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November 16, 2014
KERRY THARP:¬† We're going to hear from certainly some of the major players behind the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship team, and what a show they put on not only tonight but the entire season.¬† I'm talking about the No.4 Budweiser Chevrolet, driven by Kevin Harvick.¬† He's joined by crew chief Rodney Childers, and we've got car owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.¬† Congratulations.¬† That was one heck of a race.¬† It's been a great Chase, been a terrific season, and the way that this No.4 team finished it off here tonight was one for the ages.
I'm going to start with the crew chief Rodney Childers.¬† Rodney, how did you hold up there towards the end of that race?¬† There was so much ebb and flow, so many restarts.¬† You had to have things go your way.¬† Your driver had to hit his marks.¬† Talk about your emotion now being the championship crew chief.
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† Yeah, it was an interesting weekend, to be honest.¬† I almost felt like the weekend went smoother for me than what I ever expected.¬† I think back to the way I was at Charlotte and some of those other races where I was pretty much sick on the pit box.¬† I felt good all weekend, and the guys did an excellent job.¬† Kevin did an excellent job, and I felt like we came down here as prepared as we could be, and I was actually okay, if it went good or bad.¬† That's one thing that we kept talking about before we came down here is, yes, we wanted to win a championship, but on the other hand, everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing, everybody on the 4 team and the guys at Hendrick Motorsports that build those engines and chassis and everything else, everybody had worked their guts out all year.
I don't think at the start of that race‑‑ I didn't feel like there was one person or one thing that we had not done, that we had not prepared ourselves for.¬† All you can do is go out there and give it your all.¬† Thankfully everything worked out.¬† It's been kind of hard, I guess, since we took the checkered flag.¬† For me, at first I was crying, and now it still hasn't sunk in.¬† It's just overwhelming I guess you could say, and means a lot for me to, number one, have Kevin Harvick believe in me and want me to come do this, but to have Gene Haas and Tony Stewart, I wasn't even going to take the job until Tony got in his airplane and flew to Concord to meet me one night, and then he got back on his plane and went back to Indiana.¬† And on my drive home, I said, if anybody is willing to, number one, do that for me and spend that kind of money for me, they're going to look after me.¬† He looked me in the eyes that night and said, we're going to do this.¬† To be able to bring a championship home for every single employee at Stewart‑Haas Racing is just amazing.
KERRY THARP:¬† Gene, terrific accomplishment this year by your race team.¬† The No.4 car was fast every single week.¬† What's it mean to you to win this championship for Stewart‑Haas Racing?
GENE HAAS:¬† Well, it's a great honor to win our second championship at Stewart‑Haas Racing.¬† I have to give a lot of credit, obviously, to Rodney, who made a lot of the right calls, with 20 laps to go and taking four tires, it's like, wow, going back to 12th position or whatever, and then having it work back up through the field, and how he knew that caution was going to come out, I have no idea.¬† But obviously it all worked out, and that's why we're here.
Kevin Harvick and Rodney are obviously a dream team.¬† They've figured out how to make these cars go fast, which is no easy feat, and I'm totally in awe.
Tony Stewart has this remarkable ability to draw so much talent from the Sprint Cup garage, and I think that's just all part of it.¬† Sometimes I'm in awe.¬† You don't get too many chances to get up to bat and take a chance to win a championship, and quite frankly, every single time we had to do something, Kevin Harvick made it happen.¬† For that, that's something that's so hard to do, and he made it work, and Rodney was behind him, and they actually make it look easy.
I'm just tongue tied as to what to say.¬† This is a great honor to win our second championship in four years, and I thank everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing and NASCAR for all the things they do and all of our great sponsors.¬† This is just‑‑ leaves me speechless to be up here again so quickly.¬† I thank this man right here.
KERRY THARP:¬† Tony, you've won Sprint Cup championships as a driver, you've won a Sprint Cup championship when you were the driver‑owner, and now you've won a Sprint Cup Championship with one of your drivers winning.¬† Just talk about this accomplishment and the satisfaction that the Stewart‑Haas organization gets to have crowned yet another champion in our sport.
TONY STEWART:¬† It's unbelievable.¬† It is so hard to win a championship at this level, and NASCAR in general, and especially with this Chase format.¬† Every week it showed how intense it was, how much pressure there was on the drivers, the crew chiefs, the crew members, pit crews.¬† Just unbelievable how much everything had to go right and how special it was when big moments happened.
To see these guys win at Charlotte was a huge win, and then again at Phoenix, and rise to the occasion.¬† I think it showed why Kevin and Rodney were championship material and why they're worthy of being the 2014 champions tonight.
Like we mentioned earlier in media week, it was real evident to me, their first test at Charlotte, and I got phone calls both nights after the test telling me how it went and the speed that they had.¬† I remember having two tests during the off‑season, and those guys were just unbelievably fast at both of those tests.¬† I thought, this is going to be a great start to the year.
