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November 3, 2019
Fort Worth, Texas
THE MODERATOR: We're going to kick off our postâ€‘race media availability here for the AAA Texas 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway. We are joined by our raceâ€‘winning team owner Tony Stewart and our raceâ€‘winning crew chief Rodney Childers. First off, congratulations, gentlemen, on the win today and making it officially into the Final Four for Homestead in two weeks.
We will take questions for Tony or Rodney.
Q. Tony, talk about what it means to have Kevin locked in to Homestead. We kind of brushed on that, but now it's a reality.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, obviously that's a big deal to us. It's a scenario that takes a lot of pressure off next week. There's a lot of guys that are all lumped together there that are going to be fighting for two spots. There's a ton of pressure for those guys in the next seven days, and it's not going to be a fun seven days for those guys preparing for it. But it gives Rodney a little bit of a breather, gives Kevin a little bit of a breather to go out andâ€‘â€‘ it doesn't mean next weekend you don't work hard. You stay the course. He'll tell you he's going to work just as hard next week as he is for Homestead. You've got to keep that momentum going.
But the nice thing is it does take that edge off, I guess, of worry. It takes that out of the equation going into next weekend. It's big for the organization. Obviously it's the goal of the company every year to be in that position where you know you're going to take at least one car to Homestead to race for a championship.
You know, this is one of those tracks, and Phoenix next week is one thatâ€‘â€‘ they're kind of Kevin and Rodney's playgrounds, so to speak, or have been historically. You know that these are good opportunities. You hate to have to rely on Phoenix to get you in that position, but to be able to knock it out like they did today and do it in such a dominant fashion, that's the kind of day that sets a statement to the competition that we feel like our team is peaking at the right time and getting ready for the end of the year.
Q. And Rodney, obviously y'all started off strong with a lot of laps and then it dropped back, and I think Kevin sounded kind of frustrated over the radio at some point, wasn't liking whatever changes you made, some cautions fell, but talk about how you managed the race today to dominate like you did.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing was we had a great car off the truck. We didn't have to chase anything during practice. We didn't have to change anything on our setup or anything like that, and we were able to just work on the little things during the weekend. You know, we talked about it a lot this morning that it was going to be a different race. We had a lot of messages last night about the way that it played out in the spring, and I watched the race from the spring for the third time this morning, and there's just so many circumstances that can change with putting two tires on, with gas only, with four tires. We're normally the ones that â€‘â€‘ I can't stand to points race; I'll be honest. I don't want to stay out there and get stage points. I want to put ourselves in the best position to win the race.
Doing that, you end up putting yourself in a bad spot on those restarts after the stage breaks, and he was able to do a really good job of driving back up through there and getting sixth in the second stage, and then we stayed out at the end of the second stage to get those points and put us in a pretty bad hole. Didn't have a great pit stop, and then got a penalty the next caution, and just a lot of things didn't go right.
But like you said, we made some adjustments, and honestly, I think just being able to put tires on at one time when those other guys had two or three cycles on their tires ended up being a bigger deal than what we ever thought. You would have thought just you could go all night with not putting any tires on. It's not that big a deal. But once we got rolling there, and having a little bit better tires, it made a big difference for us. You know, just kept it turning. That's really what it was all about was keeping it turning off of Turn 2 and keeping that momentum going.
Q. You just said the car was very good out of the truck, trailer, whatever, and you just changed little things. Can you go more into details, what are the little things?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I mean, we didn't change a single shock or a single spring, sway bar, none of that. We never changed heights. We never did any of that all weekend. It just enabled us to really focus on some of the small things. Obviously going through the OSS multiple times and making sure that all that looked good and making sure our splitter looked good in all of our pictures and videos, and just those types of things is really what I was talking about.
But it also just keeps the atmosphere in the right spot I guess you could say. After going through the week that we had at Martinsville, that was a stressful weekend. We didn't seem to do a whole lot right the whole weekend. To be able to work hard all week and to come here and have things flow the way that they're supposed to flow, that's really what it was all about.
Q. Just looking at you from the press box, all the cars looked very, very fast. How identical is the setup between Kevin's car and his teammates'?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I don't think that's anybody's business, but the cars weren't built the same and the setups weren't the same. They still ran one, two, three.
Q. Rodney, could you just talk a little bit about how far your team has come from the start of this season in terms of getting a handle on the package and getting in a position to go from where you were running at the beginning of the year to now competing for a championship?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I think I'll take as much responsibility for that at the beginning of the year than anything. We looked at a lot of different things going into the year. We went to the Vegas test, and we decided to go different ways on different things. You know, obviously you have to pick a direction, right, and we picked a direction, and it wasn't the right direction, but you've got cars built that are six weeks out and then you've already went through six, seven races before you can even react to anything, and then once you react to that, you've got to figure it out. You've got to figure out how to drive it, you've got to figure out how to set it up. So at that point then you're 10 weeks out.
So a lot of that was just part of the sport and part of the way that we operate. You can't just change things on the fly. You can't rebuild cars. As we've learned, obviously all of our drivers got better, our teams, the setups, all that stuff. You want to win as many races as you can just like last year, but on the other hand, you need to be right in the second half of the year and be able to start focusing on those details of what you need and how to make the cars fast but also drive them in traffic.
I think that was just part of it. You know, it was a big learning curve for all of us and something that we just had to work through.
Q. When you guys knew that you made the playoffs, did you set aside a Homestead car, or have you been driving the Homestead car in any other races so far?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Our stuff is pretty spread out I guess you could say. Like this car we just won with, the last time it raced was Texas in the spring. We just try to keep it to where we can focus on that weekend, and everything that you're going to do at Homestead is nothing like what you're going to do here at Texas.
So you know, you've just got to kind to focus on those particular races. Some of that stuff we've done a good job at, obviously, and some of it we haven't done a good job at. I think you've got to look at Darlington as a key race when you think about Homestead, and obviously the Gibbs cars brought the right stuff to Darlington. They had the best cars all weekend. They had good speed, and they had good falloff. We didn't take the right cars. We fought hard all weekend and was able to get a top 5 out of it.
But I think Homestead is going to be the craziest thing you've seen with this package. You've got major restarts and three, four, five wide. You've got every lane that you can choose from. And then obviously you're going to have cars that are fast on the short run. You're going to have cars fast on the long run. If Larson can ever make it, he's going to be up against the fence a half second faster than everybody on the long run. We've just got to see how it plays out and be prepared when we get there.
I think with this package, that's the key is you've got to have a notebook and you've got to be ready to change things when you get there, if you're too slow, if you're too fast, and figure that out as you go.
Q. Rodney, do you understand the call that was made on that pit stop, and was it something that you kind of knew, or was it just an interpretation that was kind of new because we hadn't seen it before?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, so basically that happened I think it was about three weeks ago in a truck race. So it happened in the track race, and then it happened to somebody else in the truck race and then somebody else in the truck race, and then the next day it happened in the Xfinity race, and Chad Little sent out a memo the next day just kind of as a reminder about certain things, and I didn't understand it. After I got the memo, I went to the NASCAR hauler and I gotâ€‘â€‘ they explained all that to me.
I would have never known that before that day. We actually had a conversation as a team to make sure that that never happened. And some of that, it goes back on me. In 3 and 4 we're on the digital radio, which is everybody that's below me, my engineers and my road crew, and you're talking about whether you're going to do tires or you're going to do fuel, and as we're hitting pit road that conversation is still going on a little bit, and then really it's that person's responsibility to pick that tire up before the car gets to the pit stall, and that didn't happen.
You know, like I said, it was something new that got brought up a few weeks back. It was definitely explained to me, and it was explained to my guys. But it's definitely something that they're paying attention to now.
THE MODERATOR: We have now been joined by our race winner, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No.4 Busch Beer Ducks Unlimited Ford.
Q. Rodney, did you say you watched the race three times?
RODNEY CHILDERS: So I always start on Monday morning, and I watch it Monday. And then we felt so good about things with Texas, by the time we got to Tuesday after lunch, I started working on Phoenix. So then I watched Phoenix, and then after I watched Phoenix I was half confused and needed to go back and watch Texas. So then I watched Texas on Wednesday again, and then I watched it again this morning. So it's hard toâ€‘â€‘ this particular race especially, places like here and Indy, you have to go back and pay attention to that stuff and what people do with two tires and no tires and track position and all that, and I think our situation was different, like I said. Like we were going to try to get stage points and we were going to try to win the race, and how do you do both of those.
Obviously you've just kind of got to have that in your head of what could happen, what can happen, and I probably drove him crazy sending crazy messages about what other people did in the spring.
KEVIN HARVICK: Keeps me from having to watch it. He watches it so many times that I don't have to watch it.
RODNEY CHILDERS: It's really just about studying. It's just like having to take a big exam. You've got to have it in your head and ready to go.
Q. Kevin said you felt like this was your best chance, you guys put your eggs in this basket knowing that the Gibbs cars would probably be better at Phoenix?
RODNEY CHILDERS: You know, I think the 18 was a little bit better than us at Phoenix in the spring, but my honest opinion is we took a pieceâ€‘ofâ€‘crap car to Phoenix and had probably a thirdâ€‘place car. I would be surprised if we're not really good next weekend, and we've just got to get there and see how we do. Everybody gains on certain things throughout the year, and it's a different race, it's a different temperature, and you've just kind of got to fight through it and figure out what you've got when you get there.
Q. Tony, your experience as a driver, Kyle Larson felt that NASCAR should have penalized Bubba Wallace for causing an intentional caution, and there's been a couple of instances in recent weeks where intentional yellows have potentially not been called. Do you have any thoughts on that? Should NASCAR step in more in those situations?
TONY STEWART: You know, honestly, I feel like NASCAR is backed in a corner on scenarios like this. I think there's so many things just like the rule of double yellow lines at Talladega and Daytona. There's so many ballâ€‘andâ€‘strike calls that they're put in the position of having to make, I think they've got to find a way to make it simpler to where it is what it is. Bubba wasn't working for any team, any manufacturer. He was trying to take care of himself in that scenario. It could work for you one week, it could work against you the next week. It's just part of it.
I mean, but to put NASCAR in that position to where they have to act and react to every single thing that happens, I wouldn't even want to be a NASCAR official if that's the way it had to be all the timeâ€‘â€‘
KEVIN HARVICK: Same thing happened last week, right?
TONY STEWART: It's just â€‘â€‘ at what point do you sit there and say enough is enough. At some point we've got to somewhat adopt the oldâ€‘time tradition of keep it simple, stupid. It's just got to be simplified. They shouldn't have to sit up there and babysit every single thing that everybody does all the time. There's enough rules and regulations that they have to do to need to be in place, let alone the things that they shouldn't have to be put in those positions.
I mean, you can ask 10 different people, they're going to give you 10 different answers on it. I just feel bad that NASCAR has to be put in that position and that after a race like that that that's what they've got to be scrutinized for is because they're trying to do their jobs. There's plenty of things that we give them a hard time for not doing, there's plenty of things that they do right, but there's plenty of things that they shouldn't have to be put in those positions, and I feel like that's one of those.
Q. Tony, what do you think about the guy next to you tying you at 49 career wins now?
TONY STEWART: Well, I shouldn't say I hate to say this because I don't hate to say this. I'm excited about the fact that he's going to far surpass this landmark. But I'm really proud that the night that he did tie it that it's on a night that was so significant. I mean, this is a big win. It's not just an earlyâ€‘season win or a second win that doesn't mean anything. This is the win that locks him into running for a championship at Homestead.
KEVIN HARVICK: And he's here, so that's pretty cool.
TONY STEWART: It just happened that I was around in the neighborhood this week. It's cool to be here and be a part of it with him, but I can promise you, he's going to far surpass this and be long gone and I'll be left in the weeds on that stat long afterâ€‘â€‘ I would say there's a really good shot in seven days that stat will be nonexistent again.
Q. What does that mean to you, Kevin, hearing him say all that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we did all this, and the only conversations that we talked about was we want to win races and have a chance to win championships. I think that the faith that he and his group put in letting us talk them into going out and hiring him and putting the faith in him and going out and hiring the guys that he wanted to hire when we bought the team, or when we built the team, we didn't have a truck, we didn't have a trailer, we didn't have a race car, and they let us do everything how we wanted from the very beginning.
