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August 11, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We will continue our post‑race media availabilities. We're joined by our race‑winning crew chief Rodney Childers. Thanks for joining us, Rodney. Congratulations.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Thanks for having me.
Q. Two out of the last three last fall, this fall. What is it? Is it something about this particular time of the year for you guys here at Michigan, or is it just you guys are clicking altogether?
RODNEY CHILDERS: You know, to be honest, we love coming to Michigan. We love this racetrack. I think if you look at the history of the 4 car, we've been fast here every time we've ever came.
You know, we had a great car here in the spring. Of my own doing, we had too much left front camber in the car in the spring and never could put ourselves in position to lead the race because every time a caution would come out we had to put four tires on our car when other guys were putting two on. The biggest thing coming back was to fix that problem and to try to hit some more details and try to make the car a little bit better.
But overall it's the same car that we ran here last time, and it didn't hardly have a scratch on it last time. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that it was only on the body plate for like half a day, and I'm like, surely to God they didn't get everything done to that thing in a half a day. You try to continually make your cars better and update them.
So it was good, and it's been fast all weekend. Everybody on the 4 team just did a great job of, like I said, hitting those details all weekend.
Q. Rodney, I heard Kevin say in a post‑race interview that it basically felt like he could drive anywhere on the track. Did you feel like for a long run that would play into your hands to overtake Joey and get some clean air?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, the racetracks that have multiple grooves are just good for us. I'll be completely honest. If it's got four grooves, it's good for our race team. It just gives you so many options to be able to move around, and with this year's package, you need to try to get some clean air on your nose and to keep the car turning. We started the race too tight and then we ran over something, had a flat tire, and drug the splitter down a little bit, and then it was just plowing tight after that. We really had to change the car a lot throughout the race and try to make it better.
But we started that last run and it was actually a little bit too loose, and that's really what we needed. We needed to start too loose to be able to be good on the long runs. Once we got to like second or third, he did a great job of just being able to run through 1 and 2 wide open and making a lot of ground on those guys.
Q. I have a question concerning fuel consumption. Since there are so many unknown factors before you go to race, driving behavior, style of the driver, cautions, etcetera, etcetera, nevertheless is there a technical possibility that you can run simulation before each race which gives you an idea how much or how big is the fuel consumption for the race?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Not necessarily before the race. Most of it is still pretty old school. You've got to look at your mileage during practice and make sure that that looks the same as what the ECU and all the stuff from the engine shop says. That stuff was spot on from the engine shop this week. We felt good about our numbers all weekend long. We felt good about our car. Our guys up on the pit box have been pretty spot‑on for quite a few years for me as far as that stuff. I felt really confident in what we had there.
Q. Rodney, I was just curious if you were surprised that Team Penske had the fuel issues that they did late in the race when none of the Stewart‑Haas cars seemed to have the same problem?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I think there's a lot of different things going on there. Obviously it's just a different race team. And the second part of that is when the 22 team put two tires on, any time the right side is jacked up you can't get it full of gas. It looked like the 12 didn't wait long enough, it looked like the 2 didn't wait long enough. I've been in those situations, and I wasn't leaving the pit box until‑‑ I wasn't going to tell him to go until I saw it like completely fill the tube because I felt like we were going to be really close.
To have a fast car and a guy that drives it that's aggressive and can keep the pedal down, you want to be in the situation where you've got better‑‑ you need to be in a better situation at the end where he can just go hard, and those guys were trying to save gas, and it just worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by our race winning driver, Kevin Harvick, driver of the Mobil 1 Ford for Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Q. Rodney, obviously with two wins in the past four races, does this‑‑ do you feel like you and Kevin are finally hitting your stride at the right time in preparation for the Playoffs coming up?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I don't know, to be honest, I still feel like it's a long time before the Playoffs. We have a lot that we need to get better. You know, we've just‑‑ we started the year off, and our cars weren't where we needed to be, and we've continually got better and better. I think to be able to get a win on a 550 track and get a win on a 750 track, that says a lot about the race team right now, to sit on the pole at Pocono and have speed there.
We've definitely made gains on it. We're not perfect by any means, and we've still got to get a lot better. But we're definitely in a lot better shape than we were at the beginning of the year.
Q. Rodney, when you guys pit under green on lap 113 you took four tires and then four laps later under caution you took two lefts. Was there some sort of concern on the lefts or you just felt like, hey, we might need as much tire as we can late?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, we felt like that. He felt like he had a vibration, and we kept looking at the pit film and Cheddar was trying to decide. We did have one lug nut missing, so the other four you're just trying to watch that film in slow motion to try to see the line on the socket, whether that line absolutely stopped on every single nut. He felt like it only stopped on three of them.
At that point, you've got to run the rest of the race, and we were kind of in a good situation where a lot of other people were going to come back down and pit again, the 18, the 19, some of those guys that we felt like were competition. So coming back in and putting lefts on was just about making sure that left front wheel was tight and that we weren't going to have to pit under caution‑‑ I mean, under green.
But also I think it helped our balance. It seemed like it turned better after that and was able to just keep the gas down a little bit more than what we had all day, and it ended up being a good thing.
Q. You've had a lot of special moments here at this speedway, meeting your wife, but also a lot of success here. Is there something specific about this speedway that has helped you with your success?
KEVIN HARVICK: Fast cars. You know, I think as I've been fortunate to come here through the years, I think our guys on our team would probably tell you the same thing. We probably feel like we should have won just about every race we've come to since I've been at Stewart‑Haas Racing when we've come to Michigan, and just one thing or another, and it seems like we've definitely got over that hurdle as we've run the last couple years and been to Victory Lane. So it's been a racetrack‑‑ and it falls right into‑‑ especially into the Ford wheelhouse from the engine standpoint, and our guys do a great job from a detail standpoint just getting every possible thing out of the car that they can, and this is one of those weekends where they kind of turn you loose from the engine side and the oil side, the attitude of the car. Everybody wants to do well for their manufacturer here, and we've been fortunate to have a lot of fast cars.
Q. Kevin, the last restart began I think with 52 laps to go. Did you feel like if you get a long run the way your car was working that you'd get around Joey into clean air and the race would pretty much play into your hands?
KEVIN HARVICK: I felt like the most important pass was the 2. I felt like if he got around those guys before I did, he'd be more difficult to pass. I felt like the 22 fell off a lot as we got into the second half of the run compared to our car.
He did a good job of putting himself in the right spots when I was behind him, and eventually just kind of guessed wrong and I was able to get up underneath him there coming in the middle of 3 and 4 and side draft and finish the pass. So it was definitely a‑‑ I needed to get a good restart, and it's really‑‑ it's kind of short‑term everything. You need to have a short‑term memory when you get done with something and move on, and on the restart it's just one lap at a time, and really one situation at a time to be able to try to put yourself in the best position that you can lap after lap.
Q. 47 wins in Xfinity, 47 wins in Cup and 14 in trucks. Through your career you've had tons of other wins. Do you ever lose the excitement of getting a win? Obviously here today you had Keelan here, you put him in the car, but do you ever‑‑ is it always exciting going to Victory Lane?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, it's different than it used to be. I guess there's a hard way to explain that. It's more of a satisfaction than it is an excitement because it's an expectation, not a rare moment. For me, putting him in the car was more exciting than winning the race, but those are moments that we share as father and son, and I think it's very gratifying as a team just because I know where we started, I know how hard those guys have worked, and I get more satisfaction out of seeing those guys super excited and super happy about the things that we've been able to accomplish, because really that's what motivates me on a weekly basis is I know if I'm not ready to drive that car, I'd be letting every one of those guys down because they put everything they have into it day after day 100 percent, and if you're not 100 percent ready and focused on what you need to be focused on, then it's a‑‑ you're going to let somebody down on this team, because every guy on the team doesn't want to let the guy next to him down, and that's really motivating for all of us, no matter if it's a good day or a bad day.
I've told you guys this a few weeks ago: There hasn't been a race we show up to and unload the car, even if it's slow, that we don't think we can win. That's just been the mindset. I mean, if we qualified 30th and we get up on race day thinking that we can win the race, somehow, some way, and then as you go, you adapt and adjust. Confidence is not something that we lack.
Q. I've got a question for Keelan if that's all right. You jumped out of your dad's car, you ran over there to the flag stand, you grabbed that checkered flag, and you waved it just like a professional. Who taught you how to do that, and have you been practicing?
KEELAN HARVICK: A little in the bus, but not really often.
KEVIN HARVICK: We have holes in the ceiling, scratches on the wall. He brought the flag from last year when I picked him up, when we met up. I had to go to an appearance, so he met me in Dearborn and we went to the Tigers game on Thursday night, and we got back to the bus and the flag was in there, and I'm like, Why in the world did you bring the flag, and he's like, It's got to be good luck. We need to take two flags home. So you were right.
Filled the tires up with air this morning. Tire guy, he's out. Firing him, right? Yep. Keelan is two for two airing the tires up, so he said that the tire guy, it's got to be him putting the air in the tires. So we had two flags and a new tire guy.
I will tell you, I've been to a lot of baseball stadiums, and I've never‑‑ that's one of the best experiences I've ever had at a baseball stadium. Those people were, from one end of the stadium were great, whether it was at the hot dog stand or at the beer stand or at the front gate or the carousel. We rode around on the carousel. So it was a really great experience.
Q. You said the strategy you like about the fast track here. There also seemed to be a strategy to conserve your fuel because right at the end you ran on fumes there. Was there the strategy with the pit crew, too, and your chief there to try to catch up and keep that distance and then stay consistent and then get that lead?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, they told me we didn't have any issues on fuel. They told me we were a lap or two to the good, so I really wasn't conserving fuel at all, and then once we got the lead there was no need to really press it, so we kind of backed off there a little bit to‑‑ just to back off and make sure that everything was good. There was no reason to screw it up at that point.
So yeah, I mean, everybody felt like we were in good shape, and I think when the race was over, we drove around, down pit lane, we did some burnouts, drove it back to the garage and it was still running, so I think we were good.
Q. I wanted to ask a little bit about the post‑race celebration. Is that the first time that you've taken Keelan for a burnout and some donuts? I've heard he had a helmet on. Can you walk me through what that's like for you as a father?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, for me as a dad it's probably the coolest thing that you could ever do. This is my job, and a lot of people don't realize how family‑oriented NASCAR racing really is. He comes with me all summer, same thing we've done for the past few years, and this year we didn't wreck any golf carts or tear anything up at the golf course, so we just played golf. He still drove, but we didn't crash.
For me it's making those memories, and to be able to do that with him and‑‑ heck, he may never get to do a donut in his life or hear 40,000, 50,000 people screaming and yelling, and that enthusiasm of the excitement from the crowd. Those are neat experiences that most kids don't get to experience, but most kids' dads don't race cars, and for me to be able to share that with him is pretty neat, and for NASCAR to let us do that and make those memories is also pretty awesome.
It's been a lot of fun to be able to do that the last two years, so obviously we have fun pretty much anywhere we go.
Q. All three of your wins here at MIS have been in August. Is there something about being later in the schedule, more of a sense of urgency or‑‑ you always feel like you run well, I'm sure, but just‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK: Just a coincidence. I mean, I don't have a better answer that that. I would say it's really just a coincidence more than anything.
Q. There's no sense of urgency this late in the season or nothing like that?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, I can't even make that into a good story for you. I'm trying, but it's really just a coincidence, honestly. And when you're talking to me, it's like, I'm not going to get super wound up about much anymore just because it's just not‑‑ I don't have the capacity to overthink it. Sorry.
Q. You said you don't get wound up. Were you wound up at all when you had the punctured tire, and you said it was going to be a track position race, were there any concerns like, oh, my gosh we're never going to get that track position back?
KEVIN HARVICK: I knew I had a problem going down the backstretch, and I knew I needed to slow down, figure out what was going on, and obviously the tire was flat, and I had a hard time getting slowed down enough to get it to the bottom of the racetrack, and my main concern was just not grinding the splitter off. If the splitter was gone, we would have been done.
I mean, I just‑‑ once I got it under control, I told them‑‑ Timmy told them we had a problem, and I wanted to make sure I got to the bottom of the racetrack without hitting another car and get to pit road speed, and once I got there, I just told them I had a flat right front tire, they put two right sides on it and put it back on, and we kept going, and that was literally the extent of the conversation, and we moved on. They told me it had a cut in it and it went all the way through the tire, and we never talked about it again for the rest of the day.
I told you guys on Friday, the radio button is poison so I try not to use it.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, at that point it didn't matter. I didn't‑‑ I don't tend to worry about much. You adapt to the situation and you try to do the best that you can in making your scenario as good as you can. We just don't get super excited about much because there's going to be stuff happening, and you have to realize that in this sport you're going to go through phases of things happening and things not happening and good luck and bad luck, and on this particular day it was a flat tire and a loose wheel. And luckily those scenarios wound up in good circumstances for us, so we went from second to sixth, and it didn't really hurt us.
With the third lane opening up today, and our car would handle in the third lane, the second lane, the first lane, if they would block the top, I'd run the middle; if they blocked the middle I'd run the bottom; if they blocked the bottom and middle, I'd run the top. I could run anywhere on the racetrack on both ends of the racetrack. So I was‑‑ I think the third lane definitely gave us more options to make passes, and I think for us it definitely helped us make the passes at the end.
Q. Kevin, you said during the post‑race show that you were nursing a shoulder injury for the last two months. At any point did it become uncomfortable in the race car, and how is it now?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'd say it's probably 80 percent now. I mean, there was a point when I went to Sonoma that I couldn't even lift it up. It feels better in the race car than it does‑‑ the worst thing I had to do in the race car was shift. My main concern was Watkins Glen, but we got through it. It's getting close to being back where it needs to be. But it was definitely uncomfortable. The load that these cars put on it is right next to the‑‑ it right in the spot where it's not feeling well. So all the load from the shoulder is where it's been injured, and so it's‑‑ so yeah. But it's fine.
Q. You said on Friday that you were five years old, I think, when you started racing. Keelan is seven; has he done anything? Have you thought about doing anything, any plans there?
KEVIN HARVICK: He's got a go‑kart that he drives. He quit baseball so he could go drive it more this fall. So I guess we're going to be going to the go‑kart track more.
Q. With you talking about being able to move in different lanes today and especially the third lane, obviously with the PJ1 being widened by a couple feet, had that not been done, how would that have impacted your ability to move up‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK: I think it would have been more difficult. I think in practice we saw some guys up there, but it was kind of sketchy. The truck race was kind of sketchy, and I think moving it down those two feet, I think everybody didn't want it to be the preferred lane. I think everybody wanted the lane to be equal so that you could use that third lane if your car was handling well and make it as equal as possible to the second lane.
Obviously Goodyear was really nervous about making that the preferred lane, and I think that Jerry and NASCAR and I told Jim France this after the race, that we just appreciate the fact that they took the time to do what they did. I mean, the fifth lane is not going to be something that we use, but they took the time to do that, and I think as we went through the race today, I mean, we got fairly high in Turn 3 and 4 on the exits. I don't think it would have been near as effective if we didn't move it down those last couple feet. So it was definitely a lot of work for them overnight. But I think seeing that ISC has taken that initiative, and I think everybody, it's evolving as fast as the cars, and I think everybody sees the benefit of the racing when we have more lanes to be able to go to and make passes so that the faster cars can work their‑‑ on a day when you have the fastest car you can work your way to the front by having a good handling car and utilize different lanes. When you have a 50 percent chance of blocking somebody because you have two lanes, it's just not‑‑ most of the time the guy in front of you is going to guess somewhat right, and if not he's going to use the high lane and have the big arc in there and it's not going to be possible anyway. But I think opening up that third lane was definitely a benefit, and now it's burned in, so it should be a good step and evolution forward as we come back to Michigan next time because everybody knows what we did and where we hit the PJ1 on the entrance, where we hit it on the exit. If we don't want to hit it there then we can shorten that PJ1 up. It's a good thing, and I think you're going to see it‑‑ I would assume you're going to see it as several of the racetracks as we go towards the end of the year here.
Q. Also, I understand having fast cars is a significant thing, but you have certainly had a strong performance over the last few years but particularly the last couple years, even at an age when it starts to become statistically‑‑ drivers maybe don't have as strong a seasons or it starts to get on maybe the down side. How do you feel like you have been able to not fall into that point at this point? I understand the fast cars help, but what are you able to do or how are you different in the last couple years?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I feel like for me, being in the right spot, being motivated, and just having your stuff together. Delana and I are organized. We can manage life, and we always concentrate on that circle of life to make sure that racing is good, personal life has to be good, kids have to be good, and financially you have to have everything situated, and that stuff has to all be rolling.
I feel like having the management company and the people that we've had around us for a long time helps us be more organized to navigate the grind of the sport. I think the grind of the sport is what knocks the wind out of everybody. There have been some injuries of certain guys that have not gone on, but I feel like we're as organized as anybody in the sport, probably as good as anybody in the sport, and I think that being able to not have the hassle of having too much to do‑‑ we have a lot to do, but we're very organized in managing those things from piece by piece in order to concentrate on the racing part of it and give that enough time to be able to do the things that you need to do to be prepped for the racetrack.
I like coming to the racetrack. I like beating the guy next to me. For me, it's like I said earlier, I feel like the biggest motivation that I have is letting all the guys on my team down because I know they're 100 percent all in, and for me, I just‑‑ I don't like letting people down, and I feel like managing the chaos and having less chaos has been very beneficial for me mentally.
I feel like mentally and physically just in a good spot from life in general, and it just helps you manage what we have to do here.
Q. Is your shoulder injury a racing injury? It was a son‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK: Throwing a Nerf baseball at him.
Q. You threw out your arm throwing a Nerf baseball?
KEVIN HARVICK: Mm‑hmm. Careful, Bob.
Q. Keelan, what's been the best part for you about dad's win today, and what is one more thing you want to do today?
KEELAN HARVICK: I want to spray him.
KEVIN HARVICK: I threatened him. He loves Gatorade, so we were standing in Victory Lane, and I saw the Gatorade. I said, look, you can have some Gatorade, but if you spray one drop of that on me you're going to be in trouble because it's sticky.
KEELAN HARVICK: You're already sticky.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, but that's not happening. We're not spraying Gatorade. It'll be in my ears, up my nose. I've been down this road before at the Victory Junction Gang camp. I've come home with spaghetti in my ears, whatever else they spray on you. But we had fun. You get sprayed off with a fire hose when you're done at the camp. We don't need that.
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