But the thing that was remarkable for these guys is the fact that they had speed every week, everywhere we've been, and that's something that's extremely hard to do in this series with so many different disciplines.¬† Their stat of leading over 1,000 laps in the Chase, that's something that's no easy feat in itself.¬† For our organization and for Gene and for Chevrolet and all of our partners, Budweiser and Outback and Jimmy John's and everybody that's on Danica and Kurt's cars and my cars, it really is a team effort, and this is a team sport.¬† It takes everybody, everybody that's at Stewart‑Haas, whether they're in the fab shop or finish fab or assembly or the machine shop.¬† They are so important and so vital in making all this so smooth every week and having great partners like Hendrick Motorsports and the engine department and chassis shop.¬† It takes every one of those details to get here.¬† I think the evidence of that was with less than 20 laps to go when you had all four championship contenders in four consecutive spots on the racetrack with each other.
If you want to know how hard it is to win a championship here, it boiled down to the calls, the last pit stop and the strategies that were played.¬† And one took zero tires, one took two, we took four, and one had a problem in the pits.¬† I think up to that point it was pretty evident the flow of the race up to that point, but I think that was the moment in the race where nobody really knew exactly how those strategies were going to play out.
But I think all three of the crew chiefs made calls that they thought were appropriate for how their cars were running and track position, and I'm proud of Rodney.¬† It takes guts to sit up there and see a guy stay out and then have to sit there and make that call.¬† It was a gutsy call by Rodney to stick to his guns and do what they had been doing, but it also shows the depth and how good Kevin Harvick is at digging his heels in in those moments, just like Charlotte and just like Phoenix.¬† When it comes to the bottom of the ninth and you've got to make something happen, that's the guy I want in my corner and that's the guy that Gene and I want behind the wheel of our cars.¬† To be able to know that‑‑ I think he demonstrated those two weeks why he was capable of being in that scenario at the end and making this happen.
It's just unbelievable to see how this championship played out, all ten weeks.¬† But you know, you expect one of the four or two of the four to have a problem tonight, and it really didn't materialize.¬† All four guys had speed and were competitive all night.¬† It came down to the last pit call of the night for each guy and the drivers doing their part.¬† It was pretty exciting to see how it played out.
But just never been more proud of the opportunity that we've had with Gene to be a part of this with everybody at Stewart‑Haas, and really proud to not only have a teammate, a driver, but most of all, one of my best friends be out there taking pictures as champion this year.¬† That's a great feeling to be up here and be a part of that with both of these guys.
Q.¬† Rodney, Tony just called your tire call there gutsy.¬† You've never been in this situation before.¬† You made that call.¬† I think Kevin said on his radio, well, that couldn't have gone any worse right after he pulled off of pit road.¬† Why did you call for the four and how did you know that it would work out?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† Honestly, when it came down to that, I didn't even flinch.¬† I thought that was the right thing to do.¬† The real problem was we had had perfect pit stops all night and then the last one we had tonight we had a problem.¬† I think that's what he was talking about more than anything.
Actually, it ended up being a good thing.¬† We got to line up on the outside where we needed to be.¬† We had had a fast car all night and had to restart third every single restart it seemed like, and that was the worst place to be.¬† You know, it was definitely something‑‑ once we got lined up in 14th, I thought that I had made the wrong decision and had let my team down and had given the whole year away.
You know, exactly what Tony said; we've got a guy that sits in that seat, and when it comes time to do what he needs to do, he digs his heels in and makes it happen.¬† The same thing happened at Darlington.¬† He believes in me and I believe in him, and we're going to make the best out of it.¬† Whether it was going to be the right thing or not, he was going to do his best.¬† That's all you can ask out of him.
Q.¬† Rodney, when you look at the strategy that went into the Chase, we've never gone through this before.¬† You think about guys like Chad Knaus that are there year in and year out no matter what NASCAR does to the format of it.¬† What did it take to win this one, just basically be there week in and week out?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† I think the biggest thing is just basically preparation.¬† We had good speed all year, but we kind of called it quits at a certain point of the year, and we took, I guess, seven cars apart down to a bare chassis, and we said these are our Chase cars, and we put all new bodies on every one of them, new parts on every one of them, and we got ready to go racing.¬† And I think that showed from Chicago all the way to the end of it.
We had good speed, and everybody just did a really good job.
Like you said, I can't tell you‑‑ I've never been involved in a championship run before with the old rules or anything, but for me, it was a lot of fun.¬† I think NASCAR did a really, really good job of making it exciting for the fans and everybody, really all the teams, too.¬† It was exciting for us being on the pit boxes.¬† You know, it was the best thing that I've ever been involved in, and I don't know how to explain it any better than that.
Just thankful I have such a good group of people around me that are willing to believe in me and give me this opportunity.
