Kevin Harvick met with the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed being the point leader at the end of the first 26 races, his and the team's philosophy going into the Chase, and other topics. Full transcript:
BEING LOCKED IN, IS YOUR STRATEGY ANY DIFFERENT FOR TOMORROW NIGHT HERE AT RICHMOND?
“I really think you race for wins regardless of whether you are locked in the Chase. You really go and do the same things that you would do on a normal basis. The only way you would race different is if you are racing for 12th place. You take zero chances at that point. Anything other than that at this point, I think everybody is pretty much racing the same way and that is to first try to win the race. If not, then try to take the most points out of that particular weekend that you can.”
Do you think everyone across the board is not going to say, ‘If we crash, we crash, if we win, we get 10 more points'?
“You can say that, but you are still racing to try to win. It is just like last week – we didn't have anything to gain to keep running around. We couldn't figure out what was wrong, so we just stopped because there was no reason to tear up a good car. It was already halfway torn up so there was no reason to destroy it. Those things all go away after this week and you have to figure it out to try to gain two points, three points, whatever it may be.”
Looking at the Chase, who in your mind is a sleeper?
“I will be honest with you, I have kind of shut myself off to the whole racing world other than ourselves. I feel like, barring things that we can't control, I think we have as good of a chance to win as we have ever had and it is in our best interest to concentrate on ourselves. I couldn't even tell you, to be honest with you. I want to do our own thing and just concentrate on that.”
So you aren't worried about who else is in this Chase?
“I think it is better to race yourself at this point. There are so many things that you can't control, but there are so many things that you can. We need to concentrate on the things that we can control and try not to make mistakes like I did last week. Those are the types of things that you can't do in the Chase. Right now you can make those mistakes and go home and sleep fine. I really think it is better to concentrate on what we are doing.”
Do you have to work yourself into that mindset? Is there a certain maturity required to adopt the attitude that Jimmie Johnson has taken these last few years?
“Yes. It is not something that I've been able to do in the past but over the last several weeks, I think it has been working fairly well. It kind of keeps my mind at ease. You don't go thinking about things that you don't need to think about. It is so easy to beat yourself in this sport and there are so many things you can't control. And there is a few things you can control, so there is no reason to worry about those things and you just go out and go as fast as you can. Try to be as thorough as you can. I went to the shop last week and looked at our whole new fleet of cars basically that we have built. We are prepared to race for this championship. Whether we win or lose, I think it is the best chance we have ever had and it is the best prepared we've ever been going into the Chase. Whether that is good or bad, I don't know.”
Is this a somewhat Hendrick-like approach with a whole new fleet of cars dedicated just to the Chase?
“I don't necessarily know exactly how they have approached it in the past. I know our approach has been to try to take what we have done and make it better. Whether it be a little bit of weight here; we've concentrated a lot on the aero side of it. We've gone back and looked a lot of the notes of the things that we have done at the beginning of the year. We've made a lot of charts and trends; charts of things that fit my driving style compared to what our teammates have done. Everybody has done a lot of things that would hopefully lead us down the right paths as we go across the last 10 weeks.”
Do you feel like the winner of this race at Richmond gets a little overlooked and a lack of attention?
“It is hard to celebrate something. I know we should all be happy to celebrate week 26. But, it would be nice to be celebrating in 10 more weeks. That is just part of the system. As you build up to this point, everybody is happy they are in the Chase and rewarded. It all depends on who wins the race. I think that it definitely takes something away from the winner. But, I think the year that Jeremy Mayfield won the race; it was a pretty cool situation the way it all worked out. It all just depends on who it is, I guess.”
How do you seize momentum and sustain it in the Chase?
“I think you just have to not get caught up in whether you are having a great week or a bad week. I think you just have to race week by week, but you have to be over it by the time you land at home on Sunday night. You want to be frustrated and you want to be down and you want to talk about, but once the race is over, you need to go on to next week, because it takes so long to prepare for these races from a team standpoint. From a mental standpoint, you just have to be done with it.”
Do you understand how it was all scored after that yellow came out last week at Atlanta?
“I still haven't figured that one out. I know I stayed on the racetrack and led the lap so the whole field was a lap down. We pitted too early, which I assumed in the past has been the tail-end of the longest line penalty. Maybe it was just easier to park us for a lap then to wave the whole field around because they all would have been wave-arounds anyhow. I am assuming that is what happened, but I don't really know.”
How does being locked in and being a favorite impact your approach to tomorrow night?
“I think you go out and do everything you can in practice and in the race to try and win the race. The only think I don't like racing around on the racetrack right now is the No. 33 (Clint Bowyer) car, because I am so worried about just touching it, being involved in something. I get uncomfortable racing around that car at this point because I know how important all that is to that car. Secondly, you just go out to try and win. You don't do anything different that you do on a week-to-week basis and other than that, it is just business as usual.”
Sounds like maybe you're more on pins and needles for Clint Bowyer than he might be?
“Well, I think they're in a really good spot. I just don't like being around them because of being on the same team and everything that's at stake; yeah, I guess I probably am (laughs).”
Would it matter if it were somebody else?
“Yeah, I wouldn't even care and that point.”Are you feeling any pressure as the point leader and as the guy people are saying has a solid chance at this championship?
“I don't see how we can. I think we need to have fun with it, to be honest with you, just because when we started the year, everyone expected us to have a disaster again. So to be in the position that we're in, we know that this is the best opportunity we've had to race for a championship. Whether we can win or lose, it's yet to be seen. But man, this is the position that everybody wants to be in and this is the position we want to be in. So, we've just got to go see what happens.”
Are you comfortable in this role? Do you like it?
“I've been very relaxed, for whatever reason. I like that way our team races. I like the way that our season has gone and the things that have happened up until this point have been really good. I think we've prepared well. I don't know. We just go race.”
Has your relaxation level gone up with each victory you've had? How much has that helped?
“I think it's important to know that we can win. Last week we had a really fast car and it seemed like every time we got to the front, something goofy would happen. And then I finally made the mistake there at the end and popped the tire. But week in and week out, the cars have been fast no matter where they've been in practice. By the time the race rolls around the cars are fast. Just being able to race for wins is really what it's all about and that takes care of the rest of it."
Looking ahead to loudon, how important is it to springboard into the chase with a win?
“I think it's important to just go there and have a solid day. If we can put ourselves in position to win, that would be great. It would be nice to get started on the right foot, but I don't winning necessarily has to happen at that particular race.”
Can momentum be built there?
“I think we've got good momentum now. I think we have to take what we built upon and try to maintain that as we go from week to week. The season is not just starting at New Hampshire. It's not really how we've raced or do anything different, it's just go do the same thing.”
Is the early approach to the race different than it is when you get to within five races to go? Do you race more conservatively early on, or are your sights set on kill from dropping the green flag next week?
“Well, I think when you get to four or five to go, you kind of know where you stand. You're either going to be still in it or you're going to be racing for wins at that point. I think you've got to be set on kill from the start, from start to finish. But I'm telling you guys, it's really not a whole lot different than what you would do on a week-to-week basis. It's just the only thing different is that points matter toward the championship and they haven't up until this point."
Kyle Busch started his own truck team. It's a little sensitive with you because Rick Ren went over there. In your maturation process of bringing up your teams, how did you learn to balance your businessman's side from your competitor side? Some people say Kyle Busch feels more comfortable in the car racing and trying to get away from the tough times in the business?
“I don't think there's any sensitivity on my part there. It was time for Rick to go do something different. So, I think with the depth of the truck teams of won five races and the No. 33 hasn't run like it needed to, but it didn't run like it needed to from halfway on to the end of last year either. So you have to take that stuff with a grain of salt. I feel like we have a good group of people that manage the race teams and really, I don't do that much with the teams anymore just for the fact that they pretty much run themselves. We take care of the sponsors and things as needed, and drive the car as needed, and do the things that I'm required to do. But from a day to day process, it's really Rick Carrelli and the crew chiefs and everybody involved at the shop, they pretty much handle it so that makes my life easy.”
The way things went for Kyle that first year, do you think he underestimated what he was getting himself into?
“Yeah, I think there was definitely an underestimation on his part as far as everything that went into putting it all together. It's just expensive. It's hard to put the people together the first year. You wind up with a lot of people who don't really fit the style of how you want the race team to run and things to go. It's hard and it's an everyday project in the beginning that you can't let your thumb off of or it'll go south fast.”
You've been on the champions podium for the Truck Series and Nationwide too, but how cool would it be to add that Cup championship to your mantle? “That's the only one missing. That's the one we need.”