Monday, Sep 26

Transcript: Kevin Harvick Press Conference - Michigan International Speedway

THE MODERATOR: First win of the season. Kept the Heritage Trophy here. Got that in Ford's backyard. Talk about what today means for you.

KEVIN HARVICK: It means a lot. As we went through the first part of the season and really not having everything where we wanted to be and we just really just kept our heads down and just kept communicating and working and working through what we thought our weak points were.

And really over the last five or six weeks the cars have run a lot better, and a lot of that goes to just Rodney and Steve and Dax and everybody just kind of just thinking about what we need to do different and trying things. And, really, it's gone smoothly over the last several weeks in the simulator, at the racetrack, and the way that things have raced.

So today it just -- we didn't have anything work against us. That's the biggest thing that happened today. Pocono and Loudon kind of in the same position and just didn't have the end of it go right, and today it went our way. We were in position to capitalize on it.

Q. Was wondering if you got to give Piper a ride in the car, and what was that like for you, and what did she think of it?

KEVIN HARVICK: She did go for a ride. We had to talk her into it. She had mentioned that she wanted to go for a ride if we won today. Just a really cool moment to be able to let her experience a lot of these things that Keelan has got to experience so many times.

Hopefully she's old enough to where she might remember some of it and at least have some great video and footage of everything that's happening. So a great day from a lot of different perspectives, whether it's family or team or just a lot of things that feel good.

Q. How old was she last time that you won?

KEVIN HARVICK: She was probably -- well, it was Indy, so was that -- 2. I hear mom. 2, yeah. I don't remember anything I did when I was 2.

Q. Kevin, when you handed Piper the flag, she waved it like she knew what she was doing. Has she been practicing?

KEVIN HARVICK: A lot of driveway races. Our life pretty much revolves around racing, and even in the driveway --

It's fine, you can tear anything up in here you want. It's not mine. (Talking to Piper.)

Our life revolves around racing, so whether it's scooters or go-carts or whatever it is, they're well aware of how a race starts and how a race ends. We might even know what the black flag means.

Do you know what the black flag means? Yeah. Are you in trouble? Yeah. (Talking to Piper.)

Q. A couple of questions for each of you. This is for both of you. What have the last two years been like for you guys during this winless drought?

KEVIN HARVICK: For me, obviously, you would much rather win. The end of last year it's kind of like this year. We weren't where we wanted to be. They kind of took control and did the things they wanted to do for the cars, and by the end of the year we were in contention to win races. It didn't work out to get to victory lane.

And this year started the same way. They keep their head down and grind away and just started dotting Is and crossing Ts, and next thing you know it comes together.

I've been through longer winless streaks. It's fun to go through it with the same group of guys. When you finally pop out of it and you're, like, man, all that work feels pretty good now.

RODNEY CHILDERS: Same thing. When you go from winning 10 or 11 races a year, to doing that, it's definitely a mental struggle. And, like he said, it just comes down to the people that are around you and what certain people say every day and the way our team meetings go in the mornings and just that dedication.

Nobody really ever changed a lick. Every single morning we act the same. We talk about the same things of what we need to do better and when we need to do it. Through all that -- like when Claire told me it had been 60-something races, I had no idea it had been that long.

It's really because it's the same every week, and everybody works on the same things and tries to -- yeah, we try to be perfect, and we try to win, but when we don't win, we don't have flames coming out of offices and people going crazy. It's really about trying to figure it out as a team and move forward from it. I think you've seen that the last couple of months.

We've just kind of gradually got better, and honestly, that's been fun just learning this car. I'll admit I was probably the hard-headed one all year. Just every week you talk about, well, this is what we do with the old car, this is what we won with the old car. None of that matters anymore.

When you've done this for 20 years, it's hard to get over that. I finally started to get over it, and hopefully that's a good thing, and we just keep moving forward.

Q. Kevin, a lot of veteran drivers get towards the latter part of their career say that when they win, they start to appreciate the wins a lot more because they don't know when the next one is going to be. I'm wondering if that was the case for you today?

KEVIN HARVICK: I expect to win. Maybe I'm over-confident. I don't know. I expect to win until the door closes. That's just the expectation that I have.

It's been the way that I've gone on the racetrack, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to turn that off until the door is closed, and you just don't open it back up. I'm just not wired that way.

Q. Kevin, you've been through a lot in your career, so you're steady in how you do things. I'm curious about the mental toughness. I'm sure at times the winless streak aspects of it bothered you, but it doesn't destroy you. The pressure building, making the playoffs, you don't wilt. How have you kind of been able to refine that, and how has that developed throughout your career, and how much experience helps you in situations like this?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think I've said this in here before. This is all easy to deal with. It's really not that hard. You compartmentalize this, and you set it aside.

We try to act like grown-ups and show up to work every morning and be productive about the conversations that Rodney was talking about, and just you've got to believe in the things that are around you. You've got to believe in yourself.

There's really no match for jumping in a race car and taking over for Dale Earnhardt. There's nothing like that was for the first six or eight weeks. You just can't match it. Never will. Never come close. There's nothing even close.

I mean, there's never going to be a media session that big again. There's never going to be a conversation that big again. There's never going to be a bigger moment in my career. I've had all those. It's just the rest of this stuff is pretty easy to deal with compared to those moments.

As you get older, too, but I think that part comes with life in general. Thinking back to looking in that Rockingham press conference, there's probably only a few of you that were there or will remember it, but if you want to pull up some video and go find out what that looked like, it was a big enough moment to where Richard stopped practice, and there were extra tents, and it looked like Trump was there.

Those moments you just can't match. I think that everything after that is -- that was the training ground. That was the start of the process.

Q. You said anyone that doubted you didn't know you, basically. Can you just, I guess, say more about that, how you didn't have doubts going almost two years without a win? And what your win does to this playoff chase and the bubble it creates and the excitement over the last few weeks --

KEVIN HARVICK: It creates a big bubble, because I think we were 8th, 9th, 10th in the points. I think some of those guys that have won races that hadn't been doing very good, it creates a real scenario to where there could be at least 16 winners.

You've still got Daytona. You've got another road course. There's a lot of things that can still happen here.

Yeah, it's like Rodney said. It's been 65 races because, honestly, there's been moments to where you go in and you're, like, oh, man, if you think back, you're, like, we probably won a race sometime in between there, but we haven't.

That's just the way this goes. You just keep grinding away and start over again next week. Tomorrow will be just a start-over process for Richmond.

I know it's boring, but that's just the way that you approach it, and that approach really started several years ago when we sat down and talked and said, okay, how do we race like the 48 every week? Really from that point on, it's been on.

You prep the same way. It doesn't matter if it's a playoff race, last race, first race. How do you maintain that preparation level, and that's just how you plan.

Q. This is for both of you: For a while today it didn't seem like Ford was going to have much of a say in whether it extended its winning streak at Michigan. So for you guys to swoop in at the last minute sort of and both end your winless streak and extend theirs here, what does that mean for you guys?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I felt like we had really good speed all weekend. As we were watching during the race and watching SNT and watching our lap times and stuff, every time we would kind of get a clear lap, we were just as fast as the leader.

We knew that maybe if we could ever get there, we would be okay. One strong suit we had was on four tires on long runs we could pass cars, and a lot of people couldn't.

You would look there before we got the lead because of the caution, and we weren't the best because we had put two tires on and got too tight, but I knew that if we could ever get there, we could at least give them a run for their money.

Maybe we weren't the best, but if you can run top three, top four every single week, you have opportunities to take advantage of other people's mistakes or fortunate cautions or different things.

Like he was saying earlier, it's really more about what went right today. We've had a lot of races that maybe things didn't go our way, but today everything went right. Every pit stop was right. Every execution was right. We just ended up in the right spot at the right time.

Q. Rodney, now that you have a win, what are you guys capable of in the playoffs?

RODNEY CHILDERS: I don't know if you can really answer that. Going next week to Richmond has been a great place for us. I think we kind of need to go through a few more races.

I say it in these meetings every week, and everybody that knows me knows what I mean. We are still learning so much every single week. You don't have this little folder after the race. You have this huge memory bank of stuff that you have gathered and things that you could have done different and things that you should have done to the car or setup-wise. It's really more about those deals.

What turned our corner, I felt like, was having 50 minutes of practice at Nashville. We unloaded. We were absolutely horrible, and we changed everything on the car to start the race, and we qualified up front and ran up front all night, and we've done that ever since.

So having 50 minutes of practice, being able to change stuff after, it has changed our season. Every week we learn, and hopefully we're getting that a little bit better, and I this I that you guys have seen that. We just have to keep pushing and try to run with those guys and we have. If we can do that in the playoffs and be consistent and get through a round or two, we can make some noise.

Q. The quote "patience never gives up," do you both feel like that's something that you feel like really means a lot considering all the trials and tribulations that both of y'all have gone through this year? Also, for Kevin, when it comes to that, and I know that school is right around the corner and all that, how would you be able to apply that quote with both of your children and just kind of give them the learning grounds of what you go through at each week and be able to apply it in real life?

KEVIN HARVICK: Our school is at home, so when they get up in the morning, I say, "Go brush your teeth and go to school."

But I think that there's really -- I think everybody understands the expectation, so there's not a quote or a saying or anything that's going to motivate any of us in my opinion. I think it's -- the motivation comes from I don't want to let that guy down. He doesn't want to let me down. I don't want to let him down. Everybody shows up knowing that when I show up, I'm going to give all I've got, and I know that when they show up, they're going to give all they've got.

It's just super easy. It really is. It really is easy. I think I always think actions speak louder than words, and I think for me the way to show your kids how to do something is to do it and let them watch.

I think Keelan will understand more of what today means and how much work goes into it, because there are days that I'm up at 5:30 in the morning, and he will come down and say, "Where are you going today?"

"Well, I'm going to the simulator. What are you going to do today?"

He said, "Well, I guess I'll go back to bed."

He knows that it's not just show up on Sunday, win the race, lose the race, and come home. It's Tuesday sitting on the calls and talking about it. It's Tuesdays writing the notes. And he will come over during his break during school, and you shut the iPad down for 15 minutes so you can go shoot baskets or whatever they're doing on their PE break.

Those actions, they're noticed. It's kind of like they say you're teaching your kids how to drive when they're born, and you put them in the car seat, they see you from day one. All those habits that you have, they see. It's not just driving, but actions speak way louder than words.

THE MODERATOR: Any final questions for Rodney? Thank you, Rodney. Send you on to the next. We'll continue with questions for Kevin.

Q. I'm going to piggyback off of Chris's question a little bit. Kevin, you have the win now. You're more than likely in the playoffs. How does that change your strategy going forward, or does it change your strategy going forward?

KEVIN HARVICK: It really doesn't. I think for us it's just -- I'm going to debrief on Tuesday and write my notes down, and they're going to send me 27 emails of what the characteristics of the racetrack are and all the different setup things and everything that they send me every week, and it's going to be just the same routine. We're just going to grind through the same things again next week, and it will be no different than the last 65 weeks that we've lost.

That's just the -- that's the great part about having an experienced team and being around people for a long time and being able to have that trust in people. The expectation, everybody knows this is the expectation. Nobody is working towards anything different.

Q. So, obviously, scored the win. Gets you guys in the playoffs. Going into the playoffs with just a couple of races left, do you guys concentrate -- obviously winning is key, but do you guys concentrate on stage points or just ultimately going for that win?

KEVIN HARVICK: Nothing. Same answer. Going to do the exact same thing that we do on a week-to-week basis, just to try to do the exact -- we're going to do the exact same thing that we've done, that we do every week.

Q. I had to look it up, but your last one was actually Bristol.

KEVIN HARVICK: My last win?

Q. Yeah. Not Indy.

KEVIN HARVICK: That was just the one that Piper was at.

Q. Oh, okay. All right. I'm curious, that was your ninth win that year, is the --

KEVIN HARVICK: At Bristol? Was it dirt? Or asphalt?

Q. Asphalt.

KEVIN HARVICK: It's actually concrete.

Q. Concrete. That's right. It's been a long day, hasn't it? But my question is: Is it strange at all to go 65 races without a win after you had a season where you won nine races?

KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. How many did I lose in the last losing streak? How many was it? It was like 100 and something. I think it was 100 and something, and we won at Talladega. I don't know.

It's just the way that it goes, right? You look back at anybody's career, and they go through losing streaks. We're just fortunate to end it. I think that's the best part, right, is ending the streak.

I think that you just -- like I have such a routine and such a busy schedule of everything that's going on, trying to keep up with my stuff and trying to keep up with the team stuff and trying to -- Keelan is racing in Europe and all over the country and all the things that he has going on, and then trying to keep up with everything that you have at the house and all the projects that we have going on.

I know it sounds just routine, but it really is a routine. I live off my schedule. I live off the next phone call and plan the next thing and just -- I pick up my phone in the morning and say, This is what I have to do, and I literally just start doing that.

There's not -- it's not like I'm going to plan the day: All right, we need to figure out how to end this losing streak. You know what I mean? You can't force those things.

And I tell that to a lot of the young kids. There's nothing in this sport that you can force. It comes by doing the details right. It comes by having the right people. It comes by putting yourself in position, not making mistakes, dotting the I's, crossing the T's, not speeding on pit road.

Your feedback is what leads to the next week. Your comments and the things that you say and the thing that you do and the way that you go about it with the guys that you are around, whether it's your crew chief or your engineers, that stuff is easy because of the fact that we've worked together for so many years. And the engineers as well.

It's so easy to say, "Hey, this thing was garbage today, and this is why." It's not -- but it's never -- it's never, "Hey, this was garbage," and that's the end of the conversation. There's always a thought, and they always process it.

Then they'll come back with 27 questions. They'll say, "Okay, was it here?" And then you have to say, "No, it's not here. It's there."

Being a part of those conversations and leading those directions is really what gets you back in the game.

I think there was never a moment where -- I couldn't have told you how many it was. I know that today is the 777th start, so we rolled triple-7s today. You knew it before I did, though. You wrote about it, what, three months ago?

Q. Yeah, probably.

KEVIN HARVICK: See, just goes away.

Q. Kevin, can you take me through the final restart and coming up to the line and getting the advantage, and then I'm sure certainly getting help from those guys battling it out to kind of give you that run. Just take me through that restart.

KEVIN HARVICK: The last restart I had the 5 behind me, and I knew I didn't need to let the 23 up. I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough, but the 5 had given me such a good push. I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door. I knew that if we could just get off of turn 2, we would have a chance.

Then they were side-by-side, and then we drove down into turn 1 and 2 the next lap, and I watched them. I don't know what happened. They all wound up all goofed up down there and up the racetrack. I was hoping that the 23 didn't cycle out to be the second car because then we were going to have a pretty constant race on our hands, but the more they race, the further we got away.

That's what you want, right? To try to get away so they don't have a draft and can make up that time quicker. 5 launched good. 5 gave us a good push, and the key was just clearing the 23 off of two and being able to go down the back straight-away by myself and not door to door and in a firestorm. That all went smooth.

Q. Did you see the problem with the No. 99?

KEVIN HARVICK: I never -- I didn't even know he had a problem.

Q. Bubba came to victory lane. Wondering what he said to you and what you said to him?

KEVIN HARVICK: Bubba and I have a great relationship. We talk and joke and pick. I could tell he was a little bit frustrated because he knew how fast his car was today, but there's great respect there, and we have conversation a lot, so it's fun to see them running good. I would much rather win, though.

Q. Kevin, going back to the playoff tracks, the second half, Kansas, Texas, Phoenix even. Will the Next Gen car -- do you think it will race similar to earlier in the season, or are we still part of the learning period where the teams have learned so much, it's the first time they've been there with the Next Gen car that it's going to be a completely different aspect the second time around, especially in the playoffs?

KEVIN HARVICK: I'm really happy that we're going back to a lot of these racetracks that I can actually open up a notebook and not fire off out of the pits and say, well, I wonder how far I should drive it in today? I wonder if it's going to hit the limit or be tight or loose?

At least going back, the thought processes will be way different for us as far as setups and things like that. I think we've learned a lot. I think those setups will be different, but I'm really looking forward to being able to open the notebook and have something there.

Q. Do you think it will still be aggressive in the Playoffs?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think the aggressive restarts is so important. I don't think any of that will change. I'm sure there will be some of them that lose their minds.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kevin. Congratulations.

KEVIN HARVICK: Appreciate it, guys.

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