NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 8, 2005
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. A couple of quick notes before we get started. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is going to feature representatives from each of the three manufacturers, Ford, General Motors and Dodge. They'll be the guests at 11 a.m. in the infield media center at Las Vegas. There is a panel discussion that will be narrated by NASCAR and FOX analyst Larry McReynolds. Today we're joined by Kevin Harvick, who is eager to get back to Las Vegas. He almost won last year's event there. He was leading when he ran out of fuel near the end. Currently he sits 13th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points standings. Two weeks ago he finished sixth at California. He's also fresh off a second-place finish in last Sunday's historic NASCAR Busch Series event in Mexico City. Kevin is joining us from Atlanta where he's testing us today. He's on his lunch break we appreciate him making time for us. Kevin, you have opened the season with a lot of energy early. I guess you feel like Las Vegas maybe owes you one.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think that you probably feel like a lot of places owe you one. But we ran very well at Las Vegas last year, led a lot of laps, then ran out of fuel there at the end. We had a good test out there with the Cup car. We won the Busch race last year and are excited about the way we started the Busch season with three second place finishes and excited about everything that's happening in the Cup car so far this year. Everything is off to a good start. We just have to keep the momentum going and hopefully we can keep it going in Las Vegas this weekend.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll open it up for questions for Kevin.
Q. Talk about Las Vegas and the new tire compound and the rear spoiler. How much can you pull off of what you had last year and use this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we've gone to totally different packages from what we ran last year, setup-wise. So, I mean, everything -- not everything that we did last year is totally wrong, but everything that we're doing this year is just totally different. We've come up with some different stuff that we'd like to run. You know, the balance of the car is a little bit different aero-wise than it used to be. So you just have to do a few things different to make everything match up. But, you know, the tires, Las Vegas has always been one of those racetracks where the tires fall off and they still do that.
Q. Will they do it more this time than last year, do you think?
KEVIN HARVICK: Hard to tell until we get everything in the race. Last year we went from the test and everybody was panicked that the tires were going to wear out, you were going to have to pit every 30 laps. We'll just have to wait and see what happens once we get everybody there.
Q. How many races in Busch you going to end up running this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: We're going to run 20 races in the Reese's Chevrolet, and two Craftsman Truck Series races.
Q. Why do you race in Busch? Is it the added track time, win more money, fun, all of the above?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it's all of the above. I think there's a lot of different reasons, like you say, that we do it. The track time is important, you know, just to get used to the scenarios with the tires and things for the weekend. You know, it adds revenue to our race teams. Just, like you say, all of the above pretty much you could make an argument for.
Q. How do you like being owner and having the opportunity to have a guy like Tony go out and win a race for you?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, you know, it's been a pretty crazy start to the season won our first Busch race as an owner, won second three times as a driver. A little bit hungry to win for ourselves. For my own race team, myself and DeLana, to go out the first race of the season that we're going to attempt to run all year and win the race is something that's pretty cool. Tony is a big part of that. We couldn't have done it without him.
Q. Who is the boss, you or DeLana?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you know whose name is on the side of it (laughter).
Q. How much does it help you running a Busch race right before a Cup race on the same track? The cars are different.
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, the cars are different. The downforce is different. The horsepower's different. Just really the biggest thing you're looking for is just something that, you know, I like to race, and that's one reason why we do it, but you're looking for tire wear, strategy and things that you might be able to use on Sunday.
Q. Are drivers starting to get a little concerned at the Roush team's dominance? It's early, but you look at the standings - one, three, four, five - what are other teams thinking about how they've come out of the gate?
KEVIN HARVICK: Our car was strong at Daytona. We had a little mix-up there in the 125, got caught up in a wreck again in the 500. We felt he had a strong car there. We led a lot last year. But, you know, they've had good cars the last couple seasons. For the most part, you know, they have more cars than most people. When they get to running good, it looks like they're dominating. They're definitely strong right now. They won't win every week, I promise you that.
Q. I have a vague recollection you might have been married in Vegas in 2001. Is this one of the highlight stops for drivers? Do you like Vegas just because it's not Martinsville, it's not Rockingham, it's pretty wild compared to some other stops?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, as a driver, myself, I don't even go into the city during the race because there's just too many people. If I was a race fan looking to go to a race, there's not a better city to go to than Las Vegas because there's so much to do. You can go to the race during the afternoon, you know, there's things to do no matter how long you want to stay there. From a race fan's perspective, I think it's probably one of the best racetracks to go to.
Q. Were you married there in 2001?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yes.
Q. What was your assessment of the racing at California with this new package? Judging from that, how do you think the racing will be at Las Vegas?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is go back and look at the characteristics of the two racetracks. Historically, it's probably not fair to judge the rules package off the racing at California. It's always historically been one of the harder racetracks to have a really good race on. So I think once we get to Atlanta, I think that will probably be the first place we can really judge the spoilers. We're here at the test right now, and the cars aren't doing anything out of the ordinary. It's not like they're dead sideways or hard to drive or anything like that. We'll just have to wait and see what happens when we get back here to race.
Q. A Busch question. I know you've got the plan all laid out. When you come out of the gate like you have, is there ever any tendency to second guess and say, "Man, I'd like to run for this championship"? You've done it, so that might take some of that off.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I mean, we've won a couple championships in the Busch car. We won one with the driver, one with the owner. Really, you know, we set out at the beginning of the year with a plan. Brandon Miller is supposed to drive the other 15 races. You come out strong, you're leading the points, and we've talked about it already this year, it would be nice to win a championship in anything that you race. We got to look at the big picture. The Cup car is the big picture, keeping yourself healthy and juvenated (sic) so that you're ready to go at the end of the year. That's the big-picture plan. Winning the Busch championship is important, but the Cup championship is the ultimate goal.
Q. What's on your mind these days? The The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup really isn't here, but it's here. We've been through Daytona, Mexico, California. It's going to start to get serious. You have the stuff on your Busch team. Richard Childress Racing, conversation about that. What is on your mind right now headed into this race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think what's on our mind is going in, having a chance to hopefully win the race in Las Vegas in both cars, Busch car and Cup car. We had a great test in Las Vegas, had a great test in California, and everything translated back to the race. We were in contention to win at California there towards the end of the race. The guys have done a great job putting the cars together and working hard on the engines. As far as the 29 team is concerned, I think we're going out there with full intentions of running in the Top 10, top five, and hopefully trying to put ourself in position to win.
Q. Do you think a lot of teams are looking at the Chase differently this year, having been through it one year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, the thing about it is you go out and you try to run as good as you can every week. Whether we were running for the last 10 races with the Chase for the Championship or every race counted towards the year-end points, I think you're going to go out and try to win every week. The way that the sport is now, no matter how the points system is, it's more aggressive than it was three, four, five years ago. Everything is as aggressive as you can get it week in and week out. I think if you change the points system right now, I don't think it would change a whole lot of what you do on the weekends.
Q. Some fans have asked how come they don't put a tower at the edge of pit road, showing when you could come into pit road? Would that help, do you think, a light tower?
KEVIN HARVICK: Sometimes I think people sit at home and watch too much TV or listen to it on the radio too much (laughter). It's pretty plain and simple. The TV cameras are on cue with the caution light. There's a big light at the end of pit road that flashes red or green. I think with the timing and scoring that we've got now, it's pretty bullet-proof.
Q. In Mexico City, it seemed like there was some confusion over the one engine rule. It caused some hard feelings. I know it depends on when you present your race engine. Is this confusing for you guys and do you think it should be simplified in some way?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, I think it's very simple. It's clearly stated in the rule book as to what the rule is. If you blow your engine up in your primary car, you go to the back of the pack. If you crash your primary care and you go to a backup car, it's before qualifying, you start where you qualify. The fact of the matter is, if you crash your primary car, you're already at a huge, huge disadvantage. The rules have been the way that they are for a year or two now, if not more. I don't know exactly. Sometimes people just cry over spilt milk. You just have to worry about what you're doing and whether you've got to go to the back or not. The rules are what they are. That's what you have to play by. There's no reason to overcomplicate them or wear yourself out about 'em when you can't change 'em.
Q. From your perspective as a Busch car owner, what have the logistics like been for this California, Mexico, Vegas swing? Has it been a major headache getting the car from one place to the other?
KEVIN HARVICK: I tell you, it's been tough. We've had to have our primary truck on the road. We've had another truck and trailer running cars back and forth to that truck and trailer to get cars from California to Mexico, and now from Mexico to Vegas. They'll finally get to come home. It's been tough on the team trying to build cars and get everything prepared as it needs to be prepared week in and week out. Then to have three different types of cars, you have superspeedway cars, which we had to build two for Daytona, we didn't have time to build two road race cars, so we only had one road race car for Mexico. Then you have a downforce race the third week. It's been tough, but I wouldn't want to trade it. I think the venture that we had to Mexico City was well worth the work, to see the crowd and the purse that the Busch Series was given to go down there. It was a great benefit. Everything has gone off well. NASCAR has done a good job meeting everybody up in one spot so that they had somewhere to work and somewhere to exchange cars and things like that. It's been tough, but I think it's been well-prepared.
Q. Have you been trading out cars the way everybody else has at the two places in Texas?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yes.
Q. As the schedule keeps changing towards the West Coast races with people talking about maybe going to Seattle, maybe Canada, do you think it will make sense eventually for Busch and Cup teams to have satellite shops centrally located in the United States to be able to sort of shuttle equipment back and forth, not go all the bay back to North Carolina?
KEVIN HARVICK: I know for myself personally, I think it's better to shuttle the cars back and forth to the trailers and prepare them right in the shop. The way that the airplanes and things work now, I think it's better for the crew guys to come home and sleep in their own bed and work out of the shop. You take a big chance on the road of overlooking something, working out of something that you're not used to or don't have all the equipment that you need. I don't see it coming any time soon with my team or the RCR teams coming to that point. Somebody else might do it.
Q. In the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series driver, as well, are there any particular tracks you would like to see both those series go to that those series don't run as much now?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, not right offhand. I think the schedule is pretty full. We go to a lot of different places. I think there's a lot of talk about Canada. I think that would be great for the series. But I don't think there's any particular track that I would rather go to right now that's not on the schedule.
Q. Do you think this expansion, going out to the West Coast more, going to Mexico, was a good thing for both the Busch and Cup Series?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah. The fact that we took the Busch Series out of the country and had a successful event, points event at that, and everything went off as well as it did, had the amount of people, the sponsor interest was great. We had a Mexican brand with the Pelon Pelo Rico brand on our Hershey's car. There were a lot of Mexican drivers that ran well. In order for our sport to get bigger and in order for the Busch Series and things like that to grow, we have to go to markets like that. I think that's the right direction to go to.
Q. Why does the sport need to get bigger? Somebody might say it's almost as big as the NFL. Why push to Mexico, Canada? Why grow when people say there are a lot of good things right now as it is?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think if you sit still, you'll get behind. I think that's true for anybody in any position. I mean, if you were presented a raise in your job, you wouldn't say, "No, that's okay. I think I'll just stay where I'm at," not want to make any more money, better your life or better the sport, whatever the case may be. I think any time you sit still, somebody's not doing their job. I think any opportunity that is given to make the sport bigger is going to be better for our sponsors, better for the teams, better for everybody involved.
Q. What about for the teams? At what point does the sport become too big for the teams, for a car owner like yourself? Can't expansion be too much at one point?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think so. I think if you expand more, the sponsorship dollars increase in value, the purses become bigger. I just don't think there's a point yet that the teams are not big enough to keep expanding. I think right now expansion is okay, and I think the teams are able to keep up with it.
Q. Is it too early to assess what it's like having Jeff Burton as a teammate?
KEVIN HARVICK: Jeff has been great. I mean, he's real easy to get along with. He's really involved in the setup of his race car and things like that. We talk a lot about race cars, things that are going on within RCR and communicate well together. It's been a real calm atmosphere at RCR. Everybody has worked really hard. I think our performance has shown that we've done a lot of the things that we needed to do to improve ourselves. I'm not saying that we've done everything, but we're on the right track. He's been great to work with and he's been a great teammate so far.
Q. How difficult is it going to be to turn that Busch car over to somebody else if you're sitting in first place?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, it's hard to turn something over. I think we've done it the last couple years, though. We've always had really strong Busch cars. We've won the owners championship once before, the drivers championship once before. But it's still hard to give up the keys and say, "Here you go," when you've got off to such a great start. We've got to keep our eye on the prize, and that's the NEXTEL Cup car. The way we've set up the schedule, we've tried to run three or four weeks, then give ourselves a break. That's what we had planned, and that's what we're going to do.
Q. Have you had the opportunity to see Sarah Fisher drive? What is your opinion of what she's been able to do so far?
KEVIN HARVICK: When the whole Sarah Fisher thing started, that she was interested in running stock cars, she actually drove one of my cars at Caraway Speedway. We tested her for Richard and Chevrolet. She did a really good job. She had really good car control and ran reasonably good speed. They moved on with it. She's done good. She just needs to get some experience and get some seat time and just keep racing is the main thing.
Q. Big enthusiasm with the Mexican fans for the Busch race. If it comes to Canada, there isn't an oval big enough that would make the race justifiable up here. There's been lots of talk of running it on the Formula 1 Champ Car circuit in Montreal. Talk more about the possibility of maybe running a Busch race in Canada, running it on a road course.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think everybody's excited about the talk of NASCAR coming to Canada. As our sport goes international, I think people understand road racing internationally. I think outside of the United States, ovals aren't really the thing that everybody wants to watch. I think as we keep expanding, I think the road courses will become more -- there will come or of them as we go through and expand. I enjoy the road course courses. I think it shakes the schedule up. I think it really makes you drive the car and shows what you can do going both ways. If there was three or four road races, I think it would be good for the schedule. You'd get to use your two cars that you built a couple more times during the year.
Q. How are your ribs holding up?
KEVIN HARVICK: Ribs are great. Everything's healed up. Spent some time in Tucson getting everything healed up. Everything's put back together and feeling good.
Q. How different was a Busch car on a road course than a Cup car is?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, there was two things that kind of made it different. The altitude in Mexico City is really high, so the horsepower on the cars were down a little bit. But for the most part that was really the only difference from the Cup car to the Busch car, just horsepower was down compared to what we're used to, but still the same basic setups in the cars.
Q. You talked about your teammate Jeff Burton. He was quoted as saying, "We've got to get better cars." Is that a fair assessment? What is being done to get better cars?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think my guys have done a pretty good job in putting our race cars together. We ran really well at Daytona and ran really well at California. We'll just see what happens. You never want to sit still. You've got to keep moving forward. We'll just have to keep working on it.
Q. You both had success at Vegas. What is it about that place for both of you guys?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the biggest thing is, you know, we just have to make sure that we really concentrate on what we've done in the past. We had a really good test there. Everything transferred at California from our test to the race. It's exciting to go back somewhere where you usually run good. That's hopefully what we do.
Q. Do you like having the week off in the Cup Series early like this?
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn't have a week off, so I don't know (laughter).
Q. A couple weeks ago a lot of talk came up about getting a speedometer in the car. I'd love to hear your opinion of having a speedometer as one more instrument.
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know who asked that question, but it's probably kind of ridiculous. You'd still be fighting the same thing. Your speedometer would be off and then we'd still be having the same argument. We have tachs in the car that we can look at the rpm. There's a little variance in the pit road speed. But we'd still be fighting the same battle even if we had speedometers.
DENISE MALOOF: I think that does it for today. Thanks, Kevin, for giving up some of your lunch break to join us. We appreciate that. Good luck in Vegas.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks, everybody, for participating today. We'll see you next week.
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