An interview with: KEVIN HARVICK
THE MODERATOR: Kevin Harvick, congratulations on winning today’s Real Heroes 400 at Darlington. Walk us through how you were able to accomplish that today in NASCAR’s first race back.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, the first thing I want to do is thank everybody from NASCAR, all the teams, the whole industry, for getting us back on the racetrack. I think everybody in this garage is so excited to be here. I was up this morning at 6:00 pacing around my porch trying to decide when I was going to leave. I was excited to get back in the car.
Today was just a well executed day. We were fortunate we had the first pit stall, kept our track position all day, were able to have a good Busch Light Ford, have good restarts, do everything we needed to do to keep our track position.
In the end, that was the key for us. We had a fast car, but staying out front was the key to the equation.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions for Kevin.
Q. We’ve asked other people this. What was the weirdest part of the day for you? Coming to the track and having nothing to do or the no fans being there, having to race without practice or qualifying?
KEVIN HARVICK: The weirdest part of the day for me was getting out of the car and not hearing anybody cheering. When the engines are running, you’re kind of in your own little world in the car.
Look, I’ve been around this deal for a long time. This is not like anything I’ve ever experienced. I can tell you it’s very similar to coming back after 9/11. That day had a hundred thousand fans in the stands, now you have no fans.
The practice and in the car part are something we can figure out. The not having any fans in the infield, for me that took some of the enthusiasm of the win away just because of the fact you weren’t able to celebrate with the crowd.
For me, that was really awkward because I feed off of that stuff, enjoy those types of moments. For me, didn’t really know what to say after the race because it’s such a unique situation that we’re in.
Q. This was your 50th Cup career victory today, tying you with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett. Talk about what that means to you.
KEVIN HARVICK: When you say those two names, obviously they’re a huge part (indiscernible) who helped this sport. Obviously Hall of Famers. It’s just an honor to have your name next to them.
It’s a little bit surreal I guess you’d say because of the fact you don’t really (indiscernible) but it would be disrespectful to not give those guys credit for what they do. What a huge honor it is to have my name sitting next to them.
I’ve been fortunate, especially since I’ve come to Stewart Haas Racing. This was 27 wins together with this group of guys. I think that experience today going into our seventh year here has really paid off, getting our car right, making adjustments on our car, rebounding from the adversity of a bad pit stop, all the things that came with today, turned into a race win.
That says a lot about the experience of our team, the depth we have with everything that Gene and Tony give us. It’s been a lot of fun to drive fast racecars.
To have your name next to those guys goes to show you how fortunate I am to be able to ride in those fast racecars. We’ve been able to capitalize on a few.
Q. You don’t always like to talk about your legacy. When you get to the milestone of 50 wins, looking at your career, where do you rank yourself?
KEVIN HARVICK: Look, I just want to have a good impact on the sport. I may not have thought about that in the first 25 wins. Actually probably need to back up a few wins before that. I think for me going to Stewart Haas Racing, I kind of had a new approach in how I wanted to represent myself. Kids have really changed the way you want to be presenting yourself.
Look, I’ve been on a number of different sides of this sport. I’ve been on the ownership side of it, I’ve been in trouble, been the good guy, the bad guy. I’ve driven for RCR, now Stewart Haas Racing. I’ve got to experience a lot of things.
I mean, it’s really hard to define ‘legacy’ until it’s over, right? I think you’re still writing the book of what you want to do, how you want things to go going forward. I know for me, it’s super focused on competition and doing exactly what we did today. That’s winning races and putting yourself in a position to win a championship.
I feel like I’ve definitely been able to (indiscernible) in this sport, to have a part in the sport. I think my ownership days really allowed me to kind of diversify how you think about things and how you approach things, from the sponsorship side, how you relate to the team, how you understand people. I thrive on communicating with people, being around people, trying to make things different, better, whatever the case may be going forward.
As far as the legacy goes, I don’t know how you determine that until you’re done.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how you found the atmosphere when you got to the track today as far as people that you saw in person, whether it was teammates or officials or other team members. Was there a sense of relief or excitement that the sport had started back up?
KEVIN HARVICK: Everybody’s excited about being back, but there’s still that awkwardness of not wanting to screw anything up. We didn’t really want to communicate closely or do anything that might look wrong. I think today’s message was really important to be able to make sure it was sent correctly.
We all talked about it before we got in the car today, just about how excited we are to be back at the racetrack. Even if we’re just talking to each other on the radio, at least we’re at the racetrack performing and doing what we love to do.
Q. What was Victory Lane like?
KEVIN HARVICK: Awkward (smiling). Usually you get out of the car and the crowd is screaming and yelling, react. Today out of the car it was like, well, I don’t really know what to do here. It’s a situation that you’ve got Regan from FOX six feet away, a masked man. I didn’t know if I was supposed to put a mask on and talk to him. They had a six foot boom mic you were talking to. There was that sense of awkwardness until we get all this situated to exactly what we’re supposed to do.
When we got done, everybody left. The procedure said to drive back to Victory Lane. I got in my car, drove to Victory Lane. There were two photographers there, no team guys. I was able to kind of get my team guys a nice little elbow bump there as I left Victory Lane, tell them great job. Those guys didn’t get a chance to take a picture with their car. Just a lot of sacrifices that go into it.
But in the end, in the big picture of things, being able to do what we did today, and that’s race, is what everybody wants to do.
Q. What did you think of Matt Kenseth’s performance, earning a top 10 today at a tough racetrack?
KEVIN HARVICK: Here’s the thing about Matt Kenseth: he should have never quit. Matt Kenseth was winning races when he retired. I think as you look at that whole situation of when you he got kind of moved out of Gibbs, Matt Kenseth is going to be a huge part of that race team and making Chip Ganassi Racing better. He’s going to be great for the sponsors.
I think as you look at that, I mean, experience and skill go a long way in our sport. If you have those two things, like Matt does, you’re going to be successful. You don’t just forget how to do that.
Matt is a pro, a very good one at that.
Q. How important was the teamwork in the pits in today’s win?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, track position was really the thing that gave us the opportunity to win today. I think the first pit stall, our guys rebounding from the little hiccup they had on pit road, making adjustments on the car, doing everything.
When you look at a win like this today, this is an organizational win because you have to have your car dialed in when you get here in order to win a race like this. Our guys have just done a great job of putting all the pieces together. Today we were able to capitalize on that and win a race.
Q. A lot of people on social media today had not watched NASCAR races regularly, even some who admitted they had never seen a NASCAR race. They liked what they saw. How big an opportunity do you think this is for the sport to showcase what you were able to do, do it the right way, gain some new fans maybe?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it’s definitely a unique opportunity. At least we can put ourselves in front of people to let them make a decision whether they like NASCAR or not. I think as you learn about our sport, it’s a great family sport with a lot of blue collar people that are just like the people that probably tuned in for the first time today.
There’s not many more normal people than what you’ll see in this garage. There’s not many other sports that do more than the NASCAR world does when you look at the Real Heroes 400, all the doctors on the car today, the way this event went with people coming in and out of the garage, how the infield was set up.
There’s a lot of people that put a lot of effort into this. I’m glad it went the way that it went. I hope people that watched for the first time liked what they saw. This is a unique racetrack here at Darlington. In the end, it’s just having that opportunity to present yourself to new people. Hopefully you can make a lot of new fans as you go forward.
Q. With the circumstances as they were, you’ll always remember win No. 50?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it was different. Part of what drives me and part of the enjoyment that I have is seeing the excitement that comes from those guys on my team in Victory Lane. I get more excited to see them excited than I do actually about winning the race.
Today was really, really awkward for me because I thrive off of the enthusiasm from the crowd, but I also love to see the emotion come out of the guys on my race team and celebrate that with them. That part for me was a little bit tough.
Q. Drivers describe Darlington as one of the more physically demanding tracks. Normally you have a full week to recover. You’re going back racing on Wednesday. Does that change how you recover from a race? What do you normally do to recover from a NASCAR race?
KEVIN HARVICK: We have been off for nine or 10 weeks. We should be pretty fresh from the physical standpoint. For me, I’ve been working hard to make sure I was in as good a shape as I’ve been in in a long time coming back, not even knowing what the schedule was, but just wanted to be better.
I think as you look at that, really the biggest thing is 300 miles for us is a short race. I think as you look at the weather, being at night, it’s going to be fairly cool. The 600 miles the next week will be the one that you really have to pay attention to as far as what you do.
Hydration is the key for me. Tomorrow I’ll go exercise with Keelan and do some recovery stuff. For the most part it’s really about making sure that you put enough fluids back in your body.
Q. You speak about you have so many races in a short amount of time. What kind of a positive sendoff is this for you to get this win going into this compressed schedule?
KEVIN HARVICK: It’s the first win of the year. Obviously that’s good for our Playoff chances. It takes a little bit of pressure off from that standpoint. I think at this point we took a drastically different approach coming to Darlington this time than we did last time. I think obviously that paid off for us.
Going into the week, next week, we know how important track position is. Being buried in the field to start the race, you’re just going to really have to take care of your car and do the things that you need to do to try to make up that track position.
Having that first pit stall again is definitely going to be beneficial for us in making that ground up. Obviously a hundred miles shorter. Nighttime will be a little bit different. In the end it’s still the same old Darlington.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, congratulations again. Thanks for the show today. Good luck on Wednesday night.
KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you.
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