The four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship contenders met with the media individually on Thursday afternoon.
Well, you’ve been here before. What’s it going to take on Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, well, I think at this particular point it’s a little bit of a guess, just because we all know that Homestead’s so much different than a lot of the racetracks that we go to. Our guys have done a great job in preparation, regardless of how it goes, and having scenarios and situations and adjustability and all those types of things prepared for the weekend, as to what happens after you unload in the first practice and see where the racetrack is and where you are with your car. So it’s been a great second half of the year, I think our team has really proven to not only everybody else but ourselves just how much, how good we are as a group and how much we have had to work this year to get to where we are. And it’s been very rewarding to sit here and be able to look at each other and have celebrated in Victory Lane and have a chance to race for a championship is something that I’m really proud of the team and I know that they’re obviously excited that everything ended the way that it is currently.
Is this kind of old hat? I mean, you guys seem to be, as Denny spoke about, the three of you up there, the veterans of the group, been here before, been there and done that.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it’s difficult to navigate the Playoffs and there’s a group of guys that have been there and done that and know that you’re going to have some things that you’re going to have to deal with throughout the Playoffs and know that you can still only drive your car as fast as it will go, you can’t back it in the wall, you can’t run through your pit box, you can’t make all those mistakes throughout the Playoffs and be able to survive. You’re going to have things happen, you’re going to have mechanical things, you’re going to have accidents, you’re going to have something happen throughout the Playoffs and our teams are experienced and have navigated those things year after year and I think you see the best crew chiefs and the best organizations and the best drivers and they consistently stick out.
Have you thought about how maybe a second championship changes the outlook of your career, kind of like a legacy thing and people think, well he kind of elevates it to another level, your career
KEVIN HARVICK: Well championships are what we race for. You put a lot of effort into the season and week after week of trying to be competitive and I think the more championships you win, the more it solidifies everything that you do on a week to week basis. So they’re hard to win. It’s hard to get here. I know that we have been able to do that five times now, but the Playoffs are difficult now. It’s difficult to go through all those eliminations and different racetracks and have everything work out. So you just, this will be the fifth time here and we have only won once and so it’s definitely something that we would love to do again. This is what we race for.
How much of an impact does experience have at a track that you only go to once a year when you’re actually returning as a championship contender as opposed to the rest of the field?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well I think in this particular scenario it definitely gives you more ideas. The tire’s different than last year, the cars are different than last year, everything’s different ?? the engine’s different. So you have to lean on past experience of things and trends that have been there for our team and the things that we have done at this particular racetrack, but it’s definitely a racetrack that experience pays off and especially in the preparation.
How much of an advantage do you think it is to be the focal point of your organization versus the Gibbs teams where they have to spread their resources over three teams?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well I think that’s yet to be determined. I think for us it’s very simple, there’s no worries in making the sponsor mad or making another team member mad or ?? there is no scenario, it’s how do we get Stewart?Haas Racing another championship and all four teams have bought into that and want to do the exact same thing because of the fact that it’s good for Stewart?Haas Racing. So our guys, they have worked their butts off on really all the cars over the last four weeks, in trying to do everything that they can to continue to learn about the cars and I think we have still we have ?? we’re still learning. As you saw at Texas, it was definitely a situation where we put a lot of pieces together and it wound up being a good day. But you’re still ?? they would be mad at me for saying this, but you’re still, it’s still a little bit of a guess as to where you’re at. It’s a science as to how you get to that point of where you think things are going to be, but it’s definitely been nice to not have to deal with any politics internally or anything, it’s just, what do you need, let’s do it and everybody’s worked really hard. So there’s nothing to navigate for us.
(Inaudible) said last week that you race all year to get a chance to win the championship at Homestead. Do you see it like that as well?
KEVIN HARVICK: For me you definitely race all year to get here, I would agree with him. And for me it’s really about being competitive every week. This is the icing on the cake because I couldn’t do this if we were struggling on a week?to?week basis of trying to finish 10th. It’s just, it’s too much work and too hard to do and I don’t think that our guys on the team would ever be satisfied with that or within our organization as well. So it is a battle to get to this point, but we try to race like it’s championship weekend every week, so that when you’re in situations or you’re here that there’s really nothing different that’s going to happen.
Can you foresee a situation where the amount of times that a driver has reached the Championship 4 becomes a measure of this era, like when we’re looking at the best drivers overall? Because the championship is, it’s not a crap shoot, but it’s different than it used to be.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I’ve never actually thought about that. That’s a great thought. I think all generations are probably judged a little bit differently, but it definitely could be a possibility of how people are looked at and in the stat column of how many Championship 4s are made, but I honestly had never thought about it like that. Good thought.
The way your season started, was there any doubt in your mind you would be sitting here today?
KEVIN HARVICK: Oh, yeah, a lot of doubts. I think as we started the season the results weren’t bad, we had mediocre results, I think for what we expect as the No. 4 team. So, but it’s been a grind and a battle week?in and week?out as to what do we need, what do we need to do different, because the thought process is just so much different than what we have ever done before. I think as an organization we have had to struggle through that and it’s been a grind. So I wouldn’t, I would be lying to you if I told you it wasn’t taxing on everybody in order, in the amount of work that has been put in to get to this point. But that’s the good part about working at Stewart?Haas is you have a group of racers and that’s what they want to do, they want to be competitive and they’re not satisfied with finishing 4th like we did I think five or so races in the first seven or eight. So we want to, we have to, you have to believe able to lead laps. You have to be able to lead laps and you have to get Top 5s in order to have a chance at winning races. And we just, we just weren’t at that point in the first half of the year and I feel like we have still been sporadic in the style of racetrack that we can lead laps on. I think Phoenix is obviously, you know, those types of racetracks have been our toughest for us in order to navigate and get what we think we need out of those particular weekends, but we have done a good job at being able to get our speed back on the mile?and?a?halfs and really ?? we made the Roval better from where we were last year and those were really what became the focus of the second half of the year were the Roval and getting our speed back on the mile?and?a?half racetracks to where you could lead laps.
How do you look at the season overall for the sport? We have had the TV numbers up a little bit, some of the tracks saw increased in ticket sales. How do you view the season?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think we have done a great job and I think for us having those TV ratings up is, in my opinion, a No. 1 goal for everybody in the health of our sport. I think as you see all the new strategies starting to come into play with the new marketing strategies with NASCAR and SMI and both of those companies going back to being held privately will give us more leeway in the things that we do in 2021. We got the Next Generation car on the racetrack, which I was skeptical as to whether that would happen, so there’s a plan with that and I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2021 schedule looks like, because I believe we have positioned ourself to really start making some necessary changes. But there’s not too many TV shows in general, let alone professional sports, that can say their TV numbers are up. So we have a lot of positive momentum as a sport and looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
Looking at how this race has unfolded the last two years is short?run speed more important than long?run speed?
KEVIN HARVICK: Depends on if it’s a short run or a long run at the end.
But by history here it looks like short runs have kind ??
KEVIN HARVICK: The only problem with short runs is you got to stay on the lead lap during the day. So you have to have some good balance and good adjustability built into your car. But the short run has definitely been what’s won this race over the past few years, but having the proper amount of, the proper track position to take advantage of that short?run speed is still necessary in the first half of the day and I just, I don’t think these cars are going to race like what we have raced here before, I think you’re going to see some ?? I don’t know exactly what that means, but I just, with the way that things have been everywhere else, I just don’t see the characteristics being exactly how they have been in the past for the amount of laps and things that have happened when your car is good and when your car goes to falling off and things like that. I think that those numbers are going to change. I don’t know exactly what that number will be as far as the crossover and falloff, but we’ll just have to see.
Your generation has kind of fallen under the Jimmie Johnson era. How should your generation be viewed? How should your generation be judged because of what its numbers, apples to apples, it’s tilted toward Jimmy, but I’m guessing it probably doesn’t show the true work of your generation.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, that’s tough for me to say, being a part of that on a week?to?week basis. I think everybody is going to be judged a little bit differently when they’re done as to the impact that they have had. The thing I can tell you, I’ll just use Kyle as an example, Kyle’s won more races in NASCAR racing than all of us (laughing) so some people will say, well Truck racing and Xfinity racing doesn’t really matter but I would say in the sport, winning Xfinity championships and truck owner championships and those types of things, they matter to him, they matter to me. So those impacts are going to be different and widespread throughout those times. And I also think it depends on when everybody’s end date is as to how long that those eras go and what happens after one quits and one keeps going.
Phoenix having a one?year deal being host as a championship race, you said that you wanted to see the championship race move around. Where would you want to see it go in 2021?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think obviously weather’s a factor and it depends on when the schedule would end, but it would not go back to Phoenix, I can tell you that. If it was my schedule it would not go budget being to Phoenix 100 percent because, I mean, that’s just really not the point of moving the championship race around to have it in the same spot consecutive years. So you’ve got California in that mix. Where else? Vegas. I mean, in my opinion, you look at Las Vegas and that would be a great place to end it, both of those racetracks would be great places to end the schedule.
KEVIN HARVICK: I don’t think a superspeedway should ever be a part of the championship conversation. There’s just too much luck involved?
What’s Tony like as an owner? Is he hands?on or is he more a big picture, oversee kind of guy, CEO type or is he in the garage?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, Tony is, it depends on where you’re at as a team and where things are and what’s going on. Are there sponsors needing to be resigned, are there, is the performance off, are we hiring drivers, what do we need. I think that Tony definitely has his strengths, especially when it comes to the sponsorship side of things. He’s very good at courting people, keeping people, when you need him to re?up or resign their contract. So Tony and Gene both are a huge asset to us, they’re not going to be there on a daily basis, but they’re going to know what’s going on and every time that we need them to help us with something that as a group we feel like is a key factor in the future of Stewart?Haas Racing and they’re right there and wanting to know what they can do. And the great part about that too is they also ask questions of, okay, why are we not running well or why are we running well and what is that key element that is making those two scenarios happen.
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