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NASCAR Media Conference Breakout Session

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference Breakout Session

Kevin Harvick
November 14, 2013

Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. I never really even thought about it, to tell you the truth. I think as we went into the next week, you kind of talked about things and realized that you didn't want to be in that position.
But you can't go backwards. You have to go forwards. I think as we had our conversation Sunday morning, we tried to put it behind us and do the best we could as myself and Gil went into the morning, tried to do the best that we could for the team at that particular race.
There's been a lot of stuff, whether it be that weekend or stuff behind the scenes, that you have to deal with on a weekly basis from the politics standpoint that you have to put behind yourself throughout the year when you get in a car to be able to go through there.
That was one that was unnecessary, but we dealt with it and moved on.

Q. No way could a team come back from that.
KEVIN HARVICK: Everyone had written us off before the year started and throughout the whole year there were continuous moments that we'd been written off.
We've done a good job of not really paying attention to what everybody else this is and done our jobs as competitors, moved through situations. We've done that a lot throughout my career.
Everybody's done a great job of focusing on the things that matter. Everything matters to a certain degree. At the end of the day the performance on the racetrack on Sunday is what makes it all go around.

Q. I know you were joking about Jimmie building his own engines, things like that, but you're a fiery competitor. Is your team going into this thinking they have a shot or resigned to being happy to be there?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's kind of like that quote from Dumb and Dumber. So you're saying there's a chance, all you want is a chance.
That's all you really want. As a young kid coming up, you just want a chance. Coming into the championship, you just want a chance.
Who would have thought Matt Kenseth would have went to Phoenix last week and ran like they did? Where did they finish, 23rd or 28th? That's where he needs to finish this week, so I know it's not impossible.
Those circumstances can crop up at any particular moment. You try to do everything that you can to not have those things happen. But we've seen a lot of things happen in this sport. I know as a team we can control the things that we can control. That's what we're focused on for the weekend. Circumstances can control everything else.
What we can control is how fast that car runs, the decisions we make on the racetrack. That's what we're going to focus on for now. You hope it all falls your way, but there's going to have to be a lot of things happen.

Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I think with this group of guys, there's going to be that mutual respect. You're not going to go out and psych Jimmie Johnson or Matt out. Not any reason to waste your time. Last time I did this was with the three of them. I left that press conference, I'm like, Wow, that was interesting, to say the least. Jimmie had fully ingrained himself into Denny's head as we left on Thursday. It proceeded to snowball as we went into Sunday.
I've seen him go a couple different ways. You talk about the experience level. Jimmie talked about the mental toughness of being a middle‑aged driver, I guess you could say. But that comes with time. You can't just instantly understand what people are talking about with the media and the fans, the pressure, the things that go with that. It's not just something you can step into and thoroughly understand until you've been involved with it.
It's not really worth wasting your time on the psychological side of it because everybody has been through it on this side of it.

Q. You said there's never been a series you've been in that you haven't won the championship. As this goes on, does it become more agonizing?
KEVIN HARVICK: We've been close. We've been fortunate to be close. Last four years we've won a lot of races. I felt like that was our deficit before, we needed to win more races. We needed to win more races in the Chase. We did that this year.
But those guys, the bar has been raised where you have to have 10 weeks of averaging a top‑five finish. We've had some great runs at it. We had a great run at it this year. In the end we've just been lacking that dominant, great 10 races that you need to win the championship nowadays.

Q. Do you allow yourself to think if you weren't in the Jimmie Johnson era...
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, the good news is, in three months we'll be a lot closer to the Jimmie Johnson car than we've ever been to it before with the relationship with Stewart‑Haas, the Hendrick relationship. It's one of the biggest reasons, one of several, I made a change going forward, was to have some tie to that Hendrick relationship.

Q. What percentage chance would you have given yourself in February that you'd be sitting here right now?
KEVIN HARVICK: In February there was only a couple of you guys standing around that wanted to interview us at the Media Day. I did tell those two people that this has a very good possibility of being the best year that I've ever had at RCR just for the fact there's really no pressure for me. The guys want to win races. Everybody wants to go out on a high. You have the best possible platform for RCR to sell their team moving forward, to hire employees moving forward, to build a foundation for whoever's going to drive that car next year, to have a solid team.
There was a lot more reasons that that car needed to run fast for RCR than there were for myself personally to move forward. I was set.
But for me, you know, there's that sense of pride that you want to be a part of the best scenario you can in your last year because we've been through so many great moments.
I knew that the cars were probably going to be as good as they've ever been just because it was important to the company to have it like that.

Q. Did you and Richard talk after the win at Phoenix? Mixed emotions.
KEVIN HARVICK: We weren't on a plane together. We talked after Martinsville, the week after Martinsville. We talked at Texas. We had some casual conversations throughout Victory Lane while we were on the media side of it.
I think the Martinsville situation drew to our attention just how good each other have been through the years for each other. There's that competitive fire that's driven in both of us.
Like I said last week, he's good at keeping me in some sort of check when you get way out of line like that of drawing that line in the sand and saying, This isn't going to happen.
He's always been good about letting me be who I am, but there's still a line in the sand that we've crossed a few times, and he's good about enforcing it.
When you look back, I think Martinsville, especially for me, I think for him as well, made you have conversations that we really hadn't had before. It made you look back on things and really realize how many great accomplishments we've had, how much adversity we've overcome.
You think back to just how it started. That was obviously the highest of a situation of being in an adversity situation you could be, and we were able to overcome and perform, lack of performance through the years, come back and get the performance back where it needs to be, saying things you don't need to stay, stressing that relationship, figuring that out and knowing how to come back and win. We've done that for years.
It's probably not the healthiest way to have a relationship, but for whatever reason it seems like when the fire's lit, good things come after that because we have to communicate and we have to talk and we have to do things we wouldn't do on a normal basis.

Q. Did that make Phoenix all that much more special?
KEVIN HARVICK: It did. Obviously to win the last race of the year, you want to come down and win this race, go out with a bang. But regardless, we won last week. You got to experience that one more time. Help put another week, another good, solid situation to help put Martinsville behind us, hopefully have a solid week this week, go to the banquet, drink a lot of beer, tell a lot of stories, have another good time.
That's like Richard and I talked. We want to be able to go on a hunt together. We want to be able to talk about things in the garage together, talk about what's going on, what went on, relate them to situations we've been in the past.

Q. Seems like we're seeing a changing of guard of young kids coming up. Who do you see of the young guns being most impressive?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it's hard to come up through the ranks nowadays because the cars are so much different to drive. We've got a lot of guys that are winning in the Truck Series, in the Nationwide Series.
But the telltale sign of the whole thing is when you get to Cup and you got to go through the whole learning curve of how to drive the cars, because they are so hard to drive. They're so much faster than anything they've ever driven.
The opportunities are so much shorter than what they used to be. A lot of the good seats are filled by guys that have been here for a long time and are still getting good results and winning races.
It's tough. Obviously Kyle Larson is coming up through. But you just have to see what happens when they get here. The first thing that happens is you have all this attention, all this pressure, how you deal with that. It's about the people that are around you. At some point you're going to be in a situation where your cars don't perform, you're not having things go right on the racetrack, how you deal with that. What you do with the money the second year, all of a sudden not ever having any money before, how do you deal with all of that.
So the first two years are hard. You've seen a lot of guys come and get run out of the sport just in the first two years because they can't deal with those types of things.
There's very few situations where everything just comes in and you win, you just keep winning, nothing goes wrong. It's not easy. There's really no training ground for it in our sport, for this level, to judge who's going to be good and who's not because we've seen so many of them that can win Nationwide and Truck races. I'm not going to say that's not hard, but it's just not like it is here.

Q. What are your thoughts as your career closes out at RCR?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the year has gone very well. From a performance standpoint especially, I think everybody's done a great job. You just look back and you're happy about everything that's gone on, the things that you've been able to accomplish.
You can look at Richard, know that both sides have been good for each other. I think there's definitely a mutual respect for the things that we've done for each other, whether you're just getting a shot, winning races, me stepping in and doing the things that we did for the company as the company was in a tough transition point with Dale and his accident.
There's a lot to be proud of and a lot to be happy about, a lot that we've been able to accomplish. Hopefully it's a good first half of my career, and the second half goes just as well.

Q. You're not inclined to let things fester when you're angry. Your two rivals here are the exact opposite. Have you ever had a run‑in with either one of them?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think that's probably what made Matt and I's relationship. Long time ago. Martinsville we ran into each other. Kind of the same way: you have a conversation about it and you move forward.
Ever since then, we've been able to talk about things amongst each other when we felt like you didn't do the other fair or you had to do something and the other guy didn't appreciate it.
We've been able to have a pretty open relationship about things that have happened on the racetrack, how to deal with them.
Jimmie and I have known each other for a long time. It's pretty easy to deal with him, talk about things. I think he would probably tell you the same thing.
It's an interesting dynamic between the three of us just for the fact that we feel like I think there is that mutual respect. We all communicate with each other, so...

Q. Was it you and Jimmie on the Hornaday thing?

Q. Repeat how you first met.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, gosh, it would have been late '90s through the Hornaday household. We came through different paths, but kind of met in the same time period as we were trying to come to North Carolina and get a break. We both wound up through the Hornaday household. He ended up living about three miles from me, and I lived about a mile from Hornaday's house. A lot of time on the boat, at the grill, at the Hornaday household.

Q. You've been racing Jimmie ever since he was in the Busch Series. Did you think when you were racing him at the beginning of his career he would be a guy that would win five titles?
KEVIN HARVICK: That's a good question. But I think it's a classic example of how important the people and the cars and everything around you are to really be able to showcase exactly how well you can drive them.
I think Jeff Gordon definitely looked through the performance of his Nationwide car and everybody's seen it now, the car control, his ability to drive the racecar.
I remember at Darlington, talking to him about the conversations and things he was having with Jeff and Hendrick, just how crazy of a time period that was for him.
Jeff Gordon was really the one that saw through the poor performance of the cars that he was driving at that point and what he was able to overcome and accomplish at that particular time as a driver.

Q. Where does he rank as being the best ever?
KEVIN HARVICK: That's a good question just for the fact it's just like every other sport. One generation always thinks their generation is better than the other generation. It's really hard to compare, especially in our sport, just because of technology and the difference in the cars.
But I can tell you this. You look back in the '70s and '80s, even early '90s, there's five cars on the lead lap. So the competition level, in my opinion, is much higher now than it used to be. So I think there's definitely a valid argument to put him in that conversation, for sure.

Q. The only way you can win is if he blows up or crashes. Do you go into Sunday rooting that will happen?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm a firm believer in karma. It's not something that you want to root against the other side or try to force something to happen. It's something that we need to control what we can control. We have to win the race on Sunday to have any of those scenarios play out.
It's like I said earlier, I never would have expected to be 50 laps from the end of the race and ask where the 20 car was running, they'd be in the 28th spot and finish 23rd, which for him is exactly the scenario he needs for this week with 28 points, so...
It's not impossible. It happened pretty easy last week, just by a poor performance at Phoenix. So you just look back one week and you can see the realistic possibilities turn pretty quick.

Q. What are you going to do for Thanksgiving?
KEVIN HARVICK: When is it (laughter)?

Q. A couple weeks.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, it's a big deal just because we get to be in our house. That's the big deal.
We'll just have a small family dinner. Relax for the day. Watch football at her aunt's house with her family. Just stay home the rest of the time to chill out and travel to Vegas for a few days for the banquet.
It's nice to have that extra week. Well, it is an extra week this year to be able to relax and stay home.

Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: We really haven't been through any major holidays yet. Christmas will be interesting. I would imagine it's more fun to sling the paper and boxes around than what's in them. We may just wrap boxes.

Q. You mentioned the team guys didn't really care about your situation. You're moving on to another team. Do you feel like that will be able to help you with your new team members?
KEVIN HARVICK: The good thing about it is we've been able to do what we needed to do this year. I think the excitement level for me to not only race this weekend, hopefully go out on a good note, have a good performance, be successful at the end of the RCR career, but the excitement level is even higher to really get into the SHR side of it, meet all the new people. I've been around some of them.
But there's different guys from all different kinds of teams. Feel like Rodney has gone through a process of really being able to handpick the guys that would be the best and would fit into our situation the best.
I'm excited about that. There's new cars, new ideas, new things that are available. So it keeps me up at night, the excitement level of all the challenges and things that we're getting ready to get into. I know there's going to be some bumps in the road as we go along, but to be able to deal with those and move forward as a group.

Q. A sponsorship question. Jake Jr. just won the championship in NHRA. Do you have a comment on that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I've been so busy, I didn't know about that. That's awesome.

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