Ford Performance NASCAR: Texas 1 (Kevin Harvick Media Availability)

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Media Availability (Texas Motor Speedway)

Friday, April 6, 2018


Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion met with media members and fans Friday morning at the Restart BAR Zone at Texas Motor Speedway. Harvick spoke on numerous topics.


KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion — YOU HAVE WON HALF OF THE RACES SO FAR THIS YEAR: “Yeah, everything has gone fine and it all started or a lot of it started right here in the fall last year winning here for the first time and being able to get to victory lane and do the things that we did at the end of the year. It is fun to be able to ride that momentum. You never know when it is going to shift the other way. The whole company is doing a great job. Clint (Bowyer) winning last week and Aric (Almirola) and Kurt (Busch) doing well. It has been a great start to the season for Stewart-Haas Racing and we have been fortunate to win a few of those races and hopefully we can do the same this weekend.”


QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I think as you look at the way we have performed, especially since we have been at Stewart-Haas Racing it was big to check that off. Mainly so this guy doesn’t give me any more grief. He was the monkey on my back and he was getting heavy. It is a really big market for us personally as a race team because we have Mobil and Busch who spend so much time and money promoting this particular market and bringing a bunch of people to the race track and to not get to victory lane was almost a little embarrassing because we hadn’t done it. To check that off the list and have Mobil 1 on the car at that race here in Texas was a really big deal.”


STARTING WITH THIS RACE LAST YEAR, YOU HAVE WON THREE OF THE LAST FOR MILE-AND-A-HALF RACES. IS YOUR TEAM AT THE POINT WHERE YOU CAN CHALLENGE TRUEX ON THESE TRACKS? “That seems like a self answering question. Did you have to ask that question to figure that out? I think as you look at the 1.5 mile program in general it has been really good for us. I think the thing you guys forget up until last year is that we had dominated the 1.5 mile race tracks and have continued to do that at the end of last year and the first part of this year. We did switch manufacturers last year and it took some time to get everything situated and where it needed to be. I think once the playoffs started last year you really saw where the cars were and the increase in performance, especially on the 1.5 mile race tracks. It just took us some time. When you see what Stewart-Haas Racing has done with Ford, we still haven’t reached the potential of where we can be, in my opinion. I think that is the biggest reason we made the switch, the potential of the resources and things that come with the partnership with Ford. We have, in my opinion, the most stable team in the garage. When you have the most stable team in the garage from a financial standpoint and manufacturer standpoint, that attracts good people. In the end, it is all about good people. We have a very committed manufacturer and owner group and we are the drivers lucky enough to be in a position of where Stewart-Haas racing is right now. We have a very solid foundation which is something to hang your hat on.”


QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “We are better than Truex.”


QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “Just the support and financial backing. When you look at Gene Haas and the sponsorship and the things that go with the commitment that Gene makes from a financial standpoint, the stability of the company is never in question because of  a few races that aren’t sold here and there. It is something that I think as you look at that long-term commitment that Ford made and Gene’s commitment from a financial standpoint of building the team and keeping it where it is at and then you start putting people in different places and they wind up having been there for a number of years. That makes a big difference. People on the outside see that. When people see that they can work somewhere a long time and not have to worry about their job it makes a big difference when you are trying to hire people.”


WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW KIDS ON THE TRACK BANNER? “It is a cool promotion. I like the promotion. If you like good marketing it is good. If you like winners you go for the old guys. I love every one of those kids on that poster and I think they are all great for our sport. I am not taking personal digs on them, I am trying to have fun with it and I told them that they should have fun with it too. That is really what it is about. The dad and kid sitting in the grandstands from two different generations and mom and daughter sitting in the grandstands from two different generations. They root for the old guys and you root for the young guys. That is great for our sport, it really is. It makes it fun to be able to have that banter back and forth. Most of those guys probably don’t even know who New Kids on the Block are. I would venture to say that.”


QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I think as you go to a lot of these SMI race tracks, when you go to Kentucky and this particular race track you see the commitment to make the racing good. I know nobody wanted to repave it but you have to have dry surface and it basically became a sponge. The thought that went into turns one and two to make it different, make it challenging, have worked. It is a very challenging corner. There is a lot of asphalt there and a very wide entry that you don’t use the whole entry of. I think as time goes, the race track is going to spread out. The thing that sticks out to me is the time and effort that were put in to try to make the racing better. Also, every driver in the garage has seen the commitment, even at the first race when it was first repaved. Overnight, everyone was saying there was no second groove. Next thing you know you hear the squealing out there and those tires aren’t free. It takes man hours and it takes time and the preparation goes a long way to helping that progression of making the racing grooves wider and faster and I think that is what everybody wants. That is the part to me that sticks out the most, the fact of the effort that has gone into prepping the race track to make the racing as good as possible.”


HAS THE TIRE DRAGON HELPED THE GROOVES HERE? “The bottom was still the fastest but I was able to finish the pass on the outside. That groove is there. I ran the second groove several parts of that race last time. The fastest groove is still going to be on the bottom but just having an option to go around lap traffic and not getting stuck. To try something different and move up the race track and not be stuck in one groove. That is what this does. It gets the fine silt of dirt and un-run asphalt kind of burned in. There is still nothing that is going to prepare the race track like a car running 200 mph sucking everything out of the ground but it goes a long way in helping that process get there quicker.”


WITH YOUR STRONG START, DO YOU PLAY THIS RACE STRAIGHT OR TRY TO EXPERIMENT FOR FALL? “You can’t really do things like that anymore. You have to try to win and gain every bonus point you can. That is the goal. Try to win every race that you can possibly put yourself in position to win and try to take every stage point you can possibly take. You saw Martin do that last year and they were so dominant on gaining points and it basically got them in a position to lock themselves into the playoffs and kept running good and won the championship and were the dominant car all year. They earned every point that they got. They are still going to be the car to contend with. The 18 will be a car to contend with. I think both of those guys have the same mentality while you are hot, to try to take as many points as you can to build as big a cushion as you can to get through race 26. The experimenting days, all you are doing is burning points. If you don’t have those points – then you have the regular season points that seed you to get those points that are paid out at the regular season. You can’t afford to take a week off and experiment. You have to experiment some but you can’t sacrifice performance and points to get that done.”


THE 2019 SCHEDULE CAME OUT THIS WEEK AND THERE ARE NO CHANGES. YOUR THOUGHTS? “I think as you look at the schedule, the changes that we saw this year as you look at what Marcus and those guys did at Charlotte to put the Charlotte road course on the schedule and that mixed it up in the first round with Richmond and the road course. Going from Loudon to Las Vegas, we had some huge changes there and you have Indianapolis that will be the last race of the regular season which is an important market for us. There are so many race fans in Indy. Look at the TV ratings, they are always one or two each week. We need to make sure that your race is more successful than it has been. Those are good changes on the schedule. There is way more involved in this. I am just speaking as a guy winging it over here. I am not running two publicly traded companies that have investors and making the decisions but I like change. I like a rotation of the last 10 races, a rotation of the championship race, moving the All-Star race around to different cities. To try to get the cities and events some more income to have these cities participate in what they are doing for these big events. If we could just back that season ending up a month you open up a lot of markets. California would always be in there. Texas Motor Speedway in the middle of October you can come here and race. Charlotte Motor Speedway, I don’t know. There are like eight race tracks. Las Vegas, Homestead. I think if you put six or eight of those race tracks in the championship race mix and mix that up every year and mix those other nine races up  with different racetrack every year, you will have a built in conversation every year. I think that is the par that we are missing, that conversation piece to really change things up. He is going to argue with me and say that the fans come to a specific date but I guarantee you would have fans come to a championship race here if you held it. It isn’t fair to have it only in one market. It isn’t fair to Texas Motor Speedway to not have the opportunity to have the championship race to help build their race market. If you have the championship race here and bring people here that haven’t been before, they will come back to the next one when it is on its regular day. We need to build the enthusiasm in every race market. When you take that championship race and that All-Star race and have the playoff races in virtually the same spot every year, you don’t build the intrigue and enthusiasm you would build if you moved it around. I don’t know. I know it is the same. I hope there is a longer term plan in place for a system like that to move things around and have that conversation before the season even starts about how Jimmie Johnson will be the guy because the championship race is at Texas Motor Speedway or how Kyle Larson will be the guy because it is at California. Whatever that circumstance is. Whether you think it would be a good race or bad, it shouldn’t matter. It is the championship race. The Super Bowl and World Series aren’t always good. It is never about the game, it is about the event. I think if you did that right and had a great game or great race to go with that it adds to the moment of the event you have built.”


HAS SHORT TRACK RACING BECOME TAMER? “We can wreck anywhere. Some weeks we show up and run into everything and we can do that at Texas and Kansas and Bristol. You watch some of these races and think, ‘What in the world has happened today.’ Sometimes you look at races like Martinsville and wonder why there weren’t more cautions. That just happens. They aren’t all going to be caution filled wreck fests when you go to Martinsville. They aren’t always going to be no cautions when you go to Kansas. Sometimes you are going to have 20 cautions. That is why you show up. You never know what is going to happen. If it was just a demolition derby every week that you showed up, then you would be asking why we wreck every week. Part of that intrigue to me and a lot of the focus has become about the racing. Sometimes I don’t even think we should call them races, we should call them events. They should all be events with stuff to do and then you show up for the race and everyone has already had a good time and hopefully the race is good too and you can talk about that on the way home. I don’t know. Bristol is going to be fun. There is still nothing quite like Bristol and I am looking forward to it.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.