Q.¬† Rodney, along those lines, obviously it's a big deal for Tony and Gene and everybody that's back at the shop and all the hundreds of employees, but for you personally, when you stop and look back at where you were when you got started in the sport and making the change this year and to be able to accomplish that, what does it mean to you personally?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† Like I said, I don't know if that's really soaked in at all.¬† You know, the thing I think about is every‑‑ and I'm sure Tony has been through this 100 times, but I think about every single person that ever had anything to do with me.¬† Like the first go‑kart my mom ever bought me, the times she took me to the racetrack, and the first guy that called me from a cart shop and wanted me to drive for him, and then the next guy that‑‑ a lot of you guys know Clay Rogers that tries to make some races every now and then and stuff and still races a lot.¬† But I helped him in go‑karts, and his dad called me and wanted to go to lunch one day, and he said, hey, I'm going to buy a late model stock car for you to drive, and was completely blown away.¬† I was way over my head, had no idea what I was doing.¬† I went to seven races that first year and completely sucked at all of them.¬† And then over the winter, took the whole car apart, did everything the way I wanted, and I went to the first race, sat on the pole and led every lap.
From that point on, he bought another car, and he said, I want you to keep up Clayton's car and crew chief for him.¬† So that one year was the year that I realized that I don't really need to drive.¬† I enjoy watching him win as much as I like winning myself.¬† If it wasn't for that one person that ever told me, hey, I want you to crew chief for my son, I wouldn't be doing this right now.¬† I have a lot of things that just kept running through my head all week this week.¬† I was fortunate enough to have my mom and dad here.¬† That's the first time they've ever been to a Cup race that we've won.¬† Two of my very best friends since I was a little kid were here.¬† I don't know, I mean, it's just kind of unreal, I guess you could say.¬† There's just a lot of people that you want to thank, and it's hard to do that a lot of times.
Hopefully I'll get that opportunity.
Q.¬† Tony, obviously this has been a tumultuous year for you, and I know you're still in the moment, but have you been able to process some of the emotions that you're going through?
TONY STEWART:¬† Yeah.¬† You know, I think more than anything, I'm happy for this organization and happy for this team.¬† It's not about me right now, it's about us as a group.¬† It's about everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing.¬† You know, you learn when you're in these situations that it's about a larger group of people and a bigger picture that's in play.¬† I'm grateful that I have a co‑owner and co‑workers and teammates that are such great people that no matter what's been thrown at us the last year and a half that this organization was able to thrive and continue to prosper and be successful through this.
You know, it shows the depth of this organization and what these people are capable of.¬† Nights like tonight are when you sit back and you reflect on everything and you realize how proud you are of your entire group and everybody that you surround yourself with.
Q.¬† Tony, in some of his comments right after the end of the race, Kevin said that he had to give a lot of credit to both you and Jimmie Johnson for helping him through this week and this weekend.¬† I just wondered if you could share a little bit of what you guys helped him with.
TONY STEWART:¬† I can't speak for Jimmie, but anybody that thinks this is just a normal week is wrong and fooling themselves.¬† From the time that these four guys got done at Phoenix last week, their mindsets shifted gears.¬† I told Kevin and Rodney earlier in the week when I saw them, I said, the hard part is done.¬† The hard part is getting to the dance here and getting in this moment and having this opportunity.¬† The hard part is all the things that could go wrong that are out of our control.
Now you go into a weekend like this that you can control, and there's still variables that are out of our control, but it's not taking you out of an opportunity to have this night and to have the opportunity to race for a championship.
You know, I think it's so easy for everybody involved to want to do things different this last week and want to‑‑ they want to work harder, they want to try harder, they get so focused on making sure that‑‑ like Rodney said, there wasn't a detail overlooked this week, and there isn't every week, but there were other things in place for tonight that you don't normally have.
The hard part is you've got to do the things that got you here in the first place and not get caught up in the moment, not get out of that rhythm that got you here.¬† It was just a reminder to those guys, like I said, when I talked with Rodney and Kevin and Delana.¬† I told Delana, I don't care what you do the next two days, but don't let him think about that race car, that race team or the fact that we're going to Florida next week.¬† Go do something different.¬† They were moving into their new home, so that was great to have something to keep his mind on something else, because this seven days is the longest seven days of your life when you're a driver or a crew chief, when you're on that pit crew, and it's a draining seven days.
You wouldn't think one week is ‑‑ a normal week for all of us flies by, and we don't think anything about it, but this seven days is the longest seven days of your life when you're in this position.¬† It's knowing that we're going to have to come down early and start the week early and that it's going to be a long weekend.¬† I was just trying to keep him having fun, do something to get his mind off of it because once Wednesday started and we had media day, it's ‑‑ Wednesday through tonight is a long, long week and longer than most.¬† It's taking Monday and Tuesday and clearing your mind and doing something to have fun because the rest of the week was long.
And I told these guys after the drivers' meeting, I told Kevin when we were riding back to the motor homes after the meeting was over, our deal in 2011 was a perfect example that no matter what happens it's not over until it's over.¬† No matter if there's a miscue, you've got to fight, and you've got to fight all the way until they drop that checkered.
I'm proud of these guys.¬† I didn't tell them anything they haven't been doing all year, but sometimes going into that last deal, it's nice to just remind them why they're here and why they do what they do.
Q.¬† Rodney, when this format was announced, how long did it take you to think, gosh, I hope it doesn't come down to a call on tires?¬† Was there anything‑‑ the fact that your car was so strong that you felt like we're not going to let other people dictate what we do?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† I think a little bit of that maybe.¬† I didn't feel like our car was that much better than anybody else's.¬† In all honesty, I thought that all four of the Chase contenders were really, really close all weekend.¬† When you got done with happy hour, you looked at everybody's sticker run, and you're like, oh, man, I don't know who's got an advantage here by any means.
We started the race, we were pretty far off, just like we were at Phoenix to be honest with you.¬† I mean, we turned wrenches and turned wrenches tonight and then went the wrong way at one point and started getting it back there towards the end.¬† We kept going one direction and it kept helping and then the next thing you know it was the wrong direction.
You know, I've said this all weekend.¬† You had four really good drivers and you had four really good race teams.¬† Any of those guys were deserving and had done a good job and got themselves in a position to win a championship.
You know, all in all, we just happened to hit it right there at the end.
Q.¬† Rodney, when you found out that you were going to work with Kevin, he had a reputation sometimes of being hard on crews, so were you nervous at any time before you started working with him?¬† Seriously, though, when did you really start clicking?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† I was nervous ‑‑ the first time I went to his house was probably the first deal.¬† You know, we had always raced against each other, and I knew him as one of the best drivers in the garage that wanted to win every week and was emotional at times and this and that.¬† You know, Kevin calls it that we dated for a year, but we really did.¬† I mean, like after six months of talking like every other day and text messaging every day and all, like there wasn't a bit of that going into the season.¬† I mean, going into that first test in December, there's never been any of that.¬† It's just been believing in each other and believing in our team.¬† Everybody picks on me at the shop.¬† They say I had two r√©sum√© piles, and I left for the weekend and somebody switched on me and I got the wrong r√©sum√© pile.
But all in all, those guys have done a hell of a job all year.¬† I mean, for instance, our car chief had never been a car chief before, and to have a car like we've done all year and have equipment as nice as we've had, like, those guys have just worked their guts out.
You know, that's all, I guess.
KERRY THARP:¬† We're going to segue into hearing from our 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and our race winner of tonight's 16th annual Ford EcoBoost 400, and that's Kevin Harvick.¬† He's the driver of the No.4 Budweiser Chevrolet.¬† Kevin, how does it feel to be the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† That's a good question.¬† You know, I think as you go back in time and you just really think about everything that's led up to this point, this is what we race for.¬† You show up to race for the Sprint Cup championship trophy, and to be able to come here in our first year with Gene and Tony and Rodney and all these guys on the team, you really have been able to experience something that you don't get to experience very often.¬† Just for the fact that I feel like I've been a part of something that you get to know everybody's name, you get to know‑‑ you get to race with your friends, with Tony.¬† I've gotten to know Gene, who's made just a huge financial commitment to this team.¬† So you get to know all these people.
And in the end, it's really about the people.¬† I can drive the car, but these guys have made some bold decisions, whether it be on the pit box tonight, changing the pit crew, whatever it may be.¬† You get to be a part of something from the beginning, and for me that was what I was looking for, to be a part of something that you could build from day one, and you felt like you knew everything that was going on for the most part.
I got to race with just a good group of guys.¬† I'm just really proud of everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing.¬† They've been just phenomenal through this process.¬† They've all been through it, and for the most part our team has not.¬† But a lot of these guys on our team hadn't won a race, either.
To come in here and be able to have that experience and guidance as a driver, I've never really looked at‑‑ you've been frustrated in some of the situations, but as we've raced the cars and experienced the situations, I just feel like this format was made for us this year because of the fact that we had to build a new team.¬† We made some mistakes along the way.¬† I don't think any of us ever dreamed of making all those mistakes in front of the world, leading races and the things that we were doing.¬† But in the end I feel like it all built up to this moment to be able to experience and handle the things that we did today.
Q.¬† Rodney, a lot has been made about the first test that you two attended, how you clicked, how everybody saw the speed that you had.¬† But how much would you attribute the success this year to when you were able to actually‑‑ when you left Michael Waltrip Racing and were able to get a jump start on going to Stewart‑Haas and working on this 2014 package when a lot of teams weren't able to do that?
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† It was definitely a good thing for sure.¬† I had plenty of time to sit at home and think about a lot of different things, about how this was all going to play out with this new rules package and stuff.¬† It gave me time to really just order parts and pieces and stuff.
But I'll tell you the person that really influenced me the most was Kenny Francis.¬† Kenny and I have been best friends for a long time, and for me to come from a different organization, he basically gave me everything he had and said, these are the chassis we run, these are the spindles we run, this is the geometry we run, these are the four shocks we run, so on and so forth.¬† So a lot of the credit has to go to Kenny, and then you've just got to take all that stuff and build it into the new rules package, and that part was fun for me.¬† Everybody was out racing those last few races and I was sitting there with my computer burning up with smoke coming out of it working on all this new stuff.
It was definitely an advantage for sure.
Q.¬† Kevin, every athlete gets put into the ultimate pressure cooker, the decisive game, the World Series, the Super Bowl, whatever, wants to be able to come through in a big way, and when it's all on the line and prove championship mettle.¬† Seems to me that obviously you guys did that tonight.¬† I wonder what your thoughts are about coming through and really doing the job, getting it done when you had to get it done.
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Yeah, I told them last week, these are the moments that you live for.¬† In Phoenix, you go there, everybody expects you to win, and we did.¬† Everybody on pit road did a great job, and that's different pressure, but I think as we go back through the year, you look at the situations where you show up every week and you have the fastest car.¬† Everybody starts looking at you and picking apart your stuff.¬† We went through some moments where Rodney was like, well, this is different.¬† We need to do this or that because everybody is paying attention to what we're doing, and for me it's like, you've never been in that position to where every practice or every qualifying session, everybody wants to know what you're doing.
I think as this week came, Tony was a big part of just kind of giving me the heads up and saying, all right, Bud, this is not going to be like last week.¬† You might be able to go and be prepared to run for a race win, but now you're going to race for a championship, and it's all on the line in one spot.¬† And he was a big help to helping Delana and I just kind of get through the week and keeping it low key, and he was right.¬† It's been a mentally draining week leading up to today.
I woke up this morning and felt like we were in the right spot.¬† We'd made a lot of good decisions and done things overnight and felt better about what I was‑‑ I felt like I was racing‑‑ practicing a little more amped up than I probably needed to be, and Jimmie Johnson was a huge help in just helping‑‑ he'd show up in the trailer after every practice and called and texted to Rodney and myself.¬† You pull the data up, and I was making some pretty huge mistakes.¬† So that eased my mind going into the day.
But just to have those resources to draw from, whether it be Tony's three championships or Jimmie has won six, and Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart‑Haas and Kurt, we just have so many things to draw from that I felt like we were‑‑ I felt like we were off yesterday in happy hour, but a lot of that was just‑‑ contributed to me in being a little amped up, and we sat and talked about it after practice, and these guys made good decisions.¬† So I told him last night, I said, the strength of what we've done all year has been the decisions that we've made from whether we were running good or bad.¬† You talk about what you need to do and past history of what happens on Sunday, and you go off of what you know.¬† And these guys have done a great job in making race day decisions.
Q.¬† For Kevin and Rodney, obviously your decision to join this team has paid off.¬† It proved to be the right decision.¬† But you were both in places where you could have stayed, and it may be more comfortable to stay there and not take a leap of faith to try something because this was no sure thing that it was going to work.¬† Looking back on those times now, obviously during the year you might not be able to say, hey, we're not sure if it's going to work out, but were there moments where you ever thought, I hope this works because this is a huge step that we're taking?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† I think for me, the moment was leading up to December.¬† I knew once we got to Charlotte that everything was going to be okay.¬† And then you just‑‑ like I say, you see all those resources and you see the things that are happening around you.¬† They're going to get you back in the ballpark.
RODNEY CHILDERS:¬† I mean, for me, it was a big decision.¬† Everybody, I think, in this room ‑‑ seemed like everybody in this room was a part of it for me.¬† But it was hard.¬† But once that decision was done, it was done.¬† Like I never thought for one second that it wasn't going to work.¬† From the time that he and I looked at each other and said we're going to do this, it was over.¬† The worst thing you can ever do is tell somebody they're not going to go win a championship somewhere, because they'll do it.
Q.¬† Gene and Tony, both times Stewart‑Haas Racing has won the title you've had to win the race to do it.¬† What do you think that says about your organization as a whole and going forward?
TONY STEWART:¬† I don't think it's necessarily a testament to the organization.¬† I just think it shows how tough this series really is.¬† The France family hasn't made bad decisions and got the series where it is by making bad decisions.¬† They know what the right things are, and this is a professional sport that has had more technological changes and advances come into the game than any other pro sports.¬† But with that, you have to have a sanctioning body that understands how to take that technology and apply it.
Our championship in '11, and this one tonight, there are similarities, but they're very different in a lot of ways, too.¬† The game has changed between 2011 and 2014.¬† Every stage of this Chase has proven to be so difficult.¬† Ryan Newman, great friend to me, and he's one of the smartest guys I know, an engineering major, he'd be really proud of me right now.¬† You look at how much percentage‑wise each of these races, what that really means to your opportunity, and you factor that into the equation, and then you factor in how many things that you can't control.¬† But then like Rodney said, things that you do have control over, the ability to do that is what gets you to these situations and scenarios.
You know, Gene has allowed us so many great opportunities and so many‑‑ his industry is really, really cool machines that are much smarter than I am, and to see how he has applied that to this race team and the tools that we're allowed to use to make our cars successful.¬† Like Kevin said, we can have the best tools in place, but it takes people, too.¬† So it's a very delicate balance and blend of all of that, and to have that ability to come to a night like tonight when it comes down to all or nothing, you know, I think that shows the depth that we have in our program.¬† And with our people and having that confidence that when you come to a scenario like this, that we are prepared and that we're ready to go and that we have good people that ‑‑ no matter their level of experience, whether they've been to the dance before or not, they can rise to the occasion and get the job done.
That's something I'm really proud of is Gene's allowed us that opportunity to do this, and that's why we're a team up here together.¬† It takes everybody in the organization to do it, and the confidence of everybody sitting up here to work together and make great decisions and put these people in place to do their job.
GENE HAAS:¬† Well, I think it goes back to the DNA of Stewart‑Haas Racing.¬† Basically it's not like a micromanaged company.¬† Obviously Tony has been a professional racer all his life, and I think he brings that kind of attitude towards how we deal with the employees there.¬† We don't really treat employees as employees.¬† They're kind of part of a group, and we respect everybody's opinions, and we kind of allow a lot of freedom in what people decide.¬† I know different organizations have different management strategies, and if anything, our strategy is more of letting people that know what they're doing do their job, and I think that really works well.
I think even with Kevin and Rodney, it's like, okay, they kind of have their flavor of how they race their cars, and each team is allowed to pursue that individuality.¬† There's no one kind of overseeing you that says this is exactly how you do it.¬† We give people a lot of freedom.
The people that succeed, we reward well, and we understand that racing is not about having a plan in place, it's about figuring out how to beat your competitors.¬† And the competition is so incredibly tough out here that you have to be flexible, and I think if anything between Tony and myself, we're pretty much hands off.¬† We let people do their thing and what they're good at, and when things aren't going right, we make changes.
I don't think Tony and I really talk too much about a lot of the changes that go on, and Tony has a natural instinct of how the racing goes, and I respect that.¬† And my part is more of infrastructure and Tony is more of the racer, and that works out really quite well.¬† We have a lot of friends in the garage.¬† We depend on a lot of different disciplines.¬† Hendrick Motorsports helps us a lot, and we're not here trying to develop our own technology.¬† What we try to do is we try to find things that work and people that work, and once they do work, we kind of let them go forward with that.
I think Greg Zipadelli does a great job of managing people, and I think‑‑ racing is kind of a creative sport.¬† If you clamp down on people, you don't get what you want.¬† We kind of let people go in their own direction.¬† I'm really amazed at how well Kevin and Rodney have done, and we will keep tweaking things until we get other teams to do better.¬† But it's more of kind of a recipe of the way we do things that's different than every other race team.
You win a championship once, maybe you call it a fluke, but if you do it the second time, I think we've got something.¬† I couldn't put my finger on it, but there's something there that works.¬† And whatever it is, I think Rodney and Kevin have alluded to it, just being brand‑new guys here that it's an easy place to work.¬† Things get done, people like working with each other, and for the most part, I think we're a very productive group at Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Q.¬† Kevin and Tony, was the advice that Jimmie Johnson was giving you more technical or more philosophical, and Tony, when you were in your championship runs, did you have any of your rivals giving you advice along these lines?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Well, I think you talk about rivals, and Tony will have to speak for this, but I think that the way these eight cars have worked together this year, I've never seen anything like it.¬† It's like nobody questions anything about, we're sharing this or we're talking about that, so that part has been pretty awesome.¬† But you've got to remember, Jimmie and I have‑‑ we've known each other for a long time.¬† We slept on those same couches at Hornaday's house adjacent to each other in the game room.¬† He'd go race his ASA cars, and I'd go race the trucks for the Spears bunch, so we spent a lot of time together as friends and have grown to be better friends as we've gone past the last few years for sure.
But it's been fun.¬† I mean, he's been very supportive, and we've been very supportive of him, as well, and they went through some struggles, and trying to support them as much as we could to help them get back on track with the 48 and the things that they've done this year.
It's just been fun to be able to see how all that works, but between these two‑‑ between him and Tony, it's a lot to lean on, and I'm pretty fortunate.
TONY STEWART:¬† Yeah, I mean, the thing about racing, and it doesn't matter what level, everybody is a family.¬† You work all season, and everybody starts at Daytona on a clean slate, but by the time you get to Homestead, I mean, it's down to‑‑ it's been ‑‑ until this year, it's normally down to two or three guys, and tonight four guys.¬† You know, you have your friends.¬† When you're around people 120 days a year, you become friends with most of them, some better than others, obviously.¬† But we've got a great partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, and like Kevin just mentioned, when you've got eight drivers that are sharing information, it's a lot easier to race seven guys than it is to try to worry about racing 34 or 35 guys.
To sit there and work together like that, when you get down to these scenarios, you're happy for the guys that are in this position, and you're going to give those guys advice.¬† They may not be a part of your program, and if you don't have a dog in the fight, you're still going to help somebody out and you're still going to offer your advice and your experience to them.¬† Because it is, it is a very different deal when you get to this week and get in this position.
You know, it doesn't sound like it and per face value, it doesn't look different, but I can promise you from experience, and Kevin knows from experience now, you get to this seven days, and having your friends and having that advice and people that you know, your equals, having that advice from them, sometimes that's just the calm voice or word that you need to get through the day.
Q.¬† Kevin, how did you feel when you left here three of the last four years in third, and did any of those feelings when you've been in Homestead in past years kind of spark your decision to go to Stewart‑Haas?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Yeah, you know, I think in the past format, in the past situations, I didn't feel like‑‑ coming here, you obviously were in the race, but I don't think that you really felt like you had a chance just because you were behind in the points and everything that came with that.¬† You know, I think as you look at the decision to come here, I just‑‑ you look at the‑‑ I keep going back to the people and the resources that you have available to you, and Tony was pretty adamant that we could race for wins and championships.¬† I think for me, that was really what it was all about.¬† I just needed‑‑ whether I finished third or fourth or whatever the case was, I just wasn't excited about going to work.¬† I needed to be excited about going to work, and this just gave me an opportunity to race with one of my good friends.¬† I'd known Kurt and Danica, and be a part of building something, and that just‑‑ it really changed my life in a new direction.¬† And really my son started that just ‑‑ in evaluation of Delana and I looking at things and saying, what's going to make us happy?¬† Because in the end if you're not happy, nothing is going to work like it should.
I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life than I have been this year just for the fact‑‑ from a personal standpoint, from a professional standpoint, and you see all the things that you have around you, and you're lucky.¬† I'm pretty lucky to be able to do what I used to pay to do for a hobby.¬† You show up and you're having fun doing it, and it's like a hobby, honestly.¬† I have no idea how much money I make or what I do.¬† I love showing up to work.¬† I love coming to the racetrack and love what I do.¬† And it's been a long, long time since I can sit up here and honestly tell you that I love the experience of everything that's been around me, and it just makes it fun.
Q.¬† Can you take us through that final restart and what you're thinking when you see Ryan‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† You're going to be mad because I have no idea how I got the lead.¬† I have no clue.
Q.¬† Maybe what you were thinking when you see Ryan Newman next to you?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Yeah, I know we started sixth, and I thought that we were in a good position to be able to capitalize on the new tires.¬† Anything past that‑‑ I can tell you about the last couple laps, but how we got the lead, I don't even remember.¬† It was just one of those moments where ‑‑ the restart before that, I think we started 12th, and the seas kind of parted down the back stretch off of 2.¬† I kind of gave it a little too much throttle through the middle of 1 and 2 and got myself tight, and then the seas parted done down the back stretch and we were able to get three or four cars or six, I guess, or five as it all turns out.¬† You've got a very short time to do it.¬† I felt like we had an advantage, obviously, from a tire standpoint, and then that was our strong point all night were the restarts.¬† So I felt like we just needed to go for it, and it all worked out.
Q.¬† There was a lot of talk going into this race that to win the championship you probably would have to win the race.¬† Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened.¬† What was it like there in those closing laps knowing you had no choice, you had to win that race?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Well, I think as you‑‑ honestly, I didn't think that that was going to be the case coming into the week, just for the fact that you had so many good cars that were just kind of going for broke.¬† And in the end, it turned out you had to go for broke just to be competitive, and I think that's really what this format has turned every week into over the last 10 weeks is if you want to win, you've got to‑‑ if you want to win the championship, you're going to have to figure out how to win races, and in the end, that's what it came down to was winning the race, and obviously a gutsy call and four tires on the pit box.¬† In the end you had to win the race to win the championship, and it all worked out.
Q.¬† Tony, what's it like for you in probably the hardest year of your life, to end like this and be able to celebrate like this?¬† And Kevin, you had his back so staunchly throughout the summer, what's it like to be able to give him this in a year this tough?
TONY STEWART:¬† I'm just glad tonight turned out.¬† You know, the rest of it's history.¬† We've talked about it over and over.¬† Honestly, I'm tired of talking about it to be honest at this point.¬† I'm more excited about what this organization and what this group of people has done together.¬† You know, there's a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them.¬† I'm going to enjoy this moment, and I'm going to enjoy it with this group and this young man.¬† We're going to go celebrate and enjoy this because this group of people here have deserved it, and this is a great family and this is a great group of people to lean on.
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† Well, I think for me personally, there's nothing better than to see your friends smile, and that's really what it's all about.¬† I know he's been through a lot this year, but very rarely have we talked about those situations.¬† It's just, he's my friend, and I want to see him happy and work through the situations that he has.¬† We're fortunate to be able to work together and have those situations to where we race cars and do the things that we love to do.¬† But in the end, I just want to see him happy.
Q.¬† Tony and Kevin, was there any sense of appreciation for the irony at the end of that race when Ryan Newman was the guy who was pressing the issue and trying to beat you guys to win the championship himself after leaving the team and going to Childress where, Kevin, you had worked for so long and wanted to win a championship there?¬† Did you get an appreciation in the aftermath of how hard this thing was to win?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† You know, I'm happy for Richard and Ryan.¬† I mean, everybody has their situations to where things happen, and you have to move forward in life, and to see RCR be successful and have the things that they had happen this year was good for them.¬† I'm happy they finished second.
TONY STEWART:¬† Yeah, I think it's just a good example that change isn't always a bad thing, you know, and especially in this sport, it's just a performance‑based industry.¬† There's crew guys moving all the time, there's drivers making changes, crew chiefs making changes, but it boils down to people, and it boils down to putting the right packages together.
You know, it's gratifying for me.¬† I had two of my really good friends run first and second in the points this year.¬† How they got there and who they got there with doesn't matter.¬† The fact that they just got there‑‑ and I'm happy for Ryan and I'm happy for Kevin because of that.
You know, it's just proof that you make just a simple change like that, and it's more than simple.¬† It's very complex, but there's reasons that it happens, and I think tonight is proof of why you make those changes.
Q.¬† Tony, Kevin, and Gene, earlier in the season, people kind of called you out for being kind of crazy for assembling this group, a lot of contentious personalities.¬† Given that you immediately respond with a championship and all the wins and all the things that you did this year, is there a certain satisfaction that comes along with that?
TONY STEWART:¬† Do you think we're crazy now?¬† (Laughter.)
GENE HAAS:¬† Crazy works.
TONY STEWART:¬† Don't underestimate why we think the way we think is the moral to the story.¬† You guys are pretty smart, but we're smarter.¬† (Smiling.)
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† I think one of the things is I don't think anybody‑‑ I think Rodney proved it tonight, I think.¬† With the changes that we've made, I think you have to be‑‑ in order to be successful in life, you have to be willing to make bold decisions.¬† Those guys down there, they're not scared to make bold decisions, and sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't.¬† But in the end, you have to‑‑ somebody has to make a decision, and when you have guys that are not scared to step up and say this is what we're going to do, and sometimes you get to have the moments where you shine and sometimes you have to eat a little crow, but that's part of life.
Q.¬† My question was sort of in that line for Tony.¬† How does the satisfaction of winning as a driver compare to a situation like this where you made a lot of decisions and people you rely on made decisions that culminated in this?
TONY STEWART:¬† Well, I think inherently when you take on a task of being an owner in this series, you're going to have to make a lot of decisions, and you're going to have to make a lot of tough decisions along the way.¬† If it was easy, everybody would do it, and you'd have owners lined up from here to the Georgia line wanting to do this.
But it's hard.¬† It's tough.¬† But that's what makes nights like tonight gratifying, because it is hard, it is difficult.¬† But it's having that confidence in the people that you work around of why you do that and why we do what we do.
You know, this is an industry where ‑‑ it's not like any other pro sport where you're going to have two teams and one is going to win and one is going to lose.¬† It's not 50/50 odds when you go into each night, and especially when you start a season like this and going through an elimination process and the Chase to get down to here.¬† It's difficult.¬† That's what's fun about doing it with a guy like Gene and having teammates like Kevin and Kurt and Danica and four great crew chiefs.¬† That's what makes all this worthwhile.
Kind of going back to the last question, you've got to be a little bit crazy to want to do this.¬† The odds say you're going to be unsuccessful more than you're going to be successful, but it's those‑‑ it's these single moments like this that make all of that hard work worthwhile, and that's why we do it.
Q.¬† Kevin, you mentioned earlier about wanting to go to work happy, and if you weren't having fun, kind of what's the point.¬† You and Rodney put a lot into building this team, which was obviously fast all season, but how much do you credit that feeling towards the outcome this season, of being happy with what you were doing?
KEVIN HARVICK:¬† I think the best thing about‑‑ that I've experienced this year about Rodney and myself is we're kind of a little bit opposite.¬† I'm pretty high strung, he's pretty low key, so it's been a really good balance of people.¬† He's put people around him that believe in what he does, and in turn, it's become everybody believes in what we do.¬† And when you can keep inserting "we," you can do a lot more things.¬† I think that's the biggest thing that I've learned throughout the years in owning the race teams.¬† You can buy all the fancy stuff and you can do all the great things, but if you don't have the right people, you're dead in the water.
He's come in and been committed to the program, and his wife has been a supporter, my wife has been a supporter, and all the guys on this team's wives have been supporters for the time it has taken to build this team and the dedication to things that it takes to be successful.
It's been a lot of fun.¬† He's become one of my really good friends, and there's not a day that goes by that there's not a text or a phone call or email or something that doesn't go by that we talk.¬† We talk about ‑‑ if there's anything going on, he'll give me a heads up, and I'm sure that I've told him from the beginning that there's some things I just don't need to know, so I'm sure there's a few things I don't need to know.¬† But in the end, I feel like we're pretty straight up and honest with each other, and that makes it a lot of fun, and I think that that bleeds over into the team and the guys.¬† And they see the relationship that we have, and nobody ever really ever has pointed a finger and been mad at each other.¬† It's just we may get frustrated, and you just walk away, and next thing you know you're working on a solution.
It's been an unbelievable first year, and pretty awesome.
KERRY THARP:¬† Congratulations to Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick, and the No.4 Budweiser Chevrolet and everybody over at Stewart‑Haas Racing.¬† This was indeed a special championship season, and you guys earned it.¬† Congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports