Ford Performance NASCAR: Chicago (Kevin Harvick Media Availability)

Ford PR
(Ford)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

TheHouse.com 400 (Chicagoland Speedway; Joliet, IL)

Friday, June 29, 2018

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, met with media members Friday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway ahead of Cup drivers hitting the track tomorrow in a condensed schedule for the now summer race at Chicagoland Speedway. Harvick spoke about the upcoming weekend and more.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Kickin’ Ranch Ford Fusion — NEXT WEEKEND AT DAYTONA, DO YOU PREPARE ANY DIFFERENTLY FOR THAT RACE VERSUS THE 500? WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THERE? “I don’t physically prepare any different for that one. I try to prepare the same every week. I think the only difference is I don’t really prepare at all for that one just because of the fact that you have been to enough superspeedway races that you have to have the mindset that it is a 50-50 opportunity to have a good finish or wreck. That is just the superspeedway mindset.”

 

YOU HAD TREMENDOUS SUCCESS HERE WHEN THE TRACK FIRST OPENED WINNING THE FIRST COUPLE RACES. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN HERE SINCE THEN? “I think as we have come here we have had fast cars, it is just hard to get everything to work out everywhere. I think as you talk about the race track in particular, I think those first few years coming here it was obviously a really high grip situation as far as the asphalt and the different style of race track just because of the amount of grip and the style of asphalt that they used. I think today, the biggest difference is really just the asphalt. It has a lot of bumps and a lot of character. It is worn out. The tires fall off. They have changed the tires a few times over the last few years and you have had to keep up with that. It is a really hard track to get the handling of the car right because the bumps are so bad. That is a good thing. As you look at race tracks, and I normally don’t run race tracks on Saturday unless I enjoy them. I am racing on Saturday here so obviously this is a race track that I enjoy and look forward to making every lap on the track because of the fact it is a challenge to drive and you can move all over the race track and you have options as a driver.”

 

THE WAY THE SCHEDULE IS THIS WEEKEND, INTERMEDIATE TRACK AND IMPOUND RACE, DO YOU EVEN DO A MOCK QUALIFYING RUN TOMORROW? DOES IT CHANGE HOW YOU AND RODNEY APPROACH THE WEEKEND? “There is definitely a change to the approach because of how you have to split up your practice time. Qualifying is too important on the Cup side to not do a qualifying run. If you can be on the pole or in the top part of the top-five it sets you up a lot better for the first stage and puts you in a lot better position from a pit stall standpoint. There are so many things that go into effect as to what you would classify as having a good weekend. I would put qualifying in that category. That is one of the biggest differences in approach in my driving career from where I started to where I am at SHR today. Just the focus on qualifying and how much it helps the beginning of the race get started right, especially since stage racing has come into play. It is very important to put yourself in a good position. If you aren’t handling as good as you need to be and start in the top two or three cars and it gives you a cushion to give yourself some time to work on your car at the first pit stop and still try to be in contention at the end of that first stage. Qualifying is too important to just wing it.”

 

ARE YOU SURPRISED WE HAVE ONLY HAD SIX WINNERS THIS DEEP INTO THE SEASON? “Nothing surprises me. The previous couple years, I think that should be more of a surprise than the cars and teams you see running well this year. When you look back at the last couple of years there have been what I would call some surprise winners in unique situations to win superspeedway races or a fuel mileage race or something. A road race. Something along those lines. I think as you look at the way this year has played out, I don’t really feel like it is a whole lot different other than maybe the 48 is not running as well as they have in the past and they are not in the mix but I think as you look at really the past few years for sure I think it is pretty consistent as to who the good teams and cars have been.”

 

WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU LAST WEEK AFTER THE RACE TO TAKE THE APPROACH WITH YOUR GUYS THAT EVERYTHING WAS OKAY? IS THAT A CHANGE FOR YOU THE LAST FEW YEARS? “I think everybody in this room as an adult as you go through life you mature as a person I hope. I think the other thing is that I don’t really feel like Rodney’s call affected the race one way or another. I don’t feel like if we had waited eight laps to pit we would have beaten the 78 anyway. I think Martin had the best car at that particular point and we were fighting things that nobody really knew about at that particular time, not even Rodney. I try not to talk about our weaknesses on the radio. I can always tell him afterwards. There were things going on that after the first two stages that I felt like we were in position to be competitive with the 78 but we got a little bit worse and I felt like he got a little bit better at the end of the race and eight laps of pitting wasn’t going to change the outcome. When you have something that is going as well as everything that we have going, there is no reason to put a chink in the armor and start to tear it down. Those guys, when I smashed into the side of Kyle Larson and spun myself out in the middle of the straightaway at California, those guys were all there to support me and that is what I was there to do last week when he thought he did something wrong. The support system is really one of the things that I feel like our team has built over the past five years amongst each other. The trust and the support that each other gets from each other when you feel like you did something wrong is really part of the strength of the team. I always tell everybody that I can’t drive a slow car fast, but as a group we can make a slow car faster. The communication and dialogue between us as a group of people is how you are going to excel and get the most out of your team, slow car or fast car, you have to be able to maximize that. Supporting him, I still don’t feel like the call was detrimental to whether we won or lost. I just feel like that was the right thing to do.”

 

ANY BIG PLANS FOR THE 4TH OF JULY? “We have a lot going on next week. Delana’s birthday and Keelan’s birthday and 4th of July and racing in Daytona and the radio show and I think I have an appearance next week. I look at Wednesday as a day off. That is always good at our house. We will probably just lay low and watch the fireworks from the back porch and that will probably be about it.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WILL RODGERS AND HIS PROGRESSION? “I think Will is doing great and has capitalized on the things that happened last year at Sonoma and took the advice of going and running all the road course races and he has won all of them. In NASCAR racing, I think Will has the potential to go into the truck series or Xfinity of Cup Series for that matter and be competitive on any road course today. It is just a matter of getting those opportunities. The oval track stuff is going to be his biggest challenge to learn. In my opinion, Will falls into that category of if you are a world class road racer, how long do you chase the NASCAR dream? When do you say, ‘Okay, I am going to go do what I am good at.’? You look at a lot of these sprint car guys that have chased what they are good at and the things they have done their whole life. You look at Steve Kinser who wasted two or three years of his career when he could have been earning top dollar and winning races at that particular form of racing. Is it worth wasting those years? When do you say you are wasting your time and you could be a world-class road racer earning X amount of dollars? Winning world class races, road races. When am I the sprint car driver who has gone through this whole process of being a sprint car driver and now I want to go chase this NASCAR dream. Are you going to be able to go back? Are you going to be able to have the same quality of ride? Are you kind of screwing up your racing career? That is the path you took and you can achieve whatever the top level is in that form of racing. I think he is at a critical point in his career because obviously he is a very, very good road racer and it is just a matter of how long do you spend the time chasing the NASCAR dream and trying to get the opportunities on the oval. Should he be chasing those world-class opportunities in sports car? There are a lot of road racing opportunities across the world where you can make a pretty good living and win some pretty cool races. That is the trick. I got lucky. I went from go-karts to stock cars and followed it all the way through. I would never be a good dirt or late model racer like Scott Bloomquist. I think when you see Bloomquist come over and try the trucks and you see Ron Fellows, he is another classic example, you see him venture off into the truck series and he did it for a very short period of time because he had the great ride in the Corvettes and didn’t want to mess that opportunity up. That is why he got the opportunity. A lot of these young kids want to chase something and develop something instead of chasing their actual real talent.”

 

AS A TEAM, HOW DO YOU BALANCE PREPARING FOR NEXT YEAR WITH THE MUSTANG COMING IN MAKING SURE IT DOESN’T COME IN AND LAG LIKE THE CHEVY HAS THIS YEAR? “I think for us, I feel like there has been a well laid plan of attack on all of that. I think from an aero standpoint I would put that as one of the top things that we do best at Stewart-Haas Racing. I think when you look at it, we aren’t building that car to get worse. When you look at where we were coming into this year, everybody was in a little bit of panic trying to figure out how we were going to get through the year to be competitive and that didn’t work out that way. I think our team more than just about any team in the garage, we switched from one manufacturer to another from one year to the next so they have a pretty good idea of what they need to be working on and how to compartmentalize things to get that work done.”

 

WITH THIS AS AN IMPOUND RACE YOU CAN’T DO A WHOLE LOT FROM QUALIFYING TO THE RACE. WERE YOU SAYING THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE TO SAY, ‘OKAY, WE HAVE SET THE CAR UP FOR QUALIFYING AND THEN MAKE CHANGES’? “No, I am saying you have to know what you have for qualifying so you can get the most speed out of it.”

 

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