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November 4, 2018
Fort Worth, Texas
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Tony Stewart, one of the co‑owners of Stewart‑Haas Racing, today's winning team, the No.4 Mobil 1 Ford with Kevin Harvick behind the wheel.
We'll open it up to questions for Tony.
Q. What were you thinking at the start of overtime after Kevin dominated that race for so much?
TONY STEWART: I think I was more worked up over the fact that he lost the lead there on the restart before that. You sit there and watch, when you can run Ryan's pace, be that close to him, you know if he gets by in clean air, he's a lot faster car.
When he got the lead back, at that point he had been through two restarts where he restarted on the bottom, almost lost the lead on the first one, then lost the lead on the second one. You knew he was going to pick the outside lane at that point. Would probably are all right.
He hadn't restarted out there the whole day. You never know for sure what is going to happen, but at least at that point you give yourself a better opportunity knowing how Ryan had that figured out on the restart before.
Q. After what happened today with Jimmie's team getting the penalty it shouldn't have gotten, talk about the communication. Any issues when those things arise, would you like to see a better system in place?
TONY STEWART: What was the penalty?
Q. Basically NASCAR thought he failed inspection three times, it was only twice, and that wasn't communicated.
TONY STEWART: I'm still not really aware. I came in this morning.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I still don't understand why we have to worry about failing three times. Bring your car, roll it through tech, you either pass or you don't. I don't know why we screw around, jack around with one, two, three times. It's ridiculous to me.
Only series in the world where you get to go through tech three times and fail twice, they still let you go through a third time. We got to figure it out. Got to make it simpler than this. Shouldn't be this difficult.
Half the time you don't know what the penalty is supposed to be. I'm a car owner and I don't know what the penalty is supposed to be. As a fan, I don't know how the fans can keep up with it either. If you start rolling cars through one time, they don't pass, they go to the back, I bet you there would be a lot less cars fail tech the next week. Who knows.
I'm with you, I think it needs to be a less complicated way of doing it, for sure.
Q. Personal question for you to find out what is the role with your team. Are you also involved in technical decisions, attending briefings, give your experience for car preparation?
TONY STEWART: God no. I don't want to go to any briefings. I just want to show up at the races, go to the shop, hang out with the guys. That's what retirement is for, you don't have to go to meetings. I go to enough damn meetings as it is. I try to limit how many I have to go through.
Definitely the post race meetings on Monday or Tuesday, when they happen, it doesn't do me any good because I'm not making any decisions on that car obviously. Ironically enough, somebody was asking me about certain aspects of the setup this morning. It's just amazing how we're almost at the end of two years being outside of a Cup car from driving, how much has changed in two years of how we set these car up, what we do to make them go fast. Totally different from when I drove.
For me to sit in those meetings, they might as well be speaking Spanish. I don't understand what they're talking about because so much has changed in a short amount of time. That's just technology in the sport. The technology changes weekly. You can imagine two years down the road how far the technology and setups, how they set these cars up has changed and evolved in two years.
Q. Talk a little bit about Donnie winning his 10th championship, what that says about him, what it says about your organization.
TONY STEWART: I'm so proud of him. I mean, it was nice last night to finish the season with a win. The only sad part about winning the race here tonight is I was going to try to get out of here, try to fly back to Charlotte to get to at least his portion of the banquet tonight. I'm not sure I'm going to make it or not, but I'm going to do everything in my power.
I think a 10th championship is really special. This is an era in Sprint car racing where everybody has the same equipment. Just a matter of the driver and crew chief and those two crew guys on the car that make the difference. For him to have been the dominant driver he's been these last 10, 12 years, it's impressive to see. Couldn't be more proud of him.
Q. From a racer's point of view, the move Kevin made, winning move, give a perspective or sense of what he had to go through to make that type of a move.
TONY STEWART: On the restart?
TONY STEWART: I think the restarts that he had led all day, every time he took off on the bottom, it worked out all right. I think as the race went on, that second groove got better and better. It's like he said, we could see it obviously, about the start/finish line the side draft started playing an effect.
If he didn't clear that outside car by the time he got there, that car was even with you or ahead of you by the time you got to turn one because of the side draft.
I'm sure there's a little apprehension from his standpoint of not restarting in that lane all day and not really knowing what exactly to expect. What, the second restart before that, Ryan almost cleared. Even in the next restart, he does clear him.
You have to at that point realize that lane's got a lot of potential. Even if you don't get the lead off of it, you at least got to try that lane. You can't give Ryan Blaney that many opportunities to perfect that restart on the outside like that.
It was realistically kind of a no‑brainer decision that you just have to make that decision to change whether you're comfortable with it or not.
Q. You have three other cars. How do you look at their position for next week?
TONY STEWART: I think even before the first Playoff race started, you realize you had the big three that were most likely going to be the first three in that Chase. There was going to be one spot open when it came to get to that final round of four.
Just the fact that we were able to get all four of them this far is an accomplishment, a huge year for our company. Couldn't be more proud of everybody. But the reality is we knew, everybody knew, when they started the Playoffs that those first three spots were already for the most part taken unless they had a natural disaster happen.
I guess from our standpoint now, I mean, we got one in. There's one more race left. We got one more opportunity to get one more of those three in. No matter what, it's been a record‑breaking year for our company in so many ways. There's so many different records that have been broken, if Kevin is the only one that ends up in there, it's still been a great season.
But I still feel we have three really good racecars and racecar drivers and crew chiefs that do have an opportunity to pull something out at Phoenix next week and get locked in. It would be nice to have 50% of that equation again going into the final four.
Q. With Kevin in, as strong as that team has been almost everywhere all season long, would you pencil him in no matter who is in the final four the favorite going into Homestead?
TONY STEWART: I don't even know how you have a favorite. When you think of the reality of what Homestead is, you're loading all your chips into one race. You never know what can happen. There's still 40 cars in the race, four of them racing for a championship, 36 guys that can make a mistake and change the outcome of the event.
I don't know that anybody is a favorite really when you get to that final race. There's so much that can happen. But I like the fact that we got Kevin Harvick there. That's a guy that I don't care who he's up against, that's a guy you kind of want with the ball in the bottom of the ninth.
I feel like we got three other guys that may not be exactly that guy, but they're really close. They've closed that gap from last year to this year. I'm comfortable with who we have in so far. I feel like if we can get one of those other three in, they have just as good a shot going into Homestead as Kevin does.
Q. Elaborate on what bringing Aric in has meant to the team, what kind of growth you've seen?
TONY STEWART: The doesn't fit the typical SHR driver mode. Usually you have to be a little bit of an attitude, be stubborn, hardheaded. He comes in, he's the one that's always calm, excited. I think he's just been a really good fit with those three guys, even though his personality isn't the same as the other three. We've seen how it's gelled, all four of those teams together, just by bringing him in the organization.
I said from day one when we hired him, I laugh because it makes me feel really good when people said I was crazy, couldn't understand why I hired Aric, you just have to be patient, because I promise he can run up front and win races. We took him out of two races with loose wheels and stuff earlier this year. He's been in position to run for wins four or five times, had miscellaneous things that happened, getting wrecked at the last lap to took him out of a chance to win the race.
He's one of those guys that he's a company guy. He came in with the right attitude. What can I do to help? He's been like a sponge and an open book of doing whatever it takes to learn the system, to be a good teammate to those guys. I think that he single‑handedly pulled everybody together, tied the four‑car aspect of it together for the organization.
Q. You weren't here yesterday, but you have an opportunity to get two series championships this year with Cole making it to Homestead in the Xfinity Series. How important was that win for Cole yesterday, for the team? Do you like your chances for Homestead?
TONY STEWART: It was huge. Last year he missed it by I think three points or three positions on the racetrack, then went out and dominated Homestead. If he would have got those three spots, he would have been the champion last year.
Having that opportunity, and I think it's a great spot for Cole to go there knowing how fast he was there last year. I think it will give those guys confidence after Phoenix leading into that week and hopefully make it a little easier from the stress standpoint.
If they're half as good as they were last year there, they have a very legitimate shot at winning that championship. We're really proud of them. I think Cole just keeps growing and getting better. It's a process. You never know how long it's going to take somebody to get to their full potential. I don't think he's reached his full potential yet. We see things in him that show that growth and that improvement. Yesterday was a good example of it. Now that we've got him in that position, we'll see what happens when we get there.
Like I said, if he runs as good as he did last year, I think we got a really good shot.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, thanks for joining us.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by members of our race‑winning team, the No.4 Mobil 1 Ford. We have the driver, Kevin Harvick, and the crew chief, Rodney Childers.
We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Kevin, you dominated the majority of the race. It looked relatively easy. You were chasing through the field like a hot knife through butter. Was it a scary moment when shortly before the end of the race the last caution came out and you were under panic to lose the race?
KEVIN HARVICK: You never want to lose those types of days. Obviously Blaney had a good restart, we were able to get back by him. At that particular time I was like we're not taking the bottom any more, we're going to take the top, see what happens. Obviously it worked out a little bit better having the offense there of being on the outside and the side draft, after you get past the start/finish line. Nice to see the second groove was rubbered up as much as it was.
Wound up making the pass on the top. For whatever reason, we've run well on the old style and new style racetrack since I've been at Stewart‑Haas Racing. Since they repaved the place, it's been lights out for us. I feel like we could have won every race here with the new pavement.
It's been interesting to see how it's changed and how much it's kind of come around to the things that we do with our cars. Today was one of those days that was there with the speed, but everybody executed well, whether on pit road or the pit box, late there with the restarts, made it happen. It's a good time of year to have all that come around.
Q. You've been great all year long, speed just about every type of racetrack. How does it feel to make it pay off with a spot at Homestead and a chance to win the championship?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean really that's what you race for, to try to get yourself in position to get into the Playoffs, then position yourself to have a chance to get to Homestead. It's not easy this time of year just because of the fact that everybody is throwing everything they have at it, all the notes, all the things that you've done all year compiled into the cars that you have on the racetrack.
It's tough to win races at this point in the year. So to get to Victory Lane, that's our goal, that's how you control your destiny the most, is to get to Victory Lane, instead of counting your fingers and toes trying to figure out what you need to do. It's guaranteed if you go to Victory Lane you're still in it.
These guys have been in these types of positions before when we haven't had points, put themselves in scenarios to where we've had our backs against the wall and had to prepare at a high level. That's really what we've done all year. So when you do that day after day after day, that preparation takes another step, it's a pretty refined step of details that goes along with it.
It's fun to see a whole day come together. We've had a lot of really fast cars in the Playoffs here. It's just the days haven't come together. Sometimes you go through phases like that. Luckily we've scored a lot of stage points and kept ourselves in the game. That's what you got to do, just hang around, survive and advance.
RODNEY CHILDERS: I mean, I feel like he covered most of it there. It's just nice to see the hard work pay off. You see everybody working so hard at the shop, the engine shop. I feel like all year long there's been those goals there of winning races, making it to Homestead.
It's just nice to see that execution of all the hard work paying off, not only for the 4 team, but to see the other three cars up there running good, too. That says a lot about our company and everything we have going on.
Q. Kevin, if you were not able to catch Ryan after he passed you.
KEVIN HARVICK: No ifs. The facts are facts.
Q. The facts are it was damn hard to pass, it looked like. Were you concerned as hard as it was to pass, you wouldn't catch him, this race just turned into a total track position race?
KEVIN HARVICK: I look at the facts. We were able to work our way through the field today. A lot of tire strategy, a lot of things happened today that turned into a track position style race. In the end, four tires were faster than two tires. It took a little bit to pass. Our money spot was in the middle of one and two. He hit the apron down there, we didn't. We were able to get by. Based upon practice, his car was really fast for the first five laps. He could make really good lap time, then it was just about keeping the pressure on him to try to keep him from hitting his marks. He wound up missing his marks. Luckily that was a lap that I hit mine.
Look, repaves are difficult. I think they put in as much effort here as anywhere that we've gone. Two years in a row we've won a race on the high side, so... It's just one of those things where you just have to give it time.
It's a really fast racetrack that they came and changed the tires from the first race, so we kind of fixed that problem from the tires blowing out and everything that we had happen in the spring race.
It's a scenario where you have to deal with the circumstances that you're dealt. Today we had a fast car, and our car turned well all weekend, we were able to make passes. I feel like we've been able to do that in all three repave races. I feel like we could have won every one of them. We didn't win the spring race here. We made a lot of mistakes on that particular day, and today we didn't.
Q. You mentioned after the race about five years of winning cars at Stewart‑Haas Racing. This will be the fourth time in five seasons you'll have the opportunity to compete for the championship. When you made the change to join the organization, could you have ever envisioned having this sort of opportunity? What does it say for the organization you've had that opportunity?
KEVIN HARVICK: Here is my reality check. Jimmie Johnson hasn't won a race this year, and isn't king of the mountain. When that type of stuff happens, you see scenarios like that, you have to be real with yourself to say that these are scenarios that you better enjoy because they probably won't last forever.
Right now we've been fortunate to have been in this position for the last five years. We've capitalized on a lot of race wins, a championship, put ourselves in position to win a few other championships. Just didn't all work out.
You need to capitalize on every moment, on every fast car, on every chance you have to win a championship because at some point there's going to be some tougher times in there.
I think for our organization, it's rather unique because since I started we've been through a few drivers, we've been through a few crew chiefs on the other cars. I think our team has been kind of that rock that sets the foundation at Stewart‑Haas Racing.
I think as you've seen, the change to Ford, which everybody thought we were crazy, I think the bottom line is we've got more resources and things we can keep within our own walls. I don't believe we've reached the potential of where we can be, but I think you see the progress of things that have happened when you see how all four cars are running. That's not easy to do.
That says a lot about the company, a lot about the people that put these cars together on a week‑to‑week basis. It takes a lot of time, effort, detail, people, money to do that. They're doing it with multiple teams as you see those four teams in the final eight here.
That to me is pretty telling to where we are as a company. Hopefully we can keep progressing forward, keep all the things that we're doing within our own walls and not have to share it with anybody else.
Q. Rodney, beginning of the race the 48 had to go to the rear because NASCAR stated incorrectly that because NASCAR made the (indiscernible) that they failed inspection three times, but they only failed twice. Chad said it's become more and more difficult to have lines of communication with the tower when as a team you have a question or dispute of an infraction. How have you seen that progress? Is there a way to have a better line of communication to where there's a question, a dispute, something can be resolved in a quick fashion?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I don't know what happened or their situation. I don't know if I agree with that. I feel like things are really good right now. The communication that we have with all those people seems to be pretty open. I don't know really how that could have happened. Like I said, I don't know the situation or anything like that. I would hate to speak about it.
Overall I think the communication is really good right now.
Q. We saw a lot of Playoff drivers and teams having all kinds of mistakes, loose wheels plaguing them throughout the night. Why do you think we saw so much of that today? How difficult is it to tell a loose wheel apart from something else?
KEVIN HARVICK: That's difficult because a lot of times, this weekend especially, one set to the next, one set of tires would run perfectly fine and smooth, the next set you put on would vibrate like crazy. We experienced that all weekend. We experienced that at Talladega. To me that's a Goodyear problem. It's not something that every team magically has loose wheels and has things go wrong. There's some issues that come with the tires, in my opinion.
Q. Rodney, at this point who is going to beat you guys aside from yourselves? There was the big three for so long. Technically they're still there, but speed‑wise you're ahead of the Toyotas at this point. Do you view it as if you go out and execute at Homestead you're going to take it?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Homestead is a little bit different of a racetrack. The setups that you run at Homestead aren't like coming here to Texas or Kansas. You can't just apply the same thing that you've run over and over and over all year. There's changes there that sometimes guys hit on it and sometimes they don't.
I feel as a team we've been strong down there. Last year going into Homestead, I felt we didn't have the cars to run for a championship, and we almost ran with them. So overall I think we have good cars right now. Everybody has done a great job. It's just going to come down to executing and doing the best we can on pit road.
I think Kevin hit that on the head. Those guys did a great job today. Something we've had a lot of adversity through with some things. Those guys have worked really, really hard to get better. It was nice to see that today.
Q. Does this allow you starting tomorrow to focus on Homestead? If so, could that be an advantage?
KEVIN HARVICK: I feel like that would be letting everybody down. They've already put a lot of effort into Phoenix and everything that they want to do there. Those two cars are prepared just like every other week. Showing up and kind of giving a lackluster performance at Phoenix would probably not be fair to the guys that have put so much time and effort into putting those cars together and on the racetrack.
Our goal is to go there and try to win the race. Hopefully we can do that. If not, we'll load it up and go to Homestead and see what we can do there.
Q. I heard somebody on the radio describing the track as being like a short track, with the way the line is, single groove. How would you assess it?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know that I would assess it like a short track. Going through three and four, when you lift barely out of the throttle, put it right back on the floor, I've never been to a short track that's like that.
It's very line sensitive as far as that goes. I feel like there's a few small characteristics to it that are really almost similar to some of the characteristics that used to take to run the bottom here in the past with the old style racetrack.
Really the key to running fast here is getting through the middle of one and two, being able to consistently keep your car turning through one and two. I feel like everybody can kind of manage their way through three and four. If you're going to win the race, you need to be able to turn through the center of the corner in one and two lap after lap.
Q. What was it about Texas that you thought this would be your better shot than to win at Phoenix?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think as a group we just felt like this racetrack has been, since the repave, really, really lights out for us. Just felt comfortable about where the speed of the cars were on mile‑and‑a‑half racetracks.
Coming here, just felt like in the spring we did what we did today, but we got behind, we got a lap down, made some mistakes, had all kinds of problems on pit road, battled back, still almost won the race.
We've been able to figure out how to pass, keep our car turning. For whatever reason, we just feel really good about the things that happen for us at this particular track since they've redone it.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: We swing for the fence every week (smiling). That's the only way you can control anything is to win. When everything is going like it is, if you come in, especially this time of year, if you don't think you're going to that race to win, somebody else is going to beat you because that's what it takes.
When you go to Homestead, you're going to have to win the race most likely. Every year the champion has won the race. You have to have a winning mentality to approach the week.
Q. We watched you walking up for driver intros. There was a group of young kids on the way. You stopped, signed autographs, talked to them. The faces just lit up. Your post race celebration with the young man, giving him the flag. Is it something now maybe as a father you're looking at things differently?
KEVIN HARVICK: Absolutely. I think the impact you have on people you sometimes forget in all the things you do. I like kids. I'm not necessarily thrilled about all the adults cramming their stuff in there over the top of a kid's head. I like to go out of my way to try to talk to the kids.
It's like the group of kids that you're talking about, the first kid I signed an autograph for, it was, Yes, sir, no, sir. I told him, If you do anything in life, just try to have manners. Most people, especially around here, that aren't the kids, don't have manners. That to me is something, if you can help the parents reinforce something that they're doing at home, the mom patted him on the back and said, See, I told you those manners would pay off for you.
Afterwards that kid that we took the selfie with, he was kind of getting shoved around in the scrum up there in the grandstands. He had his phone hanging out. I had the security guard grab him, I picked him up over the fence. That's a moment that kid will never forget. He went off with the checkered flag and a selfie on the racetrack. I thought about taking him to Victory Lane. I'm like, I don't know that his parent also know where he's at. That probably won't be the right thing to do (smiling).
Sometimes you take some grief. We actually had this conversation two weeks ago on a radio show. A fan called in, was at a football game, those guys never stop to sign autographs for nobody.
Look, man, it's impossible. When you're trying to go from PointA to PointB, try to go out of my way for the kids, then you do the best that you can walking from where you're going to the things you're doing. I think I did seven appearances this morning before the race started. There's some people that are mad as you're getting in your golf cart going to the next one, you have five minutes. I think sometimes people just don't understand you have a lot going on. We do the best we can.
There's no sport that's more open than this one. There's no sport that has more access, more charitable feel. I shouldn't say feel. There's no sport that does more for charities, supports each other, causes. You look at the Speedway Children's Charities, every community that these racetracks from SMI sit in, they're making multi‑million dollar impacts on these charities as you go from race to race. You look at the drivers charities, the things we do off the racetrack, none of them that even come close. Then you look at the fan access, the things you do.
I like kids. It's just something that I would rather do that than sign 30 sweaty guys autographs. Sorry sweaty guys, but I'd rather sign autographs for the kids. It's just weird. I understand that I have a lot of fans that are all ages, but I have more fun signing the kids autographs. I'm not going to apologize for that. It's more fun because it feels more genuine. That kid, he's looking right through your eyes and thinking, I don't even know what to say.
I had idols and heroes when I grew up. If you can actually speak to them, have a moment, next thing you know that kid is going to remember that. When he's 40 years old, he's going to grab a kid, put his arm around him, take a selfie with him, whatever they're doing in 40 years. Those are the types of scenarios that you want to have an impact so it has another impact somewhere down the line because of that type of scenario.
As you can tell, I like that stuff.
Q. Just this year eight wins, you've passed Bobby Isaac, Tim Flock, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott on the all‑time wins list. Your thoughts?
KEVIN HARVICK: It's obviously not something that I really ever thought I would do. I don't look at that list very often because I'm scared to look at it because it might stop. I'm kind of weird about that stuff.
I know Bill was the last one that we were tied with. To know what Bill has done and meant to this sport, hopefully you can leave some sort of impact on the sport that some of those guys have left, feel like things are going well, I'm enjoying the things that are happening.
I like being around my team. I like being around my guys, just being a part of the sport. There's a lot of people that have come and gone in the sport. Hopefully there will be a few people that remember you 10 years down the road.
Q. Comparing the team roster now compared to Daytona, about four or five different changes, road crew, pit crew. Where do you see team chemistry right now, how much team chemistry do you need at Homestead?
KEVIN HARVICK: There's a lot of scenarios that you guys have no idea about with some of those roster changes. I think there's only one that was actually a change. There's been some scenarios and issues and things that have happened with some of those guys personally that we've had to find some guys to fill in temporarily. Some of it is inspiring. You want to go and do the things that it takes to fulfill those situations of choices that some of those guys made‑‑ that didn't make that change their lives in directions they didn't want to go.
There's really only one change that was made. The rest of them are kind of filling in for scenarios of life.
Q. As you keep climbing up through the win list, at this point you've had a Hall of Fame career. Do you let yourself think about that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Let's wrap it up. That's it, I quit (laughter).
Q. Do you dare let yourself think about that? The numbers don't lie.
KEVIN HARVICK: Look, I'm very fortunate of where I'm at in my career, the things that we've been able to accomplish. I think I'm kind of a late‑bloomer to the game, I guess you could say. I don't even know how many races we've won.
KEVIN HARVICK: Not this year (laughter). 45?
KEVIN HARVICK: We're one away from winning as many races in five years as we won in 13. Like I say, I feel like I'm a little bit of a late‑bloomer of accumulating some of those wins. I feel like I'm enjoying it more just because I appreciate how long it took to get to the other half, knowing all the things that you went through to get to that particular point.
It's a little bit different for me because I feel like it's not a scenario where I came in and filled in for somebody. This was a scenario that was built around myself coming to Stewart‑Haas. We made that decision as a group with Tony and the executives. Then it was, Who do you want to be your crew chief? We went and handpicked Rodney.
You've had a lot of people, they came to the 4 car because they wanted to be on the 4 car. We built the 4 car from the ground up. We didn't have a truck, trailer, toolbox, car, a nut, a bolt, anything. When you can have that connection to something, for me, I love winning races, and that's great, but I like seeing those guys happy, excited.
When we pull into Victory Lane, it's more fun for me to see them slinging beer, having a good time. I know how much time and effort and sacrifice they put in to make those cars go fast. There's a connection there, a chemistry there that is not normal, it's not your everyday chemistry with a group of guys. It's a special group of people that really don't want to let the other down.
I don't want to show up unprepared because I know all of them are prepared. When you have that from top to bottom, everybody has each other's back on a bad day or good day, that's the type of thing that is really enjoyable to me because at that point you're doing things together that not everybody gets to experience. You're actually enjoying them.
There's a lot of moments that you go through in my career, in life in general, you go through the same thing, you go through down times. You're like, Man, this sucks. Off the racetrack, on the racetrack, you go through funks. When you're around a group of people like that, it remotivates you, reenergizes you. I go through it, they go through it. It has a special chemistry that is fun to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, congrats. Good luck in Miami.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports