lead them down the road to get it where it needs to be.
We can be off, but our cars are all capable, no matter where we're at, to get 'em right.
Q. Gil, going back to earlier points about few weaknesses and quality control. Did it ever bother you that the wins didn't come with more regularity this year as good as the cars have been? Is this a validation that you can do this beyond restrictor plate tracks?
GIL MARTIN: Of course, everybody wants to win every week. The bottom line is there's a lot of good race teams out here. It's hard to win at this level. The things that we do, the preparation we do every week, the 33 and 31 prepare just like we do. Sometimes the breaks just don't happen like they need to or, like Kevin said, the road you go down on Friday and Saturday lead you into Sunday. You've got to be extremely careful not to fool yourself on leading into Saturday morning.
We've done that better this year. We've prepared ourself better for Saturday practice than we did probably last year. I think we've also looked forward and looked back into history more and have prepared a race strategy I think that's been better, too, because I think last year maybe we played it off the cuff a little too much on some of our decisions we made on pit road. This year we've really looked at them. Before we go to the race, we have a meeting every Monday, try to replay what we think is going to happen, what has happened in the past, and that's worked out for us.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the other thing you have to look at, too, we started out winning the Bud Shootout, the Daytona 500, circumstances, we had a chance, leading the race when the 500 miles ended, we were leading the race when the 510 ended. You go to California, and I think California should have been for sure the first win. We hadn't won so long that I forced the issue. That for me was the best point the year, remembering and telling myself, You can't force winning; winning just happens, it comes in cycles. Those circumstances all of a sudden start going your way.
When I tried to force it at California, waited two laps, drove right by him, that would have been the first win. I tried to force it too soon. That was what got me going back on the right path, trying to think, not force those things.
Q. Gil, 30 laps to go, you don't pit, everybody else does. We're thinking, They might have made a mistake. Kevin, you faded a little bit. Any second thoughts or did the computer simulation say this is right on and everybody else is screwing up?
GIL MARTIN: Heck no. I had somebody right here next to me that would have killed me if I would have pitted. Clean air was a big bonus today. With Tony staying out, knowing we had somebody to draft with, then hopefully a lot of guys would get two in between us, and they d the way everybody fanned out, it almost gave a parachute effect to the back portion of the field, that the tires couldn't overcome the aero push. Not having any cautions at the end led us to where we could stretch out. If we could get four or five laps, let the tires heat up, we could stretch it out, because we were probably on average about 2/10ths better than the field most of the run. When it got deeper in the run, it came more than that.
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.
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