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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


November 12, 2014


Denny Hamlin

Kevin Harvick

Joey Logano

Ryan Newman


BRETT JEWKES:  Good evening, everybody.  Before we get started with the formal program, just wanted to cover a couple of things.  First of all, really want to, on behalf of NASCAR and NASCAR broadcasting and my colleague Steve Herbst and myself, really want to thank our partners this year:  FOX, turner, Sirius XM, great job, ESPN wrapping up this weekend, really want to thank you for a great job, especially this week covering the Chase and over the last 10 weeks.  Really been outstanding.  Also to our new partners at NBC, we're also excited about the next 10 years and excited about what you've done this year with NASCAR America.
Really want to also thank NASCAR Digital.  Throughout this year, putting on the live streams, I know that's helped a lot of our media cover when they haven't been able to attend in person.  Also been very helpful with our fans being able to be part of some of these big events.  To our corporate events team, Corey and your group putting this together, always want to congratulate you.  To our core beat media, again, I think we have the hardest working media in sports.  Our season is very long.  This year we had a lot of new changes, new things, a lot of off the track happenings at odd hours.  I want to thank you for your professionalism through all of those items.  Certainly done a really important job of helping the fans understand the new championship format, so we appreciate that.  Grateful to have you here.
Couldn't resist not noticing that we don't have Steve burns and Holly Kahne with us tonight.  Our hearts and prayers are with them.  We wish they were here.  We ask you to keep them in their thoughts and prayers as they are in a tough fight, each of them.
I want to thank you for being here, thank you for your efforts.  I'll now turn it over to Mike Massaro who will get us started.
MIKE MASSARO:¬† Good evening, everyone.¬† I'm Mike Massaro from ESPN, and welcome to tonight's very special NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Media Day.¬† Tonight we gather at the beautiful Trump National Doral to hear from our Championship Four.¬† And after a grueling nine‑race, three‑round gauntlet, these drivers now stand on the threshold of history.¬† We'll also hear from each of our car owners, a varied and legendary group, all of whom have already won NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
Before we meet our championship hopefuls, on behalf of NASCAR, I'd like to welcome those passionate race fans watching on NASCAR.com, FOX Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network, and, of course, those listening live on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.  We hope you enjoy today's press conference and learn a little bit about what it'll take to win the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Sunday, 3:00 p.m. eastern on ESPN.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, let's get championship media day started by introducing our Championship Four.  Our first member of the Championship Four was last seen celebrating in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway, a stirring and downright dominant victory locked up this coveted spot, and without that win he wouldn't be here.  Please welcome Kevin Harvick.
Next up, his aggressive final lap pass of Kyle Larson at Phoenix gave us a lot to talk about this week, and perfectly illustrated the intensity of this revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.¬† It was an all‑or‑nothing move and it landed him right here on this stage tonight.¬† Please welcome Ryan Newman.
At 24 years of age, our next member of the Championship Four looks to become the third youngest champion in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, and the youngest since Jeff Gordon won his first title nearly 20 years ago.  On the strength of two wins, he has compiled an average finish of 5.3 during this year's Chase.  That's the best of any driver.  Please welcome Joey Logano.
And our final member has become pretty good at calling his shots.  He predicted excellence in the recently completed Eliminator Round, and he backed that up.  The only member of the Eliminator 8 to score a top 10 in each of the three races.  Please welcome Denny Hamlin.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Championship Four.  As we saw over the last nine weeks, earning a spot in this final championship race took incredible skill and a steely resolve to shrug off the pressure of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  The intensity boiled over as we saw on and off the track, and now they're here with a chance at NASCAR immortality.
(Video shown.)
That's where we left things off in Phoenix, but we still have one more race to decide the championship, and with that, let's get inside the minds of the participants beginning with Kevin Harvick.  Kevin, you just came off a dominant performance in Phoenix.  This is not the first time you've gone into the final race with a shot at the championship.  What is different, though, is the performance you've had this year.  You led over 2,000 laps this year.  By the way, we crunched the numbers.  That's more than the last seven seasons combined.  Just amazing.  How would you compare this championship opportunity you have this year to the others you've had in the past?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Well, first off, I'm just glad to get here tonight and not know there wasn't a fifth participant added.¬† I didn't know if I was going to show up and Jeff Gordon was going to be here or not.¬† I think for us as a team, I think everybody has just really hit it off, and I think with Rodney Childers and the cars and things that they're putting on the racetrack, those guys just do a great job on a week‑to‑week basis.¬† I think the biggest key for this whole scenario is you're not behind.¬† You're on even footing with the other three guys.¬† So for us, I think we've had a great year.¬† We've led a bunch of laps and won races and done what we've needed to do, and all in all, it's just been a great year.¬† Looking forward to Sunday afternoon.
MIKE MASSARO:  Ryan, you don't have a win.  These other three do, but as Kevin pointed out, you are on even ground.  You've got an equal opportunity at winning this championship.  Many people, though, because you haven't won a race, have already labeled you the Cinderella, the underdog.  How would you describe yourself?
RYAN NEWMAN:¬† I didn't know Cinderella was a race car driver.¬† For me really it's just another opportunity, for all four of us, to go into the last round, the Championship Round, and really end up ‑‑ what really matters is racing each other, and we've had a lot of fun getting to this point, and we need just to keep doing what we're doing on the 31 side.¬† It's really a storybook, I guess in some form or fashion.¬† But hopefully we can get through Sunday and write our own book.
MIKE MASSARO:  Joey, let's move on to you.  Even before you became a Sprint Cup Series driver, there were folks out there who were predicting multiple championships for you.  It's taken some time, but here you are on the threshold of perhaps making that dream a reality.  What's it like to live up to the potential so many people thought you had?
JOEY LOGANO:¬† Obviously it means a lot to be one of the Final Four, and racing for a championship is a dream come true.¬† Like you said, it's‑‑ obviously, I've been through kind of the tougher times and trying to understand what it takes to drive a Sprint Cup car and how to make one go fast and how to race other guys out there, and I was able to do that kind of in the limelight in front of everyone.¬† To be in this position now and on the verge of hopefully winning a championship, like you said, it's definitely a dream come true.¬† I've got a great team behind me.¬† We've all been working well together, so we'll just keep plugging along, doing the same thing we've been doing all year, and see where we turn out at the end.
MIKE MASSARO:  Denny, there is a racing adage out there that says to win a championship, you must first have lost one.  In 2010 one slipped right out of your hands and you came up just a bit short.  Since then, it's been a long road back.  Plenty of adversity in your life and in your racing career.  What's it mean to you to be back here with another shot at that trophy?
DENNY HAMLIN:  Well, I've been here nine years, so I've lost eight, if we're keeping track.  You know, it's totally different circumstances.  We went into 2010 a lot like Kevin did, very dominant and very fast at every racetrack we went to.  This year, you know, obviously has been different.  We came back, obviously, in 2013 from the adversity of obviously the wreck and having to miss races, and you really have a totally different outlook from that point on after you have to sit out a few races and watch your car go round.  You kind of get a perspective of what it's like to not be part of this sport, and it allowed me to appreciate this whole process.
In 2010, you know, even though I appreciated it, I didn't‑‑ I just thought it would come every single year.¬† And when you have a tough year like 2013, it allows you to refocus and put the bigger perspective in front of you, and I think that that's allowed me to race a lot easier this year, even though performance hasn't really shown it a whole lot.¬† We have struggled a little bit with speed, but we've faced elimination each and every round, and we've overcome it every single round.
We face elimination once again on Sunday, and now we have to overcome it.
MIKE MASSARO:  One more question for the entire panel, and I'd like you all to answer it.  We've already seen the intensity that this Chase has been able to develop and how critical each position is on the racetrack.  In the closing laps, if you find yourself racing nose to tail with the guy you need to beat to win this championship, how do you race him?
DENNY HAMLIN:  I've raced everyone with respect.  I feel like respect is something that's hard to come by in our sport, but it's not going to take someone wrecking someone to win this championship.  You can do it without doing that.  And I believe that it's very possible.  It's just to each his own, I think.  Everyone is going to have a different way of doing it, but for me, it's about going out there and doing your team 100 percent and also not compromising who you are as a person for myself.  Each person might be different, though.
KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, I think for us, heck, I don't plan on racing any of them.  I just want to beat them all and try and stay in front of them so we don't have to put ourselves in position all day.  You ask if we were going to plan it out, that would be how I would plan it out.  The rest of it, we'll just have to see how it comes from the rest of the race on.  Do what you have to do, I guess.
JOEY LOGANO:  I think all of us, we've been racing each other all year and we haven't had an issue with each other.  All of us have raced each other up front and all of have raced each other for the lead at some point, and we've been fine.  Obviously, there's a lot on the line, and we'll be racing each other really hard, I'm sure, but we want to be able to win the championship the right way.  Obviously, that would be the goal, and obviously all of us have the same common goal out there.  And we're all going to be racing each other, and it's going to be entertaining to watch, that's for sure.
RYAN NEWMAN:  I mean, it's the same answer, really.  We want to put on a good race for the fans.  We want it to be interesting and exciting at the same time.  You know, if we can finish four wide coming off Turn 4, then that would be great.  But we just need to have a good, clean race for all of us, for all of our sakes, before, during, and after the race, which seems to be somewhat of an issue at times.
MIKE MASSARO:  Thank you, gentlemen.  This wraps this portion of the segment up.  We wish you the best of luck, especially on Sunday.  Time now to introduce NASCAR senior director of competition communications Kerry Tharp to field questions from the assembled media.
KERRY THARP:  Thank you very much, Mike.  We've got a great crowd out here tonight.  We've got four hungry drivers battling for the championship, so let's open it up for questions for our Championship Four drivers.  If you have a question, raise your hand, and we have two mic runners in the audience, Kelly and Brad.  Please state your name and affiliation.  We ask that you stand, too, so the drivers can get a good look at you, and then we ask that you limit yourself to one question, if at all possible.

Q.  Your crew chiefs were on earlier in the week saying we're just going to do what we've been doing all year.  Joey just said that's what you're going to do, but, obviously this is different than you've ever done before.  The Chase hasn't been like this before.  My question is:  What's the hardest part going to be to win this championship this weekend at this race at Homestead?
RYAN NEWMAN:  Winning the race.  I mean, that's the toughest part each and every week is winning the race.  You win the race this weekend, you win the championship, if you're one of us four.  To me, that's really what it's all about, and that's why, on our side at least, our intent is the same.  We've gone into every race with the intention of winning it and leading the most laps and winning the pole and everything else that goes along with it.  We just haven't been as successful as some of these other guys.  But our consistency has been there, so we just have to be there at the end.
JOEY LOGANO:  I feel like execution is the biggest deal.  There's going to be obviously a lot of distractions this weekend, and you've got to be able to put that behind you and race with a clean mind, and not just myself as a driver, but my whole team.  And I feel like that's been our strong point all year.  I feel like my team has been very strong, keeping the pressure to a low point and being able to do their job in those situations.  I feel like that's our strongest point as the 22 team, and I like our chances because of that.
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Yeah, I feel like for us, we had good practice at it last week.¬† I feel like everything we did last week with our‑‑ it was one and done.¬† You show up to Phoenix and you know you have to win the race.¬† The guys did a great job preparing the car, called a good race, had good pit stops.¬† I feel like they had more pressure last week than they did this week, so I feel like we've already experienced it, and it was just last week.¬† I feel like that was a good exercise as a team for us to go through, and you know, I just told everybody this week, just go out and do exactly what you did last week, and everybody knows what to expect.
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Yeah, I agree a little bit with Joey.¬† It's about execution and not making mistakes, and all these teams have made some kind of mistake throughout this Chase.¬† And it's how you get over those mistakes that kind of defines what happens to you.¬† Last week was obviously a tough one for us, having the pit road deal and a tire go flat, but then we battled back, and that showed‑‑ that to me was very encouraging from our race team.¬† I think that's something that's going to be very tough to overcome at a place like Homestead.¬† Of the four of us, your winner is probably going to be the one that doesn't make any mistakes.¬† It's a fully‑executed race from pit stops to pit lane to restarts and obviously green‑flag speed, so hopefully all the pieces of the puzzle of that are put together.

Q.  Denny and Kevin, you guys in previous seasons have been up on the podium for the last race under very different circumstances, under different rules.  How different is this?  Has the new vibe kind of set in just how different it is in terms of contending for a title on Sunday?
DENNY HAMLIN:  It's not a whole lot different other than you're racing, I think, more people.  In the years that I've been in it with Kevin, it's been, I think, three of us that have been part of the championship picture.  You know, this is just a different deal altogether.  We know that points don't matter.  We all recognize where we are on the racetrack, and we'll recognize that throughout the race.
You know, it's just you know that there's no going backwards, there's only going forwards if you're behind.¬† And obviously when you can swing for the fences and maybe, if you don't have the fastest car, you're able to pull different strategies and come in under a caution where other people stay out.¬† Who knows what's going to happen?¬† But this one is going to be a totally different feel, I think, than in years past.¬† There are no deficits.¬† There's no‑‑ you've got to win by a certain amount or be ahead by a certain amount of positions or behind by a certain amount of positions.¬† We all know we just have to beat the person in front of us.
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† I think for me, personally, it's a lot different situation.¬† We've always come in behind, and I think this year you feel the speed in the car on a week‑to‑week basis no matter what racetrack we've gone to.¬† I feel like if things don't go wrong or something doesn't happen, we've been in contention to win the race.¬† For us, I think you come in with that confidence and knowing that your cars have been fast.¬† You know your guys have had their backs put against the wall and done a great job under pressure, so you just want to just keep doing the things that you've been doing and knowing that if you do those things right, your car is going to run fast enough to win the race, which is what you need to do.
That's really what it comes down to.  I believe that we have the cars that are capable to win every week, and I don't believe this week will be any different.

Q.¬† Joey, the other three have really been in the thick of a championship race before, right at the end.¬† This is your first go‑around at it.¬† Do you see that at all as a disadvantage, and if so, how have you tried to work on that?
JOEY LOGANO:  No, I don't.  I don't see it as a disadvantage at all, because I think we're all kind of in the same boat right now.  I don't believe anyone up here has been in the position of being tied going into the last round and really racing for the championship.  If you're behind or something like that, I feel like you race with nothing to lose because you're going for the championship, but if you don't, there's a little less pressure that way, and if you go in as a leader, obviously you're just trying not to screw up.  I feel like over the last nine weeks our 22 team has done a great job and we've scored the most points up to this point in the Chase.  I don't see that as a disadvantage.  I feel like we've done what we need to do up to this point, so I definitely don't see it as a disadvantage at all.

Q.  Kevin, you were joking with Joey a little bit about Talladega.
KEVIN HARVICK:  He knows I'm not joking.

Q.  What do you expect your teammates to do?  What is considered okay?  Do you expect your teammates to pick pit stalls next to the other?  What is acceptable for your teammates to do?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† You know, we've had this conversation in our shop, and it's just a race, because I believe‑‑ and I think Tony Stewart believes and all the management believes that in the end, trying to do those things like at Talladega, karma catches up with you.¬† I'm a firm believer in karma.¬† At some point it comes full circle.

Q.  For all the drivers, I just wanted to ask you, what would it mean for you to deliver your car owner a championship in this new format?  Could you each kind of discuss what that would be?
RYAN NEWMAN:¬† I guess I was kind of asked a similar question before, and my answer really was‑‑ unselfishly, I want to do it for myself first.¬† Obviously, it would be awesome for myself personally, for my family, and all my friends, but at the same time to know that I'm driving for somebody that has a lot of history in our sport, that history being with a very dominant driver 20 years ago, previously winning the championship with Dale Earnhardt, so that is special.¬† But, unselfishly, I'm all about me when it comes to this.¬† It really is a dream opportunity for all of us.¬† For myself, for Luke Lambert, who's never even been to victory lane in the Cup Series, for Richard, for everybody with Caterpillar and all our sponsors.¬† It's my steering wheel.¬† That's what my goal is.
JOEY LOGANO:  I think it would mean a lot.  If you look at some of the drivers that Team Penske has had win championships for him, not just in NASCAR but in all the other series that they've raced in before, to have your name on that list as a Team Penske champion would mean a lot.  There's definitely some legends that they have there.  When you get to walk through the shop, you see a lot of the trophies and you see all the Indy 500 championship trophies there and all that, so it would be really cool to be able to add your name as a champion driving for Roger and Walt.  I think that would be a dream come true on top of just winning the championship in general.  For anyone, it would be amazing, but doing it for Team Penske is my goal.
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Yeah, I think for me I'm fortunate to have an owner who has driven it as the owner and the driver in our company.¬† To call him your friend, as well, has been something‑‑ somebody that I've been able to lean on over these last nine weeks.¬† To win it with Tony and Gene would obviously be something that means a lot to me just because of my friendship with Tony and the chance that they took to really start this team from scratch and be here in the first year.
Obviously, everybody knows everything that Tony has had to go through this year and last year, and to be able to try to put the end of the story and put something really good on top of everything that Tony has had going on with everything in his life would be really neat for me personally.
DENNY HAMLIN:  You know, my situation is a little bit different in the sense that I'm with a team that gave me my start with Joe Gibbs Racing, and really it's a family organization.  This is their livelihood.  They don't have other businesses that drive a lot of the income that comes into their team.  They're all in, and this is their baby that they built many, many years ago.  And for me, I think it would just be special to give a championship to Joe and J.D., two guys that really just took a chance on a local short track racer.
Our sport has changed over the last few years since I've been in it, but we got here the old‑fashioned way, and to work your way all the way to the top would definitely be something special, and to do it with the group that gave me my start would mean a lot.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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