You know, it'sâ€‘â€‘ I mean, it's kind of reshaped and molded and changed things at SHR, and last year, I mean, gosh, I don't even know how many races we won as a team last year, but we won a bunch of races as four drivers. And really, to me, that's the most rewarding thing is seeing the company continue to thrive and win races in different rules packages, big motors, tapered spacers, big spoilers, little spoilers, Fords, Chevrolets, Stewartâ€‘Haas Racing has been in Victory Lane, and we've been fortunate to win races with all those different scenarios. In the end, that comes down to people. You're only as good as the people that you have around you.
Them letting us go out and build a team with people that came to Stewartâ€‘Haas Racing to be on that No.4 car is really what started this whole thing, and now we're, I don't know, what are we, 26, 27 wins later, six years in. So it's been a lot of fun. He's so laid back and understands how the peaks and valleys go of this particular sport. I'm glad he's here on the night that we were able to both be 49s. I guess that's pretty cool.
TONY STEWART: I've got a tear in my eye.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, so that was pretty good. And I knew he was here because when I pulled in I saw the car next to me had mud all over the hood. I'm like, hmm, Tony's here.
THE MODERATOR: Rodney and Tony, you guys are dismissed. Congratulations. We will continue with questions for Kevin.
Q. How do you feel about making it to the Final Four again? Is it old hat for you, or is it a new experience every time and something to be really enjoyed?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I think every year is different. For me, I would tell you that I justâ€‘â€‘ I don't think we've run as well as we've probably wanted to run week in and week out compared to the things that we expect. But this particular year has been neat for me to sit back and watch the evolution of how we progressed with the race cars, how the conversations have progressed, how my theories and things that I think are right and wrong have changed. It's such a process of going to all these different racetracks.
You know, there's just a lot of choices of what you can do to the car and the things that you do, and not being the dominant car on the racetrack has made us work harder.
The thing that I can tell you is it's evolved into not making mistakes, and yes, Dustin, we made it through the whole night without having a speeding penalty, so I don't have to find you this next week toâ€‘â€‘ we didn't have a speeding penalty, so you're off the hook.
But that's the type of scenario thatâ€‘â€‘ it's like tonight where you have the pit road penalty, you put it behind you, and you're like, okay, well, now what do we do. We went right out and had a bad restart and went further backwards, then you had the penalty and you go all the way to the back and then you change the tires, and you're like, okay, well, that's over. And you have to start thinking about how you're going to get back to the front, and we stayed out longer and the caution came out and next thing you know you're on the right side of the cycle.
So those are the types of things that we've been reminded of this year, that you have to think about things outside of the box because the box changes a lot. Obviously the rules changed a tremendous amount this year, and the thought processes and the things that you've done in the past are irrelevant. Any time you hear aboutâ€‘â€‘ any time you hear about we did this last year, it's like, I just stop him and say, there's no reason to talk about last year because it is absolutely irrelevant to the things that we've done.
The day that you stop thinking about how you're going to evolve and get stuck in today and what you did yesterday is the day that this sport will leave you behind. You have to be very openâ€‘minded, and this is a progressive sport and you have to keep up with that progression on a weekly basis because it changes rapidly. And those are the types of things that I have really enjoyed this year, even though we haven't been the dominant car. We've figured out how to win. We've figured out how to run fast and put ourselves in position to have chances to win races, and we've capitalized on the few chances that we've been in position to win, and that's reallyâ€‘â€‘ it's been a good characterâ€‘building year to have to battle in order to get yourself in position.
Q. So what's your overriding emotion now? Is it relief that you've overcome all that this year to get to the Final Four? What are you feeling?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm surprised, to be dead honest with you. You know, I'm surprised but I'm not. But I think the expectations are always there. I think for me, I still feel like this was our best chance to win. I know Rodney, he's always the positive one. And I tell youâ€‘â€‘ I've told you guys that before. At some point he's going to talk me into thinking that we can win every single race. I can think about, well, probably not. I don't know, we didn't run that well. And he'll have 10 reasons why the car is going to be better, and every week it's, man, this is the best car we've ever had. We did this, this, this and this wrong last time, and this is what we've changed and this is why it's going to be better, and he can present it, and by the time we start practice, I'm like, man, we're going to win this race. So I'm surprised but I'm not because of the character of the team, and I love the way that it's evolved and the battle that we've had to get there and really tried to achieve something that wasn't really achievable when we first started the season this year.
We've grounded out all year. My note from Mr.Gossage there that he wrote me this year that was sitting in my bus this year, "You've had the strangest year that I've seen you have in a long time, but here you are still battling for a championship." That was him writing that note, watching the races in the season, and that's really how it feels for me, as well. It's been a strange year, and here you are lingering around and wound up in Victory Lane with two races to go, and now you get to go race for a championship.
So I don't know if I answered anything that you asked me.
Q. Following up on that relationship with Rodney, you were laughing there that you don't have to watch the races because he's maniacally reviewing tape every hour of every day apparently, and I think I heard that you took the family to the zoo this weekend.
KEVIN HARVICK: I did. They have a really nice zoo here, in case you were wondering.
Q. Does it work in a sense between you guys because you just stay laser focused but don't worry about other stuff, you know he's going to stay on top of everything and all the minutiae and details and all that?
KEVIN HARVICK: They expect me to come to the racetrack and be prepared. And the thing about being prepared for me is from a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, to be as mentally focused as you can. And my age and experience kind of comes into that I guess you could say sometimes because you've been to some of these racetracks so many times, and I feel like I know the characteristics of the car.
But there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't send me a text, hey, we're going to do this or one of the engineers will send me a text and say what do you think about this gear ratio or what do you think about whatever. One of them is texting me at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, as to what's going on and what's happening.
Those are those relationships that are constant and steady, and everybody believes in each other because that's just how it works. It's never a bad time to text me or it's never a bad time to call me. It's never a bad time to ask me to do something. It's never a bad timeâ€‘â€‘ when they need something, I put down what I'm doing, and I go and I try to figure out how we're going to do it and how we're going to go to the simulator, how we're going to go to the race shop, if you need me to come to a meeting, just tell me. The priority are these guys and that race team, and the things that they need. But I am a thorough believer that that circle of life has to be balanced for you to show up to this racetrack every single week, to be as focused as you need to be to process all of that information and listen to those guys and listen to the things that you do and know that I'm just a piece of information that allows them to put the puzzle together. It's a big puzzle. You throw all the pieces out on the table and those guys put the puzzle together.
There's a deep belief in each other that we can go out and be better than anybody on any given day, and most of the time we can talk ourselves into it even when we probably don't really have a chance, we can talk ourselves into it, and just by the experience of the things that we do and the experience of racing in general and them calling a race, there's just that belief that we can figure it out.
Q. Do you answer their texts when you're at the zoo?
KEVIN HARVICK: I will. I can look at my fancyâ€‘dancy little watch that the text messages pop up and I can see who it is. I know that Rodney is going to be texting me on Saturday or Sunday. He's going to be feeding me something, and I need to make sure that when it's fed to me that I process it, whether it's an email or text messages. Every week I get the most emails from Rodney as to anybody else that emails me during the week, and I get the most text messages from Rodney unless I'm on one of those stupid group texts of somebody that's got some funny something that they send to 47 people that everybody thinks they need to respond to. For the most part, it's going to be Rodney that sends me the most texts, and it's all information about the race, and if it's not, it's hey, are you going to the goâ€‘kart track today, I'm going to stop by. Or we're all going to go ride our bikes today, do you have any interest in going. So it's just communication.
Q. Denny had trouble today. He's 20 something points back. What's it like to have a season probably like he's had and then be on the brink of not advancing?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, well, we had that in '14. We've been in that scenario a couple times. But those guys are capable. I enjoy those types of situations because it brings out the focus in your whole team, and when you've had a season like they've had, they'll be tough to beat next week when you go to Phoenix because they're going to dot every I and cross every T because they know that their season is on the line. So it'll be fun to watch.
I tell you, you guys think it's miserable to be in those situations, but really those are some of the best moments that you can ever have. The thrill of the anxiety and not knowing and just that preparation that comes with knowing that this is the dayâ€‘â€‘ if you're going to be in it, this is the day that you have to put it all together, and it starts when you walk in the racetrack and you get in that car to go out, and it's one lap at a time. And you know that that better be the best you can do on the first lap of practice, the best you can do on the second lap, and it better be a constant evolution as you go through that because there's nothing, nothing like succeeding in those particular moments and that thrill of all that preparation and that anxiety and all those emotions and everything hinges on that one moment.
When you actually achieve conquering that moment, there's nothing like it. That thrill is the best thrill that you can possibly get for me